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Intel Arc Alchemist: Everything we know

Intel’s first-generation Arc graphics cards are here — codenamed Alchemist. It’s a bid to shift the balance that Nvidia and AMD have maintained for decades, with modern furnishings like real-time ray tracing and AI-assisted supersampling. To get you up to speed, we rounded up everything we know about Arc Alchemist’s release date, price, specs, and performance.

Although Arc Alchemist cards are technically here, they aren’t widely available. Intel has been slowly rolling out these cards. We have some concrete information, but we have to reference rumors and leaks to get the full picture.

Intel Arc Alchemist price and release date

Concept art of an Intel DG2 graphics card.

Intel officially launched Arc Alchemist at CES 2022, but only the mobile range. Intel says that over 50 laptop and desktop designs are “coming soon,” but we haven’t seen too many yet. Intel has confirmed that one Arc Alchemist laptop is shipping in South Korea, but it will likely be several weeks before they’re available around the world.

Rumors suggest that the slip in release date is a consequence of internal delays. Shortly after Intel’s CES keynote, the company removed the release window from the Arc Alchemist website. Rumors have circulated that Intel delayed the release over issues with management. The cards were originally set to launch in the first quarter of 2022, which Intel just barely made by releasing the range on March 31.

Intel Arc Alchemist CES 2022 keynote.

Currently, only Arc 3 graphics are available in laptops. Intel says that Arc 5 and Arc 7 GPUs will arrive in early summer, hopefully alongside desktop options. Intel hasn’t announced when it will launch its desktop Arc Alchemist GPUs, but leakers suggest they’ll arrive sometime in May.

We don’t have a clear idea about pricing. The only Arc Alchemist laptop currently available sells for over $2,000, which is probably not the best point of reference. Hopefully Intel Arc laptops will start somewhere around $800 or $900.

Rumors around the desktop cards suggest the flagship card will cost around $600. That’s in between the RTX 3080 and RTX 3070, which it looks like the top card is targeting. Some rumors suggest Intel is targeting an aggressive price to steal some gamers from Nvidia and AMD.

Although the desktop cards are coming soon, they’ll still be difficult to find. Intel has said it may not have enough supply to meet demand, and that it won’t be imposing a cryptocurrency mining limiter like the ones found on Nvidia RTX 30-series graphics cards.

Intel Arc Alchemist specs

A render of Intel Arc Alchemist chip.

Intel has only revealed details about its mobile Arc Alchemist graphics cards. We’re still waiting on details about the desktop range — though a leak from February provided a lot of clues as to how the desktop cards will shape up.

For now, here’s a look at the mobile range of Arc Alchemist GPUs:

Xe Cores/RT units Graphics clock Memory size Memory bus size Power
Arc 7 770M 32/32 1.65GHz 16GB 256-bit 120-150W
Arc 7 730M 24/24 1.1GHz 12GB 192-bit 80-120W
Arc 5 A550M 16/16 0.9GHz 8GB 128-bit 60-80W
Arc 3 A370M 8/8 1.55GHz 4GB 64-bit 35-50W
Arc 3 A350M 6/6 1.15GHz 4GB 64-bit 25-35W

It’s impossible to compare Arc Alchemist’s specs to options from AMD and Nvidia, outside of memory size and power draw. With 16GB of GDDR6 memory and a 256-bit bus, the flagship Arc 7 770M looks like it will line up with Nvidia’s RTX 3080 Ti mobile. AMD doesn’t have any options with quite as much memory.

On the low end, the Arc A350M doesn’t have a direct competitor from AMD or Nvidia, at least based on the spec sheet. This is a highly efficient discrete GPU, targeting 1080p and competing with integrated graphics or entry-level discrete GPUs like Nvidia’s MX450.

We can’t compare specs, but reports after Intel’s announcement showed that Arc Alchemist GPUs have a higher transistor count than competing options from AMD and Nvidia. That could indicate higher performance for the same die size with Arc Alchemist, but it’s too soon to say for sure.

For now, Intel has only revealed its laptop GPUs. We expect to see more from the desktop range in the summer, and based on the mobile specs, the range should target flagship options from Nvidia and AMD.

Intel Arc Alchemist architecture

Intel Xe HPG render slice model.

Intel’s Arc Alchemist cards are being built on chipmaker TSMC’s N6 node, which is a revision of the N7 node used on AMD RX 6000 graphics cards.

The basis of Xe HPG is an Xe Core, which features 16 vector units and 16 Xe Matrix Execution (XMX) units, along with an L1 cache. Intel combines four of these Xe Cores into a render slice and adds a shared L2 cache between them, as well as dedicated ray tracing cores for each Xe Core. These slices are what will separate the various Arc Alchemist cards.

