Why we can’t get too excited about Intel Arc Alchemist discrete GPUs just yet

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Going to CES 2022, I was focused on Intel Arch Alchemist. Since announcing the Arch and the generations that built it, Intel has committed to a release date in the first few months of 2022. But at the start of the show this year, we knew almost nothing about Ark Alchemist outside of its name. ,

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Unfortunately, Intel’s CES 2022 keynote didn’t shed much light. The company confirmed that the Arc discrete GPU will appear in 50 laptops and desktops throughout 2022, but it still won’t deliver hard performance numbers or even the equivalent of the number of cards in the range. The clock is ticking for Intel Arch Alchemist, and as a murmur of internal conflicts looms large, it bodes well for the future of the company’s discrete GPUs.

As great as Intel Arch Alchemist can be – and I hope it is – some optimistic skepticism is important.

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Struggling to get Ark back on track

Intel announces Intel Arc dGPU for Alienware x17 laptops.

Intel hosted its CES keynote the day before the show floor opens, as is normally the case. The company spent six minutes talking about Ark Alchemist, half of which was taken up by the Intel Deep Link Demo — a technology Intel launched in 2020.

In that time, we learned that Intel was shipping the cards to its manufacturing partners, that more than 50 mobile and desktop designs are “coming soon,” and that XeSS, and Nvidia’s Deep Learning Super Sampling (DLSS) support Similar upscaling technology is coming. Death Stranding Director’s Cut on PC. Intel, once again, confirmed Ark Alchemist’s launch date sometime during the first quarter of 2022.

Three days after the keynote, Intel removed this release date from Ark Alchemist’s product page. It was not just in one place. The company mentioned “Q1 2022” somewhere, now you’ll only see “2022”. Normally, this wouldn’t be a big deal, but it follows weeks of rumors of internal delays and release date conflicts at Intel.

Well-known leaker Moores Law Is Dead detailed release date issues In a video released in December, a source said the release date has changed about a dozen times. Another said something “feels like” about the way Intel Graphics is managing and executing the Arch Alchemist launch.

It is never a good idea to take rumors as law. But given how tight-lipped Intel has been about a product line that should be arriving in just a few weeks, I’m skeptical. Even if the cards launch in the first few months of the year, it looks like most of the range will arrive later in the year.

This is not inherently a bad thing. Delays are, in most cases, a good thing, allowing designers to spend more time getting the product just right instead of just releasing it into the woods with flaws. However, it doesn’t sound like Intel’s approach here. Given the reinvention of the release date, it looks like Intel wants to have its cake and eat it too – meet the promised release date while delaying most of the range in the background. I’m guessing, but that’s what I felt after Intel’s CES keynote.

show me if you have

A render of the Intel Arch Alchemist graphics card.
Image credit: Wccftech

You can try to gather information from the telephone game of covert marketing and release date speculation, but you don’t have to go that far. If Intel could show Ark Alchemist at CES, it would be. Or at least it should be.

Intel dumped a load of Arch Alchemist information on Architecture Day in August 2021. We learned about XeSS, the N6 manufacturing process, and the Xe-HPG architecture. And since then, everything we’ve heard has been pieced together and pulled to the point that even minor announcements, like a single game supporting XeSS, feel significant.

Even without the specs, Intel hasn’t even indicated what Ark Alchemist is trying to achieve. Where do cards fit in the current GPU market? Can buyers expect flagship, midrange or low-end performance? How many cards are also in the limit? I could only spend a few hundred words on rhetorical questions, and that doesn’t bode well for an expired product.

Intel generally isn’t shy about sharing performance data. Even though Intel wasn’t ready to share concrete numbers, I expected information on relative performance — a fuzzy graph showing flagship cards to competitors, or a line graph showing how performance measures up across the range. Is.

These numbers usually don’t make sense, and they’re always skewed to favor the brand that offers them. But they do set expectations, and they show that a product is making progress toward a goal that the company has promised.

hold your breath

LEDs make up the Intel ARC logo.

Intel Ark Alchemist aims to shake the AMD/Nvidia duality that has dominated PC graphics for more than two decades, but CES was a worrying sign of what’s considered a disruptive product. At this point, Intel isn’t disrupting much. The company has thrown its hat in the ring, but that’s all.

I’m not discounting Ark Alchemist, and truth be told, I’m rooting for Intel to bring some much-needed competition to graphics. After CES, though, my enthusiasm waned. I look forward to Ark Alchemist, but until Intel shares some more concrete information about the range, I’m skeptical.

That doesn’t mean I’ve lost all my enthusiasm…

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