• notebookcomputer
  • 08/06/2022

New Intel GPU is mind-blowingly cheap – but there's a catch

If you're feeling frustrated regarding the ever-rising MSRP or freshly released 'budget' graphics cards then you may be pleased to hear that Chinese specialist Gunnir is releasing an Intel DG1 desktop GPU for just under $100 (around £75 / AU$140).

You might also be slightly confused, at least if you have some prior knowledge of the GPU market. After all, we're patiently waiting for the line of Intel DG2 GPUs, dubbed as Intel Arc Alchemist – aren't they the first desktop graphics cards from team blue?

Not strictly speaking. The DG1 is also found within laptops as both Iris Xe MAX and as Iris Xe Graphics, and it was reported back in 2020 that there were plans to create a desktop version of the card. This was only ever made available to software developers, so it's slightly bizarre that we would see a company finally make them available for the wider public on the eve of its successor's release.

While there are only two DG1 SKUs were initially developed by Intel (Iris Xe and Iris Xe Max), Gunnir is selling three different models on Taobao for the following prices:

New Intel GPU is mind-blowingly cheap – but there's a catch

That final Gunnir Iris Xe MAX Index V2 model is especially interesting as it features the full core configuration, packing a total of 96 Execution Units (boosted from the 80 available with Iris Xe non-MAX) and 768 cores. Again, this isn't anything that can go toe-to-toe with ...well, just about any other discreet GPU released in the last few years, but it was proven back at CES 2020 that it can at least run titles like Destiny 2.

Outside of performance, all three SKUs are rocking a single fan and the same display outputs (1x HDMI, 1x DisplayPort, and 1x DVI-D) so they're well suited for especially compact builds if you're looking for an affordable way to make a tiny gaming desktop PC.

There are a few caveats outside of its underwhelming performance capabilities though. As noted by VideoCardz in its own reporting, these GPUs won't work with every system. Support for AMD platforms is excluded entirely, and even support for an Intel system is limited to those running processors in the Coffee Lake (9th generation) or Comet Lake (10th generation) series. Similarly, only Intel B460, B365, and H310C motherboards are compatible with the GPUs.

That's not an impossible restriction to navigate though, and shouldn't squeeze a budget for building a PC any tighter. Still, the newer, flashier Intel Arc Alchemist series is expected to launch any day now, so you might find that shipping one of these cards overtakes long enough for us to have more information regarding its successor.

We don't have any idea on the pricing for the upcoming DG2 series, but if that proves to also have an attractive pricepoint, these DG1 cards might have been a pointless spend. If Intel can price these right, AMD and Nvidia should keep a close eye on the competition in the coming years.

Analysis: Is this actually worth buying at all?

That's going to be very dependent on your needs and circumstances. This is hardly a powerhouse so the titles you'd be able to run at a playable quality will be limited, but for low-demand games like Fortnite or Minecraft it'll chug along just fine.

This would make it ideal for small form-factors or specialized builds if you already own an older Intel processor that fits within the compatibility restrictions, otherwise, you'll be better off investing in an affordable processor with integrated graphics like the AMD Ryzen 5 5600G if your requirements are especially low.

Enthusiasts and tinkerers are going to be the kind of folks looking to source one of these cards. They're quirky, and not especially attractive to more mainstream consumers given the minimum specifications more modern games are rising with each passing year, which is a real shame because that $100 pricetag is something we haven't seen hit the market for a non-used or refurbed GPU in years. In a way, it really does feel like budget graphics cards are dead if this is what you're getting for your money.

Still, if you wanted to make say...a small build dedicated to running retro titles or indie games then this has its own charm. Otherwise, we likely need to begrudgingly accept that modern PC gaming is going to remain an expensive hobby compared to buy a console like the PS5 or Xbox Series X.