Rumors, delays and early testing suggest Intel’s Arc GPUs are on shaky ground

Arc is Intel's attempt to shake up the GPU market.
Enlarge / Arc is Intel’s attempt to shake up the GPU market.

Almost a year ago, Intel was making a big announcement about its push into the dedicated graphics business. Intel Arc is reportedly the brand name for a new batch of gaming GPUs, pushing far beyond the company’s previous efforts and in direct competition with Nvidia’s GeForce and AMD’s Radeon GPUs.

Arc is the culmination of years of work, dating back at least to 2017, when Intel hired Raja Koduri, the architect of the AMD GPU to run its own graphic division. And as Intel tried to break into an established and fiercely competitive market, it would benefit from the experience and massive install base the company had cultivated with its integrated GPUs.

Intel sought to prove its commitment to Arc by showing a multi-year roadmap, with four distinct named GPU architectures already in the works. Sure, the GPUs wouldn’t compete with top-tier GeForce and Radeon cards, but they would. address the crucial consumer GPU marketand high-end cards would follow once the brand was more established.

All of this makes Arc much more serious than Larrabee, Intel’s latest push to break into the dedicated graphics market. Larrabee was canceled late in its development due to lags and disappointing performance, and Arc GPUs are real things you can buy (if only in a limited way, for now). But the challenges of entering the GPU market haven’t changed since the late 2000s. Breaking into a mature market is difficult, and experience with integrated GPUs isn’t always applicable to dedicated GPUs. with more complex hardware and their own memory pool.

Regardless of the company’s plans for future architectures, Arc’s launch was messy. And while the company is making efforts to get these issues under control, a combination of performance issues, schedule issues, and financial pressures could threaten Arc’s future.

Early turbulence

A year after its announcement, it looks like Arc is already on shaky ground. Intel was typically unable to meet its initial launch estimates, barely succeeding a paper launch of two low-end laptop GPUs in the first quarter (the original launch window) and do not follow widely available office cards in Q2. The company has been very public about his driver issues with drivers, which hurt card performance in older but still widely played games. And the graphics division is losing money at a time when revenue drops company-wide.

And that’s exactly what happens in public. A report from Igor’s German-language lab claims that Intel’s board partners (those who would put Arc GPU dies on boards, package them, and ship them) and OEMs who would put Arc GPUs in their computers prebuilts become frustrated with delays and lack of communication.

A long conspiratorial video YouTuber Moore’s Law is Dead goes even further, suggesting (using a combination of “inside sources” and speculation) that folks in Intel’s graphics division are “lying” to consumers and others in the company about the state of the GPUs, that the first second-generation Alchemist architecture has fundamental performance-limiting flaws, and that Intel has internal discussions about discontinuing Arc GPUs after the second-generation “Battlemage” architecture.

We reached out to Intel and several GPU manufacturers to see if they had anything to share on this; the short version is no – Intel has no news on release dates. Asus says so”[doesn’t] currently have something in the works for Intel Arc on the North American side,” and other companies have yet to respond. For his part, Intel’s Vice President of Graphics, Raja Koduri said publicly that “we are very committed to our roadmap” and that there will be “more updates from us this quarter” and “four new product lines by the end of the year”.

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