Intel’s Arc Alchemist graphics cards – their first real go at dedicated desktop gaming GPUs in modern times – are in a bit of a weird spot. If all had gone according to the original plan, they’d already be out and playable, but repeated delays have hit, leaving only one card – the low-end Arc A380 – having a muted launch in China only. As of early August, the full range of GPUs haven’t even been announced in an official capacity. These were meant to finally provide the competition to Nvidia and AMD’s best graphics cards, so where’s the deets?
A particularly dire assessment of Arc Alchemist’s prospects (and those of future Arc GPU generations like Battlemage) was recently given by YouTube tech channel Moore’s Law is Dead, quoting alleged Intel insiders that their unreleased GPUs could be delayed or even cancelled due to insurmountable performance problems. This report was indirectly denied by Intel graphics chief architect Raja Koduri, who tweeted that the company was “very much committed to our roadmap.” Intel have shown a few other Alchemist models in the flesh, but there’s still much left to know about this family of cards.
To help defog things a little, this is where I’ll be collecting everything we know so far about Arc Alchemist: confirmed models, specs, features, performance and suchlike. The information here either comes from Intel themselves, trustworthy third parties, or multiple corroborated sources; the case of the even more elusive Nvidia RTX 40 series has shown how tricky it can be to get accurate data from leaks alone.
Arc Alchemist will consist of lower-end and mid-range cards; it won’t be competing with the likes of the RTX 3080. Here the are five models we know about, and by all accounts will be the complete set, along with their confirmed GDDR6 VRAM amounts:
Arc Alchemist model GDDR6 memory A770 / A770 Limited Edition 16GB A750 / A750 Limited Edition 8GB A580 ??? A380 6GB A310 ???
Of these, Intel has “launched” one (the A380) and announced/shown off a further two, the A770 and A750. The A580 and A310 should show up eventually too, as they were both listed alongside the others in an Arc graphics beta driver back in May 2022.
You’ll also note the Limited Edition variants of the A770 and A750. These are akin to Nvidia’s Founders Edition GeForce cards, being built entirely according to Intel’s specifications (including the cooler designs). Per Intel Graphics Fellow Tom Petersen’s chat with PC World US, Limited Edition models will also have faster memory, though the total amount of GDDR6 will stay consistent.
Wccftech reported on an alleged Intel presentation slideshow that fills in the last two missing VRAM specs, putting the A580 at 8GB and the A310 at just 4GB. These figures make logical sense given the rest of the Arc Alchemist range, though remember the usual caveats about apparent leaks: even if accurate, these specs could be subject to change.
Sadly, there aren’t many other dead certainties to share. Only the A380 has a full specs list, which gives its base clock speed as 2000MHz, its TDP as 75W, and an Xe core count of eight.
Ah, Xe cores. These are the cornerstones of Arc Alchemist’s architecture and each contain three important tools: a set of 256-bit vector engines, which handle the conventional drawing of on-screen graphics, 192KB of shared L1 cache, and a set of 1024-bit matrix engines. The latter perform machine learning tasks, like the Tensor cores on Nvidia RTX cards, especially in how one such task can be DLSS-style, AI-assisted upscaling. Expect the higher-tier Alchemist cards to have more Xe cores on board than the A380.
That upscaling feature is called XeSS (Xe Super Sampling), and works similarly to both Nvidia DLSS and AMD FSR 2.0. To boost performance, games are rendered at lower-than-native resolution. Then, XeSS pieces the on-screen image together, using data from previous frames, to make it resemble native res – so you get most, if not all of the sharpness, with more frames per second.
Also like DLSS and FSR, XeSS will require games to actively implement support for it. So far there are only 14 takers listed on Intel’s website, but there could be more, just as DLSS and FSR support was limited when they first appeared. Oddly, The Riftbreaker isn’t included, despite having previously used in a public XeSS demo. Here’s the list as it stands:
- Arcadegeddon Anvil Chivalry II Chorus Death Stranding Director’s Cut Dolmen Enlisted Ghostwire: Tokyo GRID Legends Shadow of the Tomb Raider Super People The Settlers Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodhunt
Ray tracing support also comes as standard on Arc Alchemist GPUs, though it remains to be seen how they’ll actually perform with such a demanding graphical luxury enabled. It will also be possible to overclock them, so expect board partner models to launch with modest factory overclocks just as their Nvidia and AMD GPUs most often do.
