Why it matters: While not everyone thinks real-time ray tracing is the best thing to happen to PC graphics in years, it’s definitely having an influence. Intel, for example, has revealed that its upcoming Xe graphics architecture will support hardware-based ray tracing acceleration.
Intel announced the news at this week’s FMX graphics trade show in Germany. Xe is primarily designed for data centers, but according to Tom’s Hardware, there will be a second architecture for discreet graphics card aimed at the consumer market. The cards are built on the 10nm process and should arrive next year.
The area to benefit most from Intel's data center Xe cards will likely be the entertainment industry. Rendering animated movies such as How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World is usually carried out on the CPU because it is more precise, but Intel’s GPUs could offer similar levels of accuracy while being much faster.
“Studios continue to reach for maximum realism with complex physics processing for cloth, fluids, hair and more, plus modeling the physics of light with ray tracing,” wrote Jim Jeffers, a senior principal engineer and senior director of Intel’s Advanced Rendering and Visualization team. “These algorithms benefit from mixed parallel and scalar computing while requiring ever-growing memory footprints. The best solutions will include a holistic platform design where computational tasks are distributed to the most appropriate processing resources.”
With hardware-based ray tracing appearing in the data center-focused Xe architecture, it seems almost certain that the feature will trickle down to the consumer-level products. Like Nvidia’s strategy, Intel might only offer ray tracing in the more expensive models.
Last month saw Nvidia add ray tracing support to some of its non-RTX cards via a driver update, but using it brings a huge performance hit. With Intel Xe featuring hardware-based ray tracing, it should offer superior DXR performance compared to the software solution.
When announcing its 7nm Navi graphics architecture this week, AMD’s Lisa Su declined to comment when asked if it would support ray tracing.