After countless leaks, reports, and months of speculation, Arc Alchemist is finally here. Intel just wrapped up its launch event for Arc Alchemist laptop GPUs and there’s a lot to unpack. This was the first event dedicated to Arc Alchemist and it was used to introduce the mobile variants of Intel’s upcoming discrete graphics solution to the world. Intel is debuting Arc Alchemist on mobile, but the desktop edition was also teased at the event and is currently scheduled for a Q2 2022 launch.
There were a total of five GPUs announced from three different series at the event: Intel Arc 3, Intel Arc 5, and Intel Arc 7. Only Intel Arc 3 actually launches today with pre-orders for Samsung Book2 Pro with Arc 3 graphics going live alongside the announcement. Designs from a myriad of other manufacturers featuring Intel Arc graphics are also available starting today. Intel Arc 5 and Intel Arc 7, however, will launch at a later date, but we did get detailed specs today that we can go over.
A little refresher
Intel Arc Alchemist is the company’s first serious foray into the realm of discrete graphics. The goal here is to compete with the big players like AMD and NVIDIA from the get go. Therefore, Intel will be looking to attack on all cylinders, be it performance or price or even availability. “Arc” is the name of Intel’s graphics brand, similar to what “Radeon” is for AMD and “GeForce” is for NVIDIA.
“Alchemist” is what the first generation is called, for comparison NVIDIA’s current lineup of RTX 4000 GPUs are from the “Ampere” generation. AMD and NVIDIA also use a two or three-letter suffix before the model number of their GPUs, “RX” is used by AMD and “GTX” or “RTX” is used by NVIDIA. Intel will simply be using the letter “A” here. For example, Intel Arc A770M. With all that taken into account, here’s how the current graphics series from each company looks like:
- Intel Arc A-Series
- NVIDIA GeForce 30
- AMD Radeon 6000
Intel Arc 3
Firstly, there is Intel Arc 3 aimed at lower-end gamers looking to buy thin and light laptops. These GPUs will be more efficient than performant and will look to provide a nice balance between low power consumption and high frame rates. Intel announced two Arc 3 series GPUs at their event: Arc A370M and Arc A350M.
Both of these will be using the “ACM-G11” GPU die that is based on “SOC 2“, also known as “DG2-128“. The Arc A370M will be utilizing the full die whereas the Arc A350M will be utilizing a cut-down version of it with fewer cores. As such, Arc A370M features 8 Xe-Cores and 8 ray-tracing units whereas the Arc A350M features 6 Xe-Cores and 6 ray-tracing units. Both GPUs also have 4GB of GDDR6 memory across a 64-bit wide memory bus.
Arc A370M has a higher clock speed at 1550Mhz and a higher TGP to go along at 35-50W. In contrast, the Arc A350M is clocked at 1150Mhz with a 25-35W TGP. Both of these chips are relatively low-end and from the specs we can see that the Arc A370M will most likely be targeting RTX 3050 level performance, whereas the Arc A350M will be more in line with NVIDIA’s entry-level MX500 series.
Intel Arc 3 is meant for 1080p gaming on the go and is capable of pushing 60FPS in some of the most popular games on the market. Not only that, but in e-sports titles where higher frame rates often lead to an advantage, Intel is saying that Arc 3 GPUs will push up to 90FPS and beyond on varying settings. Intel has generally been pretty tight-lipped about performance so far but this is our first glimpse into how capable Arc mobile really is.
Intel Arc 3 laptops will start from $899 and the first one, Samsung Book2 Pro, is available to pre-order starting today. Acer Swift X, another laptop that was expected to be announced at today’s event was strangely missing, however. So far, there is only one laptop with Arc Alchemist officially announced but Intel has promised that many, many more are coming as the company has partnered with a host of manufacturers.
Intel Arc 5 and Intel Arc 7
Intel didn’t really talk about Arc 5 and Arc 7 in detail at the event due to these two series coming out later in the year, likely before the end of June. Though, we do have a general idea about their performance given the specs. Both Arc 5 and Arc 7 will be using the flagship “ACM-G10” GPU, also known as “SOC 1” or “DG2-512” previously. Arc 7 will target enthusiast gaming performance while Arc 5 will offer a significant improvement over Arc 3, enough to entice gamers looking for a solid middle-of-the-road gaming experience.
There is only one GPU in the Arc 5 lineup and that is the A550M. It uses a cut-down version of the ACM-G10 GPU so it only has 16 Xe-Cores and 16 ray-tracing units. The GPU is clocked at a strangely low 900Mhz frequency. As for the memory, there is 8GB of GDDR6 VRAM on board running across a 128-bit wide memory bus. The GPU is rated for a 60-80W TGP. Those specs put it right up against the RTX 3060 Max-Q graphics options.
There are two GPUs in the Arc 7 lineup: Arc A770M and the Arc A730M with the former being the top-end SKU. Arc A770M utilizes the full ACM-G10 die and has 32 Xe-Cores along with 32 ray-tracing units and the GPU is clocked at 1650Mhz. It features 16GB of GDDR6 memory on a 256-bit wide memory bus and a TDP of 120-150W. All in all, we can expect performance similar to the RTX 3070 Ti Max-Q variant from the Arc A770M GPU.