While Intel have been showing both the A770 Limited Edition and A750 Limited Edition to various media, only the latter has had proper gaming benchmark results revealed. In a “performance showcase” video, the A750 Limited Edition was shown running Control at 1440p/High between 56fps and 66fps. The specs of the test PC weren’t given, but we can safely assume it included one of Intel’s 12th Gen Core chips (which include several of the best gaming CPUs on the market).
Intel’s video also included a comparison graph showing the A750 Limited Edition narrowly beating the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 across Control, F1 2021, Cyberpunk 2077, Borderlands 3 and Fortnite. Again, this shows Intel primarily want to muscle in on the more affordable half of the graphics card market; I wouldn’t expect the A770 to aim much higher than beating the RTX 3060 Ti, either.
As for the A380, Intel haven’t provided review units outside of China, though some Western outlets (with more money than RPS) have managed to import retail models over to test. The word, unfortunately, is decidedly not good.
Hardware Unboxed, for example, benchmarked a Gunnir-made A380 paired with an AMD Ryzen 9 5950X. It only averaged 48fps in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla at 1080p/Medium, 42fps in Shadow of the Tomb Raider at 1080p/Highest, 58fps in Hitman 3 at 1080p/Medium and 52fps in Far Cry 6 at 1080p/Medium. It did have a stronger showing in Resident Evil Village, averaging 68fps at 1080p/Balanced Quality, but was generally only on par or slower than the AMD Radeon RX 6400, and was trounced by other low-end GPUs like the Radeon RX 6500 XT or Nvidia’s GeForce RTX 3050.
Hardware Unboxed’s tests also revealed the extent to which the A380 relies on Resizeable BAR, regularly suffering double-digit framerate drops from those already-underwhelming results after ReBAR was disabled. Performance could improve in time, maybe even before the worldwide release, if Intel do some good work with future drivers – and that goes for the Arc A750 as well. Still, what we’ve seen so far hasn’t been very compelling.
The one piece of unqualified good news seems to be Arc Alchemist’s AV1 video encoder. AV1 could well be the future of how we watch video online, as it can produce a cleaner image than other current formats (like Nvidia’s H.264) even while using less data to stream. GeForce RTX 30 cards, Radeon RX 6000 cards and (naturally) Intel Arc Alchemist cards all have AV1 decoding capabilities but the Alchemist lineup will be the first GPUs to feature a proper AV1 encoder as well, making it vastly more accessible to video creators. EposVox has a good explainer on this, including hands-on testing with the Arc A380, if you’d like to know more. Though to be clear, AV1 encoding will mainly only help you if you’re into video editing or streaming. It won’t help with running games normally.
The final Arc mystery. Yes, the A380 is available in China, but that’s far from a global launch, and it’s much slower than almost all current-gen graphics cards from Nvidia and AMD. The models that more discerning 1080p/1440p players will want are still MIA.
To recap, these desktop GPUs were originally tipped launch at the start of 2022, then in summer, and according to Koduri’s tweet there will be further updates “this quarter.” But updates aren’t necessarily release dates, and we’re currently in Q3 of 2022, which extends until the end of September – so Arc Alchemist could feasibly miss the summer window as well.
Basically, no-one really knows anything, potentially up to and including Intel. Wahey. And that goes for Arc Alchemist’s prices too: all we know for sure is the A380’s pricing in China, where it launched with an RRP of 1030 Yuan. That’s around £125 / $153, not accounting for regional tax differences, though some retailers are selling it for around 1300 Yuan (about £158 / $192).
For what it’s worth, that aforementioned Wccftech report suggests Intel have some US price estimates in mind. Again, these may be a) unreliable or b) subject to change, but the A770 is placed in the $350-$399 range, with the A750 just below at about $290-$340. Next is the A560 at $200-$250, with the A380 down at $100-$149 and the A310 at $99 or below.
I can’t corroborate any of these, and my own price predictions – made before any performance inklings whatsoever – were clearly catastrophic overshoots. But Intel would be mad to ask for much more than these reported figures, especially given they’re seemingly trying to compete against AMD and Nvidia’s cheaper GPUs – GPUs that have already been out for anywhere from several months to over a year. They’re only getting cheaper, too, now that the great graphics card gouge of 2020-2022 is largely subsiding.