Intel already has a working DG1 'Xe' graphics card, but it's only for developers

Intel's DG1 desktop graphics card is up, running, and being shipped to developers already.

Credit: Gordon Mah Ung

You could almost hear a collective sigh from PC gamers on Monday when Intel showed off its first modern discrete GPU confined to a laptop instead of a desktop.

That all changed this morning when Intel revealed that it’s already begun shipping a desktop DG1 graphics card based on the company’s forthcoming Xe graphics architecture—but only to developers.

Intel’s building the DG1 Software Development Vehicle solely to ship to game and app developers around the world, so they can begin optimizing for the company’s new graphics architecture.

And no, before you ask, you couldn’t buy the Intel DG1 SDV even if you wanted to. If you’re wondering how many execution units its has, what clock speed it runs at, and what kind of RAM it has—we don’t know and Intel won’t say. Although it’s rumored to have 96 EUs (execution units), Intel wouldn’t confirm or deny that either.

What we know about DG1

We do know that DG1 is a 10nm GPU though, just like Intel’s upcoming Tiger Lake U chip. It’s based on the company’s forthcoming Xe graphics architecture. We can also surmise from its lack of a external power connector that it draws under 75 watts of power, at least in this developer-focused iteration. (Motherboard PCIe slots can supply up to 75w to connected devices.) The card’s shroud is aluminum and features RGB LED lighting. Ports include three DisplayPort and a single HDMI connection.

Intel DG1 Software Development Card Gordon Mah Ung

Intel’s Xe-based DG1 lacks any external power connectors so you can guess it runs on less than 75 watts. And yup, that “Software Development Vehicle” denotes this card is unlikely to ever see retail shelves.

How fast is the Intel DG1 desktop GPU?

Intel did show the DG1 running in an SDV box being sent to developers, playing Warframe at 1080p. No frame rate was displayed onscreen, but my eyeball put it in the range of above 40 frames per second.

Intel officials say any conjecture today is ridiculous, as final hardware, software, and drivers for its discrete Xe graphics cards won’t resemble what we’re seeing in the DG1 SDV. At this point in its evolution, it's important that DG1 is in the hands of developers to optimize their games. Although hardware is important, Intel officials point out, getting software developers aboard is equally as important for success.

Perhaps the best takeaway from this? Intel is forging onward with its odyssey to create a discrete graphics card to compete with Nvidia and AMD.

Intel DG1 Software Development Card Gordon Mah Ung

Intel’s Ari Rauch holds a Xe-based DG1 graphics card being seeded to game and app developers.

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Gordon Mah Ung

Gordon Mah Ung

PC World (US online)
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