Intel says it can add up to eight slices to a graphics card, totaling 32 Xe Cores and 512 XMX and vector units. We don’t know how future architectures will work, but Intel says that Xe HPG is a scalable architecture. In the future, we’ll likely see smaller, more efficient processes alongside more render slices on a card.

Intel Arc Alchemist benchmarks and performance

A render of Intel's Arc Alchemist desktop GPU.

Intel Arc Alchemist graphics cards are here, but benchmarks showing performance have been sparse. Our biggest showing comes from a lucky YouTuber who was able to score a machine with an Arc A350M. The video shows the card managing around 90 frames per second (fps) in Overwatch at High settings.

In a more demanding title like Red Dead Redemption 2, the card stayed under 30 fps, occasionally dropping as low as 15 fps. Similarly, the card jumped between 30 fps and 45 fps in Elden Ring with High settings. Although not ideal, it’s important to remember that the A350M is the most entry-level GPU in Intel’s Arc Alchemist range.

Intel has shared some benchmarks for its A370M as well. The graph (below) only shows the card compared to Intel’s older integrated graphics, but the A370M puts up respectable frame rates. The card was able to manage about 60 fps in demanding titles like Hitman 3 and Doom Eternal at 1080p, which is nothing to sneeze at.

Benchmarks for Intel Arc Alchemist graphics cards.
Intel

We don’t have performance numbers for the rest of the mobile range or desktop Arc Alchemist graphics cards, but Intel has shown off major AAA games running on these cards several times.

👀 A sneak peek of gameplay captured on #IntelArc Pre-production Silicon! https://t.co/kRTpUg5EcG pic.twitter.com/CxORT8djLZ

— Intel Gaming (@IntelGaming) August 16, 2021

For now, we have to turn to leaks and rumors for any performance hints. A leak from April showed some performance information. The leak showed the flagship model performing about as well as the Nvidia RTX 3080 and AMD RX 6800 XT. In 3DMark TimeSpy, the leaker claimed results could even rival Nvidia’s $1,500 RTX 3090.

Rumors suggest that the flagship card will fall between an RTX 3060 Ti and RTX 3070 Ti, which seems more reasonable. The next step down should perform between an RTX 3060 and RTX 3060 Ti, while the lowest card could match the GTX 1650 Super.

A recent leak from the SiSoftware benchmark backs up that performance. The test showed the flagship Arc Alchemist GPU outperforming the RTX 3070 Ti by about 7%. SiSoftware is a theoretical benchmark — it doesn’t show performance in games. Still, it’s a hopeful sign for Intel’s upcoming cards.

Intel Arc Alchemist overclocking

We have more concrete information about overclocking. Intel has confirmed that Arc drivers will feature a built-in overclocking utility, allowing you to push the clock speeds past their rated spec. We don’t know what the overclocking tool will look like, but we hope it matches up to the offerings from AMD and Nvidia.

In an interview with Gadgets 360, Intel said it’s exploring multiple features for its drivers. The drivers will line up with major game releases, and the company is looking into features like gaming recording and streaming. That said, these features may not be available when the cards launch.

Real-time ray tracing and Intel XeSS

Ray tracing in Dirt 5.

Alchemist cards come with the latest gaming features, including support for DirectX 12 and Vulkan ray tracing, which comprise the vast majority of titles that support ray tracing available today.

Alongside ray tracing, the cards will eventually support Intel XeSS. This is an AI-assisted supersampling feature that works similarly to Nvidia’s Deep Learning Super Sampling (DLSS). Although Arc Alchemist graphics cards are here, Intel says XeSS won’t launch until the summer.

Although similar, XeSS isn’t the same as DLSS. It seems Intel took some notes from rival AMD and its FidelityFX Super Resolution (FSR) upscaling tech. Like FSR, XeSS works across a wide range of hardware, not just Intel graphics cards. To achieve broad support and AI upscaling, Intel developed two software development kits (SDKs).

Intel shows off new Xe Super Sampling.

The first utilizes dedicated cores on Intel graphics cards, similar to how DLSS uses Tensor cores on Nvidia RTX cards. This is the full, fat XeSS experience, and Intel says developers can start implementing it in late August.

Another SDK uses DP4a instruction, which is used in AI applications on recent Nvidia graphics cards and recent Intel integrated graphics. Intel says this version has some quality and performance differences compared to the normal version of XeSS. However, it opens up much wider support for other hardware, which is great to see. This SDK is coming in 2021, but Intel hasn’t said when.

As for how XeSS, DLSS, and FSR stack up, we’ll just have to wait and see. There are a few key things Intel needs to do to make XeSS successful, and there’s still a lot we don’t know about the feature.

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