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Intel describes its Arc gaming GPUs and DLSS rivals

After announcing the Arc, the upcoming game models in the Xe graphics card area, Intel has explained more about what to expect from their trial of Nvida GeForce / AMD Radeon-style GPUs. It includes a look at XeSS, or Xe Super Sampling, Intel’s upscaling technology for framerate boosting.

The news came as part of the exciting Architecture Day, which began with a video of Intel senior vice president Raja Koduri shrinking and running around inside an Arc chip as a restart of The Borrowers in 2021. To be honest, Intel probably felt that they needed something to lead Nvidia’s CGI chief.

First the hardware. I want to warn you now that Intel did not go into actual specifications, and certainly not performance benchmarks, but committed to a roadmap of at least four generations of gaming GPUs. The first of these, codenamed Alchemist, is set to launch in the first quarter of 2022, and will be based on the first generation Xe HPG (High Performance Gaming) architecture.

No matter how AMD moves up through versions of its RDNA architecture, future Intel GPUs will apparently iterate on Xe HPG. This means that the following GPU families, codenamed Battlemage and Celestial, will be based on the Xe2 HPG AND Xe3 HPG architecture, respectively. Intel also announced an even longer off-GPU gene called Druid, which will use a more extensively upgraded “Xe Next architecture”

;, although rough dates for everything outside of Alchemist were not in attendance.

Still, it seems that Alchemist (Arc Alchemist?) Already comes with all the extras you can expect from a modern GPU series. It includes “ray-tracing units” which, like the RT cores on Nvidia’s GeForce RTX card, can handle the extra brain stem by simulating fairly real-time lightning effects on both DirectX and Vulcan. Xe HPG also matches AMD’s use of a small 7nm manufacturing process, which can-emphasis on the hypothetical-help with energy efficiency.

A roadmap for Intel's upcoming Arc GPUs, starting with Alchemist in the first quarter of 2022.

Although we’ll have to wait a few months to see how all this technology translates into performance in real life, the prospects for a full-featured Intel graphics card remain interesting. And although alchemist-based cards join Nvidia and AMD models in stock-free purgatory, you don’t actually need an Intel GPU to take advantage of Architecture Day’s other big gaming highlight: XeSS.

This is Intel’s answer to Nvidia DLSS (Deep Learning Super Sampling) and AMD FSR (FidelityFX Super Resolution): a form of anti-aliasing scam aimed at smoothing edges without the usual performance. Xe HPG GPUs will obviously support it, but it will apparently also work on Nvidia and AMD cards.

A screenshot of Intel XeSS running in Unreal Engine.

For the unknowns, all three systems work by rendering images at a lower resolution than the screen’s original resolution; The GPU then uses a much less horsepower-hungry upscaling algorithm to make everything look about as sharp as it normally would. Only without load using a conventional anti-aliasing system, such as TAA, in full resolution.

That said, there are significant differences between exactly how DLSS and FSR use upscaling, and it sounds like XeSS lands in the middle of the two approaches. In particular, Intel’s technology works by reconstructing pixel details from “motion-compensated previous frames”, as well as surrounding pixels on the frame itself. This sounds close to how DLSS shares a scene, again with a combination of data from previous images and some AI-assisted analysis of how the display in the game has moved since the last frame.

FSR, meanwhile, is a simple spatial upscaling and aggravating filter combination, which does not subtract pixel data from previous frames. In some games, this lack of both data and AI -smart can result in both smaller details and lower performance gains than DLSS. XeSS can therefore get closer than FSR by matching DLSS ‘best results, as it has much more pixel data to play with.

A screenshot of Intel XeSS running in Unreal Engine.

Of course, games must support both XeSS and your PC hardware, and while the number of DLSS-compatible games is still only a few dozen, it beats the XeSS directory’s currently confirmed zero. Again, XeSS also differs from DLSS and FSR in that it will be open source at launch, which may make it the more popular super-sampling choice among developers.

In other words, there’s still an awful lot of waiting to be seen about Intel’s graphics technology, but it’s promising enough to be worth keeping an eye on ahead of Alchemist’s 2022 release. Intel is no stranger to graphics in general, although it is usually of the integrated variant, and if nothing else, Xe HPG may provide some long-delayed competition to Nvidia and AMD. Assuming you can actually buy one of those damn things, anyway.

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