In the midst of two GPU juggernauts hyping up their new releases, a less prominent name in the field is attempting to enter the fray. Intel is hoping to finally be competitive in the GPU market with its Intel Xe lineup.
The rivalry between AMD and NVIDIA is heating up again after years of NVIDIA dominance. However, things appear to be on far more equal footing following the releases of their next-gen graphics cards.
All of this provides a perfect storm for Intel to enter the market. Unfortunately, Intel might’ve missed the mark entirely with Intel Arc Alchemist.
Let’s see what happened!
- August 6, 2022: Added news about the possibility that Intel might scrap the entire lineup.
- July 22, 2022: Removed plenty of outdated information and added new pricing, release date, and performance information.
- July 15, 2022: Added video with Intel’s engineer explaining everything behind the Intel Arc architecture
- July 12, 2022: Added a bunch of new information, benchmarks, and performance comparisons.
- June 24, 2022: Added third-party benchmarks for the Intel Arc A380.
- June 20, 2022: Added new information on Resizable BAR and cleaned up article.
- June 14, 2022: Added performance leaks for the A380.
- May 27, 2022: Added new release date rumors.
- May 11, 2022: Added another rumored delay for Intel’s desktop GPUs.
- May 4, 2022: Cut down on outdated leaks, added a release date, and pricing information.
- April 22, 2022: Added three new SKUs, updated specifications, added A770 leaks and more.
- April 12, 2022: Added benchmark images of the A350M in-game.
- April 1, 2022: Revamped the entire article following Intel’s announcements and added a lot more content.
- March 30, 2022: Added Arc mobile GPU specifications table.
- March 24, 2022: Another update on the release date.
- March 15, 2022: Added Intel Arc Event announcement, release date information, and performance rumors.
- February 22, 2022: Added new Geekbench leaks.
- January 31, 2022: Cleaned up the article and added A370M leaks.
- January 25, 2022: Added Intel Arc flagship benchmark leak and specification information for mobile SKUs.
- January 13, 2022: Updated release date information.
- December 22, 2021: Added new benchmark leak from Ashes of the Singularity.
- December 14, 2021: Added information about possible release date delay and about the flagship GPU die size.
- December 6, 2021: Added table for possible SKU configurations.
- November 29, 2021: Added a bit more information on future Intel Arc generations.
- November 22, 2021: Added new benchmark leak of the 512 EU SKU.
- November 16, 2021: Further grammar optimizations.
- November 15, 2021: Added new Intel Arc Alchemist GPU and PCB images.
- November 11, 2021: Added a few additional images.
- November 3, 2021: Major rework of the article. Updated or removed outdated information.
- October 28, 2021: Removed outdated information and leaks.
- October 18, 2021: Added interview with Pat Gelsinger and their role in the dedicated GPU market.
- October 12, 2021: Added information regarding Intel’s new GPU architecture and Intel Xe IP vice president.
- September 28, 2021: Added information on Intel’s dGPU history.
- September 20, 2021: Fixed a few information-related errors.
- September 2, 2021: Added new official information from Intel about Alchemist architecture.
- August 3, 2021: Added new benchmark score of the 128 EU SKU
- June 23, 2021: Added a new leak of a Xe SKU compared to the RTX 3070 and RX 6700 XT.
- May 25, 2021: Added information regarding the fact that Intel Xe DG1 would appear in pre-built systems.
- April 7, 2021: Added a few more leaks.
- March 5, 2021: Added leaks of a DG2 Discrete GPU in use by Intel.
Table of ContentsShow
Intel’s Discrete GPU History
Intel has never previously been successful in the (dedicated) graphics card category. Usually, Intel’s dGPU prototypes ended up scrapped, such as the Larrabee project in 2008.
However, it has been more than a decade since Intel’s last attempt to create a dedicated GPU, so things have changed (for the better).
That isn’t to say that Intel has no clue how to develop a graphics card. On the contrary, they know what they’re doing; their integrated Intel HD Graphics have been a staple of the vast majority of modern laptops.
