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Intel's Xe Graphics Architecture to Support Hardware-Accelerated Ray Tracing

(Image credit: Intel)

Intel published a news byte today outlining its announcements at the FMX graphics trade show taking place in Germany this Week. It includes the tasty tidbit that the company's forthcoming data center specific Xe graphics architecture will support hardware-based ray tracing acceleration.

From the blog:

I’m pleased to share today that the Intel Xe architecture roadmap for data center optimized rendering includes ray tracing hardware acceleration support for the Intel Rendering Framework family of APIs and libraries.

As a quick refresher, Intel's Xe graphics architecture is Intel's forthcoming range of low- to high-power graphics solutions. These graphics processors will scale from integrated graphics chips on CPUs, up to discrete mid-range, enthusiast and data center/AI cards. Intel said it will split these graphics solutions into two distinct architectures, with both integrated and discrete graphics cards for the consumer market (client) and discrete cards for the data center. The cards will come wielding the 10nm process and should arrive in 2020.

Support for ray tracing would bring Intel's graphics cards, at least for the data center, up to par with Nvidia's Turing architecture, which largely paved the path to hardware-based ray tracing in the consumer market. Given that this type of functionality is typically embedded at a foundational level in the microarchitecture, Intel's support for ray tracing with data center graphics cards strongly implies the desktop variants could also support the same functionality, though it is noteworthy that the company is splitting its offerings into two distinct architectures. 

Nvidia's Turing offerings also come both with and without ray tracing support, so it is possible that Intel could adopt a similar tiered model that leverages ray tracing as a segmented feature to encourage customers to buy higher-priced models.

Details on Intel's Xe graphics architecture should continue to trickle out over the weeks and months ahead. In the meantime, head over to our Intel Xe Graphics Card feature for the latest details. 

Paul Alcorn

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