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Intel aims for lower-power GPUs as Nvidia pushes pricey energy guzzlers

GPU boss vows 'dramatic shift in the PC graphics landscape' with next-gen CPU

While Nvidia and AMD put out high-end graphics cards for those with plenty of money to spend, Intel is doubling down on the mainstream GPU market with lower-power discrete products and CPUs with upgraded integrated graphics.

Raja Koduri, head of Intel's Accelerated Computing Systems and Graphics Group, said in a recent interview that Intel will continue to prioritize low-end and mid-range graphics products that deliver "higher performance at lower power" with energy consumption that maxes out at around 200 to 225 watts.

"My priority at this point is getting that core audience, with one power connector. And that can get you up to 200-225 [watts]. If you nail that, and something a little above and a little below, all that falls into the sweet spot," Koduri, AMD's former Radeon chief architect, said.

This falls in line with Intel's first generation of Arc graphics products for desktops and laptops that debuted this year. The lineup's flagship desktop GPU, the Intel Arc A770, has a thermal design power (TDP) of 225 watts and a recommended pricing of $349, which gives it 42 percent greater performance per dollar than Nvidia's mid-range GeForce RTX 3060, the company has previously claimed.

Meanwhile, Nvidia has opted to focus on the high end of the market with its latest GeForce generation with the $1,599, 24GB RTX 4090 card, which requires 450 watts for regular power consumption and 600 watts for overclocking, and the $1,119, 16GB RTX 4080 card, which needs 320 watts at nominal levels. The company is reportedly planning to relaunch the card originally known as the RTX 4080's 12GB model, which had a suggested price of $899, and rename it the RTX 4070.

AMD, on the other hand, plans to mark the launch of its RDNA 3-based GPUs with two high-end cards Tuesday. The new flagship 24GB Radeon RX 7900 XTX will have a total board power of 355 watts and a suggested price of $999 while the 20GB Radeon RX 7900 XT will need 300 watts and cost $899.

While both Nvidia and AMD are expected to release less expensive cards in the future, their strategies to initially focus on high-end graphics comes in contrast to Intel's focus on mid-range and lower-end products that are more affordable.

However, Koduri told Gadgets 360 that "performance-per-dollar competitiveness with AMD and Nvidia wasn't the goal." Instead, Intel views that metric as a "baseline" and hopes to outcompete its rivals with features like AV1 encoding and decoding as well as real-time ray tracing and upscaling techniques, the latter of which can meaningfully boost gaming performance at higher resolutions.

Koduri didn't rule out Intel eventually releasing discrete graphics products that require more power to eke out higher performance, but he said these would be more for "bragging rights."

While Intel has serious work to do in making market share gains against Nvidia and AMD, the company first must ensure its GPUs are optimized to run well across a wide range of games and applications, particularly older games that are still popular.

Koduri admitted that Intel still has catching up to do in the department, but the company did just announce a new driver update that purportedly makes older DirectX 9 games like League of Legends and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive run faster — much faster in some cases — on the Arc GPUs.

The other area where Koduri believes Intel can make a big mark in the GPU market is integrated graphics. He claimed that the company's next-generation CPU for desktops and laptops, code-named Meteor Lake, will come with higher-performance integrated graphics that can replace lower-end discrete GPUs in some cases, which could make entry-level gaming PCs more affordable.

"So overall cost-wise and performance-per-dollar-wise it will be so much more compelling than a CPU plus a discrete GPU. This is what Meteor Lake's focus is. The realistic timeframe for that to trickle down into OEM notebooks... I would say 2024 is the year I would expect a dramatic shift in the PC graphics landscape on how high integrated will go," Koduri said.

All of this supposes Intel can release products at a decent cadence without significant problems, and we know the company has had issues with other products in these areas. Even Intel Arc had, to put it lightly, a bumpy launch this year due to delays and software issues. ®

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