Last but not least, we have the Arc A730M. This GPU is just one notch below the flagship and uses the same ACM-G10 die but a cut-down version of it. As such, instead of full 32 cores, the A730M comes with 24 Xe-Cores and 24 ray-tracing units, a graphics clock of 1100Mhz and 12GB of GDDR6 memory operating across a 192-bit bus interface. The card will have a 80-120W TDP. All of that makes it comparable to an RTX 3060 mobile.
As I mentioned, Intel just glanced over these GPUs at the event so we did not get any performance benchmarks or any other details. Arc Alchemist-powered GPUs running Arc 5 and Arc 7 graphics are slated for an early summer release with no concrete launch dates as of yet. It would be likely that Arc 5 and 7 will come out before Intel debuts its desktop A-series offering in Q2 2022.
Intel Xe-HPG microarchitecture
Now that we’ve discussed everything about the different SKUs and what sets them apart from each other, let’s talk about the things that are universal throughout all of them. All Intel A-series GPUs share the same feature set which is made possible thanks to the scalable Xe-HPG (High Performance Gaming) architecture. There are four key features that Xe-HPG enables which will help take Intel Arc to the next level.
Starting with Xe-Matrix Extensions (XMX) AI engines, these are, in simple words, AI accelerators built into every single Intel Arc GPU. These help in accelerating AI-heavy workloads like video upscaling, but also in certain gaming applications. Mainly, though, they are aimed at increasing content creation performance and as such, Intel claims that they are 16x more powerful than standard GPU vector units when it comes to AI inferencing operations.
Secondly, Intel Arc GPUs will be the very first in the industry with support for hardware-accelerated encoding and decoding for the AV1 video codec. AV1, for those of you who don’t know, is basically a next-gen video codec that is more efficient than even HEVC, and around 50% more efficient than the popular H.264 codec. AV1 support will be available starting today in most popular media applications, such as Adobe Premiere Pro, DaVinci Resolve and Handbrake, with broader adoption expected next year.
Moreover, Intel Deep Link technologies will enable Intel Arc GPUs to talk to Intel Core CPUs to increase the overall performance of your mobile device. Intel Deep Link enables Dynamic Power Share which dynamically distributes and manages power between the CPU and the GPU for maximum efficiency, with up to 30% performance improvement in compute-intensive creator applications. Not only that, Hyper Encode and Hyper Compute allows multi-engine acceleration in transcoding and AI tasks.
All Intel Arc GPUs will also support latest graphics technologies like DirectX 12 Ultimate and hardware-accelerated ray tracing. Arc Alchemist will use the PCIe Gen4 standard across all SKUs as well. Intel also highlighted how they are working with partners and other developers to ensure Day 0 drivers for of current-gen games, on top of optimizing them to squeeze the most performance possible out of Intel Arc.
Lastly, all Arc GPUs will support Intel’s upcoming XeSS upscaling technology. We have covered XeSS in detail before, it is essentially a DLSS 2.0 competitor. It upscales games by running them at a lower render resolution, this helps boost FPS without a noticeable dip in image quality. Plus, XeSS will also apply post-processing on the image to make it look even sharper.
XeSS uses machine learning and AI to upscale the image, similar to DLSS, but it does not necessarily need dedicated ML hardware to do so. XeSS works best with the XMX AI engines inside Arc GPUs but it can also work with the DP4a instruction set supported on rival GPUs which gives it an upper hand over DLSS. AMD’s new FSR 2.0 is similar to XeSS in this regard that it can work on both AMD and competitor GPUs.
Intel Arc Control Software
Intel also announced a new “Arc Control” management software for its Arc GPUs, however it also works with existing Intel Iris-Xe integrated graphics. It is basically Intel’s version of NVIDIA’s GeForce Experience or AMD’s Radeon Software. It’s main job is to deliver driver updates to the GPUs consistently, but it also includes monitoring and performance tuning capabilities, along with screen recording and and video streaming support among other things. Click here to read our detailed article on Arc Control.
Intel Arc is coming
That concludes our detailed look at the Intel Arc Alchemist launch event, the first of likely many to come. All in all, it was a modest showing from Intel as the company didn’t really opt for a flashy presentation and just got straight to the point, talking about the specs and features of Arc. Intel did leave us an Apple-style “one more thing” at the end, which turned out to be our very first look at Intel Arc Alchemist desktop graphics card, coming Summer 2022.
With Intel Arc 3 out today, and Arc 5 and 7 launching later, Intel will finally have their own answer to AMD and NVIDIA’s graphics options. No longer does Intel need to rely on either of them to power an Intel laptop as the company will now look to equip more and more laptops with Arc Alchemist. Let’s hope that availability isn’t an issue and the addition of a new player proves to be more beneficial for the consumer at the end.