Intel Arc Graphics – What you need to know

Intel Arc Graphics – What you need to know

  • Intel Arc A-Series are Intel’s first discrete graphics cards.
  • Intel Arc 3 launches in April for ultrabooks and entry-level gaming laptops.
  • Intel Arc 5 and 7 launches in early summer for mid to high-end gaming laptops.
  • Intel Arc 3, 5 and 7 follow same naming and performance as Intel Core i3, i5 and i7.
  • Intel also teased a desktop graphics card, launches in summer.
  • Intel Arc graphics cards are built on XeHPG architecture.
  • XeHPG supports AI workloads, DirectStorage and Direct X12 Ultimate.
  • Intel Arc graphics cards are first to support AV1 encoding and decoding.
  • XeSS is Intel’s AI-enhanced image reconstruction technique, launches in summer.

When you think of a graphics card, two companies spring to mind – NVIDIA and AMD. But that’s about to change, as a new challenger approaches – Intel. Yes, this well-know CPU manufacturer enters the fray with Intel Arc, their first discrete graphics card brand.

While Intel’s had low-powered integrated graphics on their CPUs for well over a decade, gaming grade GPUs have been sorely absent since the cancellation of project ‘Larrabee’ in 2010.

After months of teasers and behind-the-scenes developer talks, Intel has unveiled their plans to bring Intel Arc to market over the course of 2022. Here’s what you need to know about Intel Arc, including models, release dates, key features and more.

Intel Arc A-Series

Intel Arc A-Series, Intel’s first generation of discrete graphics cards, releases in waves. First, it’s available as ‘Arc 3’ in April, for ultrabooks and entry-level gaming laptops. For beefier, more powerful graphics, we’ll have to wait for ‘Arc 5’ and ‘Arc 7’ in early summer, for mid to high-end gaming laptops.

Intel’s mainly focused on laptop-class GPUs, but they’ve also teased an Intel Arc desktop graphics card launching in summer. For now, all they’ve shared is a short snippet of the card’s design: dual-axial fans, thick cooling and more. Check out the video, embedded below. Interestingly, we couldn’t glimpse the card’s power connector, so even a suspicion of power draw remains a mystery.

The naming scheme of Intel Arc resembles Intel’s CPUs: Intel Core i3, i5 and i7. To avoid confusion, let’s clarify how it works. For example, let’s take the A350M. ‘A’ is for A-Series and ‘3’ is for Arc 3. In this case, ‘50’ acts as a model number and ‘M’ means it’s a mobile chip.

Intel Arc 3

Arc 3 is for “enhanced 1080p gaming” and “industry-leading content creation”, a step-up in performance from integrated graphics. There’s the base-model A350M (with 6 Xe Cores, 6 Raytracing Units and 4GB GDDR6 VRAM) and the faster A370M (with 8 Xe Cores, 8 Raytracing Units and 4GB GDDR6 VRAM).

Rated for only 25-35W and 35-50W of power consumption respectively, don’t expect mind-blowing performance from Arc 3. Intel has shown the Intel Arc A370M performing slightly above 60 frames-per-second at a medium graphic pre-set over a range of triple-A games, including Hitman 3 and Doom Eternal. Arc 3 looks like a great alternative to integrated graphics for the strict power envelops of thin-and-light devices.

Intel Arc 5 & Intel Arc 7

It’s Arc 5 and Arc 7 where we’ll see “advanced gaming” and “high-performance gaming” accordingly, promising power that’ll give NVIDIA and AMD a run for their money.

As of now, there’s only one model of Intel Arc 5, the A550M (with 16 Xe Cores, 16 Raytracing Units and 8GB GDDR6 VRAM). Doubling the A370M’s spec-sheet across the board, while running at 60-80W, the A550M should compete as a mid-range card like AMD 6600M or NVIDIA’s RTX 3060.

Intel Arc 7 comes in two configurations, the A730M (with 24 Xe Cores, 24 Raytracing Units and 12GB GDDR6 VRAM) running at 80-120W, and the full-fat A770M (with 32 Xe Cores, 32 Raytracing Units and 16GB GDDR6 VRAM) running at 120-150W. It’s by far Intel’s most interesting product, but they’re keeping tight-lipped about it, as they’re focused on the soon-to-be released Arc 3.

That power consumption is creeping up towards the high-end of gaming laptop GPUs, so we’re excited to see if Intel has already got a card that roughly equates to an RTX 3070 or even RTX 3080. The VRAM shouldn’t be ingored either, 12GB and 16GB is considerably more than what’s current laptops, making Intel Arc 7-powered laptops great machines for on-the-go content creation.

XeHPG Architecture

Intel Arc A-Series graphics cards are built on Intel’s new XeHPG (Xe High Performance Graphics) architecture. Built from the ground up, it isn’t a simple continuation of their integrated graphics.

Fundamental to Xe HPG are Xe Cores with XMX Matrix Engines, Intel’s equivalent to NVIDIA Tensor Cores. These accelerate AI workloads like Intel XeSS (Xe Super Sampling), again equivalent to NVIDIA DLSS (Deep Learning Super Sampling).

Even though this is Intel’s first generation attempt at a discrete graphics card, these technologies put them toe-to-toe with NVIDIA and ahead of AMD, who don’t have an AI-enhanced image reconstruction technique.

What’s more, XeHPG is compatible with DirectStorage and Direct X12 Ultimate’s entire feature set, including variable rate shading, mesh shading, sampler feedback and, most intriguingly, real-time raytracing.

In an industry first, Intel Arc graphics card support both AV1 decoding and encoding – current NVIDIA and AMD cards only support AV1 decoding.

Intel XeSS

As detailed in our blog Why should I buy a NVIDIA GeForce RTX 30 Series GPU…, reconstruction is an essential component of modern rendering. A new demo of XeSS was show, and while it shows a clear improvement over non-XeSS rendering, judgement is reversed for retail, playable games as YouTube compression makes for an unfair test.

While Intel Arc A-Series graphics cards may be launching in April, XeSS is not. It’s coming in early summer and works on every Intel Arc A-Series graphics card – it’ll be a boon for budget gaming laptops.

As it’s tailored for their architecture, Intel XeHPG-powered graphics cards should achieve the best results from XeSS. However, there are plans to support other manufacturer’s cards down the road (via a DP4A instruction set) and to even go open source.

At launch, over 20 games will feature XeSS, including Ghostwire: Tokyo, Death Stranding: Director’s Cut and Hitman 3. Though, Intel plans to continue working with game developers to strengthen adoption of XeSS in their games.

Intel at Ebuyer

After such a long wait, Intel’s laptop-focused reveal might feel underwhelming – where’s the watt-guzzling desktop graphics card to show what Intel are made of?

However, this steady and considered roll-out lets Intel test the waters, ensuring their drivers and technologies are ready for prime time. Launch Arc 3 now and get ready for the high-performance graphics cards in the summer. We can’t wait to see how an Intel-powered graphics card stacks up against NVIDIA and AMD.