According to our own sources, Intel is preparing to launch its new series of Alchemist graphics cards (a.k.a. DG2), among which the Intel Xe 128 EU 6GB model seems to be the most interesting one. Pictures of this card have been popping all over the Internet recently, and if the rumors are true, this may be the best budget gaming graphics card in 2022.
So far, we are pretty sure that this card will feature 128 execution units (EUs), but it still remains to be seen what type of bus it will have. According to our sources, the card will either have a 64-bit or 96-bit bus, but if Intel’s claims are correct (about card performing better than expected) then we may even expect it to feature the 96-bit bus.
Intel promises that the new Alchemist card will be available for purchase as soon as Q1 2022, but that sounds a bit overambitious. In reality, Q2 2022 seems like a more realistic time period, since DG2 rollout will be somewhat complicated. Intel is announcing things like that because they can, and because there is a high demand for low cost and competitive budget graphics cards which we haven’t seen for years.
Speaking of its specs, the Intel Xe 128 EU model should feature a boost clock up to 2.2 GHz or 2.5 GHz, depending on the configuration of this “SOC 2”, to which is what Intel refers to as their low-end die. There’s of course one higher-end die above it. The laptop variant of the GPU will probably feature a boost clock below 1.8 GHz in some TDP limited models.
The most interesting feature of this new GPU is the fact that it will feature up to 6GB of GDDR6 VRAM, clocked at 16 Gbps, and will utilize a 64-bit bus. According to some leaks, the laptop variant will feature 4GB of VRAM, and will utilize a 64-bit bus, but its memory will be clocked to 14 Gbps. The reason why the laptop variant will feature less VRAM is probably to reduce production costs, and save as much board space as possible, as well as reduce power consumption.
According to some rumors, the card will perform better than the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650 SUPER, which is quite decent performance. Of course, these are all just rumors, but if we take into account that the card will feature 64-bit bus, then these rumors may really be true. With such performance, it’s realistic to expect from this card to perform better than the GeForce GTX 1650, or slightly below the GeForce GTX 1650 SUPER. With 64-bit bus, and 6GB of VRAM clocked at 16 Gbps the card should also match the AMD Radeon RX 580’s and Radeon RX 5500 XT’s shading performance.
Now, these specifications may not seem impressive at first glance, since GeForce GTX 1650 SUPER has been out for a while now, and market has had cards like the Radeon RX 590 for almost three years. Basically, this kind of performance is not new, and the market has changed a lot in the past few years, since demand for more powerful GPUs featuring support for ray-tracing has been steadily increasing. The computational power of gaming consoles has also drastically increased, so it may seem that there is no real demand for graphics cards such as Intel Xe 128 EU 6GB.
However, it must be noted that the Intel Xe 128 EU is basically a GeForce GTX 1650 SUPER that can do ray-tracing, and can run XeSS (Intel’s own supersampling). This way, it can compete with cards supporting technologies like NVIDIA DLSS, or AMD FSR. Also, this GPU will probably feature a TDP of 75 W (or even less), meaning that it won’t even require a 6-pin power connector to run.
It seems that Intel is not pushing the Alchemist cards as it should be, which means they are aiming for efficiency, and want the cards to perform as Ampere cards. This is probably due to the fact that they want to cut down the production costs, and allow card manufacturers to install dirt cheap VRMs and poor cooling solutions in order to make the cards as cheap as possible. Having 6GB of VRAM instead of 8GB, these cards may cost less than $180 (depending on the AIB variant).
If Intel is willing to accept 35% to 50% sales margins, which have been the standard before all of the recent GPU shortages, and are willing to sell a GTX 1660 card for $150 that consumes half the energy and supports ray-tracing, then Intel may expect great profits, since the gamers are desperate for budget gaming graphics cards. We shouldn’t rule out the possibility of Intel launching a 3GB model, which should be powerful enough to deliver pretty decent 1080p gaming experience, or great 720p experience on ultra settings. Manufacturing a 3GB card in 2022 may seem like a waste of silicon, but for most gamers who are playing stuff like CS:GO or DOTA 2, this should be more than enough. If the card will also support AI-based upscaling, then such a card should also be able to deliver pretty good 720p gaming experience even in some graphically demanding titles.
It’s been long overdue to have an entry-level card that can actually do something better than the GeForce GTX 1050 Ti, and if Intel pulls this off with the Alchemist cards, they may expect fantastic success. We may expect first Intel Xe 128 EU cards appearing as early as February 2022, with laptop variants launching first and then followed by a desktop launch in early to mid Q2 2022. This will be a sort of a breath of fresh air to the low-end market.
Since AMD will be launching its Navi 24 GPUs later this year, which are also aimed to the low-end market, this should put some pressure on Intel to not go wild with the pricing of the Alchemist cards. If our early predications are correct, the Navi 24 GPUs should perform slightly below the RTX 2060, or better than the GTX 1660, and should cost no more than $200, meaning that Intel must price their cards at, or below $150 to remain competitive. If AMD is going to charge their Navi 24 GPUs in between $200 and $250, then Intel really can’t afford itself to sell Alchemist cards for more than $200.
Whatever will it be, the 2022 will bring fight between Navi 24 and Xe 128 EU GPUs. Both of these cards should deliver better shading performance to the low-end market, and should consume less energy, and cost much less than the currently vastly overpriced GeForce RTX 30 and AMD Radeon RX 6000 GPUs.