Intel is the third player to enter the graphics card market with the Arc A series for mobile devices. The manufacturer is thus keeping its promise to bring the first Arc GPUs to market in the first quarter, but initially there are only entry-level models for laptops. Nevertheless, important information for desktop gamers can also be derived.
With the A350M and the A370M, Intel introduced the first mobile Arc GPUs.
Finally the time has come. After years of teasers, announcements and promises, a third player, Intel, has entered the graphics card market today to compete with the top dogs Nvidia and AMD. However, the release didn't go the way many gamers might have wished. The manufacturer only released mobile Intel Arc offshoots today and no desktop graphics cards. And here, too, there are initially only the entry-level solutions, we have to wait a little longer for the mid-range models. Intel justified this step by saying that the company wants to bring together all essential technologies such as CPU, graphics, media, display and I/O, which is why the release of the mobile Intel Arc GPUs was prioritized. That should form a good basis for the desktop series.
What does the release of Intel Arc mean for gamers?
The launch of the Intel Arc graphics cards heralds a new age for PC gamers, because after a long time buyers have three manufacturers to choose from when it comes to choosing a new GPU. Even if there are only entry-level GPUs for the mobile segment at the time of release, the direction is clearly defined. Intel sees itself not only as a provider of computer hardware, but wants to build a complete ecosystem that combines the advantages of an Arc GPU and a Core i CPU via software. The small A350M and A370M GPUs represent something like a test run to optimize the functions until the release of the desktop offshoots in the second quarter.
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However, it is also clear that in the future gamers will not only decide on hardware based on performance and price, but also on which software functions the manufacturer offers. Nvidia set the direction here with GeForce Experience, Nvidia Shadow Play, the broadcast app, DLSS and many other functions, before AMD followed suit with the Adrenalin Edition, FidelityFX Super Resolution, Raytracing and Resizable Bar. On the Intel side, the software and the associated functions are called Arc Control, Deep Link and XeSS, which we will present below. Precisely because of the increasing importance of artificial intelligence for content creators and developers, the software ecosystem is likely to become even more of a decisive argument for buyers in the short or long term than the underlying hardware.
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The release also shows that Intel wants to keep its promises at all costs. There were rumors and leaks about the Arc generation for a long time before the manufacturer announced the release for the first quarter of 2022. Intel has kept this promise today, even if some might criticize that initially only relatively weak mobile GPUs are available. And in this case, being available only means that selected devices can be pre-ordered. We didn't receive a test sample for the official release so that we could convince ourselves of the performance and, to our knowledge, neither did any other reviewer from the tech industry.
Intel Arc for laptops introduced
Intel today officially introduced the Arc-A series of mobile graphics processors, although only the affordable Arc-3 series will be available initially. The A350M and A370M GPU are used in laptops, which can be pre-ordered starting today for at least 899 euros. The more powerful Arc 5 and Arc 7 notebooks are expected to follow in the coming months. All Arc GPUs are based on Intel's newer one
Xe HPG graphics architecture
. The following image provides an overview of Intel's mobile line-up:
Intel Arc A-Series Mobile Graphics
By concentrating on affordable laptops instead of taking on the top dogs AMD and Nvidia for high-end graphics cards, the manufacturer plays to its strengths. Yes, Arc is designed for gamers first – according to Intel, the Arc 3 notebooks hit 60fps+ in AAA games at 1080p resolution on medium-high settings, and 90fps+ in e-sports- titles. This corresponds to a doubling of the performance that an integrated Iris Xe graphics unit can achieve. But Intel Arc has a lot more features to offer.
Gaming at competitive frame rates
A Leap Above Integrated Graphics
Let's start with the supported media engines and displays, which is the same for all Arc GPUs. Each Arc GPU supports up to four HDMI 2.0b and DisplayPort 1.4a outputs – configuration varies by laptop. The display outputs are able to output up to 360 Hz at a resolution of 1080p and 1440p or to drive two 4K/120Hz or 8K/60Hz displays.
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Intel Deep Link
If both an Intel Arc GPU and a Core i CPU are used in a laptop, the user can use the function
benefit from further performance. Deep Link is not fundamentally new and has already been used in laptops with Xe Max GPUs. With the launch of Arc, Intel wants to have further improved the feature, it revolves around three key functions.
Dynamic Power Share
intelligently distributes power between the CPU and GPU, giving both more power when it's needed – similar to AMD's competing SmartShift technology or Nvidia's Dynamic Boost. The system checks at 100 microsecond intervals (or 10 times per second) how heavily the Arc GPU is being used. When the Arc GPU load is high, the system makes more power available to the graphics unit. If the load is not so high, Dynamic Power Share forwards more power to the processor.
The remaining Deep Link functions require compatible software: With
splits media transcoding into batches of frames and sends the data to both the Arc GPU and the Core i processor as well as the integrated graphics unit for further processing. This makes optimal use of all available hardware to complete the encoding as quickly as possible. According to Intel, Hyper Encode can provide up to 60 percent more performance than Alder Lake's integrated Iris Xe graphics alone.
Finally there is
, a new deep link feature. Hyper Compute uses all "XMX" cores found in Arc GPUs to accelerate AI tasks, with a new "Machine Learning Service" API for
is used. Hyper Compute allows the software to split the input frames into different clusters and send them to both the Intel CPU integrated graphics and the Arc GPU, to then reassemble them into one frame. Intel claims Hyper Compute offers up to 24 percent additional performance when upscaling using artificial intelligence.
Intel XeSS and AI in games
However, content developers are not the only ones who can take advantage of the AI-optimized XMX cores. When introducing the Arc GPUs in August last year, Intel also
presented, which should represent an alternative to Nvidia's DLSS and AMD's FSR 2.0. It taps into the XMX cores to use AI to upscale and smooth internal rendering at a lower resolution to native monitor resolution via motion vectors, which is said to result in a dramatic performance boost with little to no visual impact. Even better, there's fallback technology for graphics cards without XMX cores, meaning XeSS works on Nvidia and AMD GPUs too.
Like DLSS and AMD's upcoming FidelityFX Super Resolution 2.0, XeSS also requires game publishers to implement the feature in their games. At Arc's launch, Intel unveiled a handful of games that should support XeSS by early summer, including Death Stranding, Ghostwire Tokyo, Hitman III, and Chivalry II. But XeSS isn't the only way Arc GPUs will leverage AI. Like Nvidia, Intel is also introducing AI-based tools that complement the gaming experience with an all-new Arc control surface with a modern overlay design.
Through Arc Control you'll be able to monitor and optimize your GPU's performance, automatically update your drivers, manage global settings, keep an eye on your installed game library and much more. But there's more: Intel employee Tom Peterson indicated that Intel will offer a new control API that will allow third-party software to leverage Arc Control's capabilities, allowing popular programs like RivaTuner or MSI Afterburner to offer the same functionality .
Like its competitors AMD and Nvidia, Intel also wants to offer a Creator Studio that makes it easier to transfer to Twitch, YouTube and other platforms – this is where AV1 encoding comes into play again. Intel plans to leverage the XMX cores to enable AI-powered camera features like blurring, background removal, and auto-framing. That sounds similar to Nvidia's broadcast suite.