Intel has decided to make its own dedicated graphics card because these integrated GPUs are not for gaming.
Intel’s Xe just announced, so we’ll try to dive deeper into the information we already have. Note that we will only discuss mobile GPUs (Xe-LP) and desktop GPUs (Xe-HPG).
Intel Arc A350M and A370M are now officially out and available in laptops (from $899 and up).
The faster mobile GPUs like the A550M, A730M, and A770M will be available in “early summer.”
Desktop GPUs are still not here even after multiple announcements and promises from Intel. The A380 is currently the only Intel Arc graphics card that is officially on sale, and it’s available in China only.
Even after so much hype, promises, and announcements over these past few years, the entire Arc Alchemist GPU might end up a complete failure.
Igor’s Lab has sources that a certain major board partner (remains unnamed) has completely shut down their production of Intel Arc GPUs because of underlying issues.
Is this about the driver-related problems or the fact that Arc SKUs are practically useless without Resizable Bar? Or is it it’s about the potential hardware flaw in the architecture itself? Moore’s Law Is Dead has more to say about this.
There are also talks from various reviewers, leakers, and people from the industry that Intel might scrap the entire lineup altogether. In this situation, there are a couple of possibilities.
Here’s what we think based on the information we have:
- Intel does not release any Arc GPUs and fully commits to Battlemage, Intel’s next-gen GPUs.
- Intel does a paper launch, providing their best SKUs only to select reviewers with no real GPU availability (most probable outcome).
- Intel commits and releases Arc GPUs in a large release window.
We’ll wait for Intel to announce their decisions; until then, we can only speculate.
Until Intel releases any information, we can’t really speculate about Arc GPU price.
Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger spoke numerous times on this topic.
Gelsinger believes that NVIDIA’s immense success can be attributed to a lack of competition in the market and its decade of dominance. Even when AMD provides a much better value GPU, the majority of customers still favor NVIDIA.
Here is Intel’s price/performance list:
Based on this information, here is our list that includes GPUs that are not listed in the image above.
- A310 – <$100
- A350 – $150
- A380 – $139
- A550 – $200
- A580 – $220
- A750 – $300
- A770 – $350
With a few leaks here and there, the gaming performance of Arc GPUs is worrisome.
Several reviewers have gone through the A380, Intel’s low-end SKU, but the end results are not impressive.
We’ve also shared a couple of benchmarks and leaks from other higher-end GPUs like the A750 and A770.
First Desktop GPU Impressions – A380
The A380 is the first desktop GPU to release from the Intel ARC lineup, which is a complete letdown in almost all aspects.
The RX 6400 comes out on top by more than 10%. It’s not a huge difference in performance, but when you consider that this is a brand new architecture and a price point of ~$140, there’s really no reason for anyone to go with low-end Intel Arc.
However, if you buy an A380, performance will be the least of your worries. Many reviewers, including Igor’sLAB and ComputerBase, believe the A380 is a rushed and unfinished product that should not be on sale.
Currently, there are numerous issues, including:
- Multiple driver-related crashes/problems
- Performance on the A380 without Resizable Bar is awful. Or, to quote ComputerBase, it’s unplayable.
- Lack of features
- Bad driver overlay implementation
- Worse power consumption
- Performance issues with older APIs
Is this the first impression Intel want to leave about their future GPUs? These bad impressions might be the reason why a certain major board partner has halted the production of Arc SKUs.
High-End Desktop SKUs
While the low-end A380 has provided disappointing results, Intel’s Arc high-end shows promise.
In this benchmark chart by Intel, A750 is about 15% faster than RTX 3060 in Cyberpunk 2077, which is a Tier 1 game (more on that later).
In fact, all games on this image are part of Intel’s Tier 1 list of games, so naturally, this is where the A750 can shine. If these benchmarking numbers are true, this is a solid win for Intel if the price is right.
