Update 1/27/2021, 11:45am PT: Colorful issued a statement explaining that it is not making an Iris Xe Desktop Graphics Card. Intel initially listed Colorful on its product page, but has since removed the reference. Corrected article follows below:
Intel's Xe Graphics has been out for a while now, in the form of 11th Gen Tiger Lake laptops, but the discrete variant (Iris Xe Max) has only been in a few notebooks. Now, Intel is finally releasing its Iris Xe for desktops, but they're not what you would expect, nor can you just go to the shop and buy them.
The GPU in question is the renowned DG1, similar to what we found in the Tiger Lake laptop we tested last year. Except, for the discrete graphics cards for desktops, Intel has seemingly cut the GPU down to 80 Execution Units for 640 cores, and it's wired to 4 GB of memory. It's not clear what kind of memory the GPU is wired to (Iris Xe Max used LPDDR4), but it does have its own dedicated pool, unlike the Xe Graphics integrated into Tiger Lake CPUs.
With this design handed over to Asus and another unnamed partner, the following GPUs were conjured:
Asus's flavor of the DG1 comes passively cooled, and the other unnamed partner's card has a simple dual-fan cooler. Neither of the cards have PCIe power connectors, so it's clear these are low-power chips. We haven't found exact TDPs yet, but with cooling solutions like these and a cut down chip design in the desktop parts, expect a sub-30W TDP. The cards both have three display outputs: DVI, HDMI, and DisplayPort.
The chips are manufactured on Intel's 10nm SuperFIN fabrication process, and performance is supposed to be pretty decent at 1080p. Our tests on the mobile platform confirmed this, and chances are that the desktop parts run at higher clock speeds to make up for the deficit in EUs — but exact details aren't available and neither Asus nor Colorful have working product pages yet.
OEM Only — How Bad Is It Really?
However, as much as everyone has been jumping at the thought of Intel joining the discrete high-end GPU market for gamers, that isn't happening yet. That's no surprise given what we know about Xe Graphics, as the high-end variants are mostly aimed at HPC and data centers and have not yet launched.
At this level, the DG1 level, Intel is only selling the GPUs directly to system integrators to put in prebuilt desktops — think parties such as Dell and HP. That might seem like a bummer, but let's be honest: If you're a gamer, would you really be jumping at the performance offered by the DG1 GPU? Probably not, so we doubt the DIY space will miss the DG1. We'll keep our fingers crossed for the HPG (High Performance Gaming) Xe solutions in the future.
As a result of this OEM-only strategy, we also don't know what pricing will look like. Availability is slated for Q1, and this looks like a half-hearted move by Intel at best. Iris Xe Max hasn't been particularly impressive, and unless Intel has some ace up its sleeve, the desktop DG1 will be pretty anemic compared to competing solutions from AMD and Nvidia.
Then again, even budget graphics cards are currently sold out or selling at inflated prices. Nvidia's GTX 1050 Ti (opens in new tab) from over four years back starts at around $170, and the newer GTX 1650 is selling at $300+ on Newegg (opens in new tab). Similarly, the Radeon RX 570 (opens in new tab) that was selling for $120-$130 for over a year now starts at $290. If Intel's DG1 can keep up with a GTX 1050 for $150, maybe it has a chance?