Intel Unveils Sunny Cove, Gen11 Graphics, Xe Discrete GPU, 3D Stacking

Intel Xe Discrete Graphics and Gen11 Graphics

Intel also unveiled its new Gen11 integrated graphics engine and presented a demo of Tekken 4 playing amazingly well using the new graphics architecture. The demo ran on a 10nm processor, marking the company's first public demo of a graphics engine running on a 10nm processor.

Intel cautioned that the diagrams it used for the presentation aren't entirely to scale, but they do give us a close look under the hood of the new graphics engine. The Gen11 engineering team focused heavily on creating a dramatic performance improvement over its previous-gen graphics engine, stating that the goal was to cram 1 teraflop of 32-bit and 2 teraflops of 16-bit floating point performance into a low power envelope.

Intel employed the familiar modular arrangement with sub-slices that house eight execution units (EU). Intel brought the design up to eight sub-slices, or 64 execution units (EUs). That's a big improvement from Gen9's 24 EUs. The revamped engine also processes two pixels per clock.

The new design features support for tile-based rendering in addition to immediate mode rendering, which helps to reduce memory demands during some rendering workloads. The engineers also improved the memory subsystem by quadrupling the L3 cache to 3MB and separated the shared local memory to promote parallelism. The new design also has enhanced memory compression algorithms.

Other improvements include a new HEVC Quick Sync Video engine that provides up to a 30% bitrate reduction over Gen9 (at the same or better visual quality), support for multiple 4K and 8K video streams within a lower power envelope, and support for Adaptive Sync technology. 

Intel Xe Graphics Technology, Now Including a Discrete GPU

Intel shocked the enthusiast community earlier this year when it announced that it would enter the discrete graphics market. Intel is quick to remind us that it "lights up quintillions of pixels across the planet every day," which is a true statement based on the fact that, courtesy of its integrated graphics chips in its CPUs, Intel is the world's largest GPU producer. Now the company is bringing that experience to the discrete GPU market, and yes, that means it is bringing gaming-focused GPUs to market.

Translating that experience in integrated graphics to its new lineup of discrete GPUs isn't going to be an easy task: Their last successful entry into the GPU space occurred 25 years ago. But Intel has an IP war chest (at one point it owned more graphics patents than the other vendors combined) and has been on a full-court press recruiting the right talent for the task.

Intel presented a slide outlining its new Xe architecture that will come after the Gen11 graphics engine. Intel says the next generation of its graphics architecture will denote a transition from the "Gen" naming convention and will scale from integrated on-chip graphics up to discrete GPUs that will span the mid-range, enthusiast, and data center markets. That means it will scale from teraflops of performance integrated into a standard processor up to petaflops of performance with discrete cards.

This announcement certainly hints that both the integrated graphics and discrete cards will share the same underlying architecture, but Intel wouldn't answer further questions. Intel is also on track to deliver on its previously-announced timeline, saying the Xe graphics cards will debut in 2020.

Paul Alcorn
Managing Editor: News and Emerging Tech

Paul Alcorn is the Managing Editor: News and Emerging Tech for Tom's Hardware US. He also writes news and reviews on CPUs, storage, and enterprise hardware.