However, we also have to note that the RTX 3060 will soon be a “previous generation GPU” as the RTX 4000 series is just around the corner. So, can we really see last-gen performance as a win?
We still have no benchmarks or any numbers regarding the performance of Intel’s flagship.
But here’s a short glimpse of the GPU’s performance in a Linus Tech Tips video.
Intel’s Three Tier Gaming Strategy
The reason why we’ve seen such bad performance in games that use older APIs like DX9 and DX11 is because Intel has a “Three Tier Game Strategy” in place.
They will be splitting games into three different tiers and here’s how that split will look:
- Tier I: Games that have support for the latest APIs and are optimized for Intel’s Arc architecture. So, newer games like Cyberpunk 2077, Tomb Raider, Call of Duty, etc. This is where Intel will offer the best price/performance.
- Tier II: Games with DirectX12 and Vulkan, but without optimizations for Intel Arc GPUs.
- Tier III: Videos games on older APIs will run worse on Intel Arc GPUs compared to AMD’s and Nvidia’s graphics cards in the same price range.
There are definitely bad and good sides to this. If you consistently play the latest titles, you will most probably have great performance when compared to AMD or NVIDIA.
However, if you are a person that enjoys older titles, understand that an Intel Arc GPU may not perform as well as you would like.
Either way, we appreciate Intel’s honesty and open communication with its customers. That’s something we’ve missed these last couple of years from all GPU/CPU companies.
Specifications And Features
With the release of Iris Xe, we only saw a glimpse of what Intel Arc is all about. So, Intel does have a good starting point. In addition, there are some rumors and speculations regarding the discrete GPUs from Intel, and we’ll also cover those.
Let’s look at the possible Intel Arc Alchemist SKUs:
|SKU/GPU Name||Xe Cores||Shading Units||Memory||Memory Bus||TGP/TDP|
|Arc A770 16GB||32||4096||16GB GDDR6/X?||256-bit||250W?|
|Arc A770 8GB||32||4096||8GB GDDR6/X?||256-bit||250W?|
|Arc A750||24||3072||12GB GDDR6/X||192-bit||~200W?|
|Arc A580||16||2048||Up to 8GB GDDR6||128-bit||~150-200W?|
|Arc A550||8||1536||8/6 GB GDDR6||128-bit||100-150W?|
|Arc A380||8||1024||6GB GDDR6?||96-bit||100W?|
|Arc A350||6||768||4GB GDDR6||64-bit||50W?|
|Arc A310||4||512||4GB GDDR6||64-bit||50W?|
Note: The A780 GPU was mentioned in multiple leaks; however, Ryan Shrout confirmed there was or ever will be a A780 GPU in the Arc lineup.
Another note: The A350 GPU has not been mentioned once by Intel, so there is a possibility this CPU does not exist.
Here are some leaked die shots of the supposed A770 GPU (by Moore’s Law is Dead).
The final size comes out as 396mm². That’s only a few millimeters bigger than the RTX 3070 or 3070 Ti (392.5mm²).
This tells us that Intel has a similar number of transistors on the die as Nvidia’s 3070 Ti. Of course, there are tons of other factors that affect the GPU’s performance, but this gives a rough idea of Intel’s DG2-512 GPU.
Resizable BAR (Intel and Nvidia) or Smart Access Memory (Ryzen+Radeon) has been a thing for a few years now. It’s a reintroduced feature that allows for better communication between the CPU and the GPU.
Weirdly enough, in Intel’s Arc quick start guide for desktop SKUs, Intel specifies that Resizable BAR is a must-have for the best possible performance out of this new generation of GPUs.
However, ReBAR is available only on Intel’s 10th, 11th, and 12th generation CPUs. Does this mean that Intel Arc GPUs won’t perform as well on older Intel platforms or on AMD CPUs?
Although there is a small footnote mentioning that A-series GPUs may work with Smart Access Memory.
We’re interested to see just how much Resizable BAR will improve performance, but we’re also worried that many will not be aware of this feature. It’s an option accessible only through the BIOS and not everyone is comfortable accessing it.
