May 18, 2022

Gunnir showcases Intel’s DG1 Iris Xe graphics card in discrete desktop form factor

The Chinese specialist Gunnir, for reasons difficult to analyze, decided to deploy a complete range of Intel DG1 Desktop Graphics Cards. Intel’s DG1 was originally developed as an integrated graphics solution and distributed as a way for developers to start tinkering and programming Intel’s new graphics architecture. It was also available as the Intel DG1 SDV (Software Development Vehicle) and was eventually released on a limited basis for pre-built desktop PCs.

But where there is a will, there is a way. Customers can now install one of three Intel DG1 boards in their desktop PC. The product is not without its caveats, however, and seems to be of particular interest to collectors. (Hats off to VideoCardz to bring the story back.)

Distributed in two SKUs (the DG1 Iris Xe and Iris Xe Max), Gunnir opted to bundle these graphics solutions into a PCIe form factor, cutting three products from Intel’s test silicon. The less capable Iris Xe is available in low profile and standard profile solutions, containing a total of 80 EUs (execution units) for a total of 640 graphics cores, running at base clocks of 1.2 GHz and 1.5 GHz boost. These are essentially the same as the DG1 we tested previously.

The most interesting board uses Iris Xe Max, marketed as Gunnir Iris Xe MAX Index V2. It follows the same general design as the Index V2 but features the full core configuration, containing a total of 96 EUs and 768 cores at a base operating frequency of 1.2 GHz and increased boost clocks of 1.65 GHz. . It also includes blue accents that the 80 EU variant lacks.

All SKUs offer the same display outputs (1x HDMI, 1x DisplayPort, and 1x DVI-D) and active single-fan cooling.

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Gunnir's product pictures

Intel’s DG1 in Gunnir garb, packed with 80 EUs and 640 graphics cores… (Image credit: Gunnir)
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Gunnir's product pictures

And the Iris Xe Max Index V2 goes for the full 96 EU configuration (Image credit: Gunnir)

Since DG1 was designed more as an integrated graphics solution intended to be distributed in mobile form factors, the performance of these Intel graphics cards is not the best. When we compared Intel’s DG1, we described it as the “little engine that couldn’t” due to its poor performance. The benchmarks were enough to put on par (or slightly behind) the performance of the 2017 AMD RX 550 4GB…

Part of the reason for this performance difference lies in the graphics memory subsystem. The DG1 operates with a 4GB LPDDR4x memory pool, due to its integrated graphics roots. Another thing to note is power consumption: while AMD’s RX 550 is rated for a TDP of 50W, the Intel DG1 products launched by Gunnir are all rated for 21W PL1 (Power Limit 1) or 41W PL2 . And like AMD’s latest RX 6500 XT graphics card, DG1 cards are only capable of interfacing at PCIe 4.0 x4 speeds.

Beyond these performance and efficiency considerations, the actual system compatibility of Intel’s DG1 (and Gunnir’s solution) is the elephant in the room that will put off most users who might want a discrete graphics card. Intel in their system, at least up to the actual high performance. The Intel Arc Alchemist family of GPUs is launching in the coming months. The DG1 can only work when paired with 9th Gen (Coffee Lake-S) and 10th Gen (Comet Lake-S) Intel Core desktop processors and motherboards based on Intel chipsets B460, H410, B365 and H310C. And even if you have a system that ticks all of these boxes, these motherboards require a special BIOS that supports Intel Iris Xe.

This means that you cannot use Gunnir DG1 cards with any AMD-based system, or with any Intel system using a Z-series chipset, or newer Rocket Lake and Alder Lake CPUs – no that you would like to use a DG1 card with a high-end configuration.

If none of these caveats dampen your resolve to have a discrete Intel-powered card powering your monitor’s pixels, Gunnir sells its DG1-based products at a relatively adequate price based on their performance profile. The low profile Gunnir DG1 with Iris Xe is available for $90, the standard profile Iris Xe DG1 raises the price to $101, and the top performing Gunnir Iris Xe MAX Index V2 is priced at $110.

Since Intel will likely have discrete DG2 (Arc Alchemist) products available in the coming months with much better compatibility and performance, we suggest waiting for those rather than investing in those particular solutions.

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