Intel had already announced the Xe (a.k.a. Gen12) graphics architecture in 2020, and step by step it was also concretized. The portfolio here ranges from integrated ultrabook chips and dedicated cards to genuine workstation and server cards. The one I want to show you today is factually currently at the top end of Intel’s graphics food chain. Intel uses Gen12P5 (Xe HP) ) for Arctic Sound instead of Xe LP as with the DG1. The upcoming DG2 cards, on the other hand, are more likely to resemble Ponte Vecchio (Gen12P71, Xe HPC). With Ponte Vecchio there is namely another Xe-HP version, which offers even more performance than Arctic Sound, is already manufactured in 7 nm, consists of eight tiles and is supposed to be suitable for supercomputers.
The really interesting thing about the whole story about Arctic Sound is that they had written about freely scalable variants in advance and this was communicated accordingly. The portfolio, which was already rumored in 2020, included several dedicated cards with a power consumption of 75 watts (without additional, external power supply) up to models with 500 watts, which should then even be supplied by 48 volts instead of 12 volts. This flexible gradation was to be achieved by expansion stages with one, two or four tiles, i.e. coupled individual graphics processors analogous to the chiplets on AMD Ryzen CPUs. But what Intel has now concretized is limited to a total of only two models, if one can believe the internal documents, and also deviates somewhat from the structure presented at the beginning.
Important preliminary remark
In order to protect my sources, I deliberately do not publish the original slides, but have scaled up the, admittedly somewhat small, original images using AI and have also deliberately alienated some details. Therefore I give the given technical data in text form, although they correspond of course 1:1 to the original. One should also not be irritated by the missing PCIe slot of the 2T card, Intel has obviously (deliberately) left something out in the render image. All the more reason to try AI for the upscaling. By the way, the images were reconstructed on my workstation with the Quadro RTX A6000 inside and Topaz Gigapixel AI.
Arctic Sound – 1T and 2T
At this point I can already confirm that Arctic Sound relies on HBM 2E, especially since Samsung should have started volume production of HBM 2E by now. Unlike Ponte Vecchio, Intel’s first 7nm product, Arctic Sound could theoretically have at least up to four tiles, making it a fairly large chip, while Ponte Vecchio relies on up to 16 tiles, as two sets of eight tiles each, stacked using 3D Foveros. But that is still a pipe dream.
However, if you look at the variants listed now, it seems that Intel either ran out of courage, or the chips simply weren’t completely feasible that way. Intel names a full two variants, of which the 1T has a classic single-slot design (SW) in full height (FH). However, the nomenclature brings some confusion into the game, because 1T actually stands for 1 Tile. Until now, it has often been wrongly assumed that Xe accommodates up to 128 Execution Units (EU) per tile.
But that only applies to the consumer chips, because this one is definitely bigger. If you stick to the name and the 1T as an indication for the number of tiles, then 1 tile (chiplet) in Intel’s Arctic Sound contains up to 512 EUs, which is quite huge. If one independently uses the known scheme for the distribution of EU and shader, this would mean 8 shader units per EU, so a total of 3072 shaders for the 1T card shown here, because one has activated only 384 EUs instead of 512 for this card.
The smaller of the two cards has a total of 16 GB HBM 2E and a bandwidth of up to 716 GB/s. What is interesting now, however, is the specified TDP for the card, which is 150 watts. This is interesting, because 75 watts per consumer tile with 128 EUs each were reported and one could have expected 225 watts if there had been three small tiles. The fact that there are now only 150 watts suggests that lower clock rates are (have to be) used here and a maximum expansion with 512 EU could not be implemented or the yield rate simply does not allow it. Or both, for that matter.
Intel specifies FP32 and FP64 (non-systolic) as well as BF16/FP16, Int8 and Int4 as supported numeric formats for both cards. PCIe 4.0 is also set as interface for communication with the CPU, other ATS cards or ATS nodes, but there are no video outputs.
The configuration of the large card in the dual-slot design (DW), which Intel specifies with “480 x 2 execution units”, also shows that there is still a bit of a problem with the full configuration. You bet on 2T here, so 2 tiles if you follow the logic. But again, you don’t use the full number of 512 EUs available per unit. Instead of the theoretically possible 512 EUs in total, in practice there are only 480 per unit. But this still results in 2x 3840 shaders or 7680 shaders in the sum of both tiles. The memory expansion is stated as 32 GB HBM 2E, so probably 2x 16 GB to be quite accurate.
Intel specifies the TDP with only 300 watts, which suggests even lower clock rates and again problems with the implementation. What you can see here on a photo is the 8-pin EPS connector, which NVIDIA also uses for the 300 watts of the Quadro RTX A6000 and which should be enough. You can also see that the card in the picture was mounted in a special PCIe cage and is not directly on the motherboard.
And what conclusions can be drawn from this? Speculations are of course always such a thing, because one must also remain fair and not intentionally badmouth anything. But it really does seem by now that Intel has already internally given up on Arctic Sound, at least in its broad variability. Neither card exploits the full potential and comes across as a compromise that has become necessary, but not as a euphorically brandished spearhead that testifies to a new self-confidence. This is a rather modest concession and the obvious realization that they probably wanted more at the beginning than they could then manage in reality. Because the announced 3T or 4T cards are completely missing from the current list.
Whether all this is suitable to secure Raja Koduri’s position in the Intel universe in the long run and to establish an unbreakable male friendship with Pat Gelsinger, can at least be marked with a big question mark. Xe started with great praise and it will probably be very difficult, at least in some areas, to fully meet their own expectations and not crash land. With Arctic Sound, this is all rather questionable, at least, should this information really be true (which I assume it is, though).