Intel Arc Roadmap And Xe-Cores
We’ve seen a lot of rumors, leaks, suggestions, and assumptions regarding discrete GPUs falling under the Intel Xe tree. But, we finally got a more profound and official look at this architecture at Intel’s Architecture Day 2021.
First thing first, we finally have a proper name to refer to Xe-HPG, Alchemist.
Intel also gave a roadmap/naming scheme for three other future GPU generations, Battlemage, Celestial, and Druid. These all fall under Intel Arc, the new architecture.
Expect Intel Arc GPUs up until 2025 or later.
But, let’s put our focus on Alchemist since it is the GPU generation we’ve been anticipating for years.
After a year-long silence (or more) on Intel Arc we finally got some insight into how these GPUs work. Specifically, Intel’s compute building block, Xe-Core. The Xe-Core is a direct replacement for Intel’s Execution units (EUs).
Every Xe-core includes 16 Vector Engines (VE) and 16 Matrix Engines (XMX). Each of those Vector Engines processes 256 bits per cycle. Based on Intel’s explanation, each VE has 8 ALUs. That leads to a total of 128 ALUs in one Xe-Core. The core also has its L1 cache.
Intel combines four of these cores to create a Render Slice. We’ve now jumped up to 512 ALUs and 64 XMX.
Furthermore, there are four Ray Tracing Units in each Render Slice to help with ray tracing performance. There are also Samplers, Pixel Backends, and engines for Geometry, Rasterization, and HiZ.
However, Intel had to scale it further to see the true potential from these cores and Render Slices. Thus their flagship GPU holds eight Render Slices. That means 32 Xe-Cores, 512 Vector and Matrix Engines, and a total of 4096 ALUs.
Here’s a Gamers Nexus video with Intel’s Graphics Engineer Tom Petersen explaining the engineering behind the Arc GPUs:
Intel XeSS Upscaling
Those Matrix Engines perform a role similar to NVIDIA’s Tensor Cores which use to accelerate AI-related workloads. Because of this DLSS 2.0 is so successful at supersampling.
Intel’s XeSS upscaling can utilize XMX to provide just similar upscaling to DLSS. But, until we see real third-party comparisons, we can’t really say.
Until then, here’s an upscaled 4K demo powered by Intel Arc GPU.
As seen in the demo above, XeSS rendered at 4K looks identical and sometimes even better than 4K native while providing up to 2x the FPS. At least, that’s what Intel claims.
With the A350M and A370M releases, Intel will provide XeSS support for a dozen games including Hitman 3, Chivalry II, Ghostwire Tokyo, Death Stranding, Anvil, Dolmen, Tomb Raider, and more.
Intel Deep Link, AV1 Encoding And Arc Control
Another interesting new feature from Intel is the full support for AV1 encoding and decoding. That’s something that neither Nvidia nor AMD have, so that’s a big plus for content creators.
Combine the speed of AV1 encoding (already faster than standard HEVC encoding) with Intel’s new Deep Link technology that helps the CPU and GPU share power/resources, which leads to even faster encoding performance.
AV1 encoding might be one of the only good sides of Intel Arc GPUs, mostly because it is open source and performs better than NVIDIA’s NVENC and H.264 encoders.
EposVox uses Netflix’s VMAF, a video quality benchmark, to determine which video coding delivers the best possible viewing experience.
Looking at this chart, it is pretty obvious that Intel’s AV1 encoder is miles better than Nvidia or AMD. At 3500 kbps bitrate, it has an 83 VMAF score compared to NVENC, which scored only 71.
At a higher bitrate, the gap in video quality between these encoders gets smaller, but Intel’s AV1 is still the best out of the bunch.
Either way, streamers can use a low 3.5 MB/s bitrate and still offer video quality comparable to NVENC at 8.0 MB/s
Paired with these new features will be Intel’s new Arc Control software which can be used for recording, updating drivers, tweaking game settings, and more. It will have a role similar to GeForce Experience and AMD’s Radeon Software.
Intel Arc Alchemist Mobile
While most of this article’s focus is on Intel’s desktop releases because that’s what most people have been waiting for, we can’t ignore the fact that Alchemist will show up in laptops too.
Here’s a table for a bit more specifications.
|Ray Tracing Units||6||8||16||24||32|
|GPU Clock||1150 MHz||1550 MHz||900 MHz||1100 MHz||1650 MHz|
|Memory Bus Width||64-bit||64-bit||128-bit||192-bit||256-bit|
VideoCardz’s original leaks have an exact match with these specifications shared on Intel’s Arc Event.
So, the A770M, the flagship GPU gets 16GB of GDDR6 VRAM and a power of up to 150W which allows a GPU clock of 1650MHz. The weaker A730M clocks quite a bit lower and gets 12GB VRAM.
The mid-range A550M comes with 8GB VRAM with a 1600MHz boost clock.
The little brothers, the A350M and A370M both come with 4GB of VRAM and clocked at 1150MHz and 1550MHz respectively.
We might not be witnessing a full-on three-way war between Intel, AMD, and NVIDIA, but something exciting is brewing. As gamers and tech enthusiasts, we can’t wait to see it.
Mobile GPU Performance
Both the A730M and A770M come in Alder Lake CPUs, while the RTX 3050 Ti and RTX 3060 are paired with Intel’s 11th-Gen CPUs.
So, here’s the comparison, but make sure you take it with a bit of salt:
|Games||RTX 3050 Ti||Arc A730M||RTX 3060||Arc A770M||A730M vs 3050 Ti||A770M vs 3060|
|Assassin's Creed Valhalla @ High||38||50||74||69||132%||93%|
|Borderlands 3 (Ultra)||45||50||60||76||111%||127%|
|Cyberpunk 2077 (Ultra)||39||49||54||68||126%||126%|
|Death Stranding (Ultra)||89||87||113||102||98%||90%|
|Dirt 5 (High)||64||61||83||87||95%||105%|
|F1 2021 (Ultra)||68||86||96||123||126%||128%|
|Far Cry 6 (Ultra)||63||68||80||82||108%||103%|
|Gears of War 5 (Ultra)||58||62||72||73||90%||101%|
|Horizon Zero Dawn (Ultimate Quality)||63||50||80||68||79%||85%|
|Metro Exodus (Ultra)||39||54||53||69||138%||130%|
|Red Dead Redemption 2 (High)||46||60||66||77||130%||117%|
|Strange Brigade (Ultra)||98||123||134||172||126%||128%|
|The Division 2 (Ultra)||63||51||78||86||81%||110%|
|The Witcher 3 (Ultra)||96||101||124||141||105%||114%|
|Total War Saga: Troy (Ultra)||48||66||71||86||138%||121%|
|Watch Dogs Legion (High)||59||71||77||89||120%||116%|
|17-Game Geometric Mean||57,2||64,6||78,8||88,3||113%||112%|
This is a solid variety of games, including both Nvidia and AMD optimized titles.
Based on Intel, the A730M outperforms the RTX 3050 Ti in almost all games, resulting in 13% more FPS. Notable gains over the 3050 Ti are in Metro Exodus, Control, and Total War Saga: Troy.
The A770M is supposedly 12% faster than the notebook RTX 3060. Overall, this entire table of numbers favors Intel’s Arc lineup, but can we really trust it? Also, we have to consider the cost of the laptops to get the full picture.
The recent leaks from 3dMark match these benchmarks.
The A770M scored 13244 points in Fire Strike Extreme, while the mobile RTX 3070 scored around 14000.
But is that really enough? All of this hype just for Intel Arc’s flagship to end up slower than Nvidia’s mid-end RTX 3070?
Here is also the lower mid-end Arc A550M in a Time Spy benchmark:
To put this into perspective, the RTX 3060 (notebook version) puts between 9000 and 10000 graphics score. It’s even slower than the RTX 3050.