It wasn’t even a month ago that it was reported Intel was facing delays for the launch of its highly-anticipated Arc desktop GPUs. Several weeks later, we now have reports that the new launch window could be “late summer.” This seems to confirm the previous rumors, and is just one more bit of bad news for the GPU world. Many gamers hoped Intel would successfully launch Arc with solid performance and competitive prices. Delays don’t necessarily change that expectation, but it certainly doesn’t boost peoples’ confidence in Intel’s ability to take on AMD and Nvidia. That’s especially true as we inch closer to the launch of both companies’ next-generation offerings.
The latest rumors come from Igor’s Lab, who is typically a reliable source for industry news. The site says various sources have confirmed the delay of Intel Arc into summer. Igor’s sources offer a vague timeline stretching from July 1st to August 31st. The caveat here is there have been delays on top of delays already, so these dates are subject to change. Since it’s been reported the GPUs’ specs are already locked down there could be only one cause for the delay: drivers. Apparently, the sample cards that are already in testers’ hands are causing confusion because nobody has a final driver. This means nobody is sure if the current driver is for camouflage or corporate secrecy.
The site states the current drivers could be delivering poor performance to mask the cards’ true prowess. Alternatively, they could be sandbagging as well. Nobody seems to know for sure what is happening. This could impact Intel’s launch plans. It’s being reported the company is launching with only a small group of partners, and no big board partners. Plus, Intel is allegedly refusing price guarantees for retailers too. As as aside, Igor notes the top-shelf Arc A770 card will be equivalent to an RTX 3070. This is allegedly confirmed by Nvidia cancelling its 16GB version of the 3070 Ti as it was deemed unnecessary. Similarly, Igor says AMD feels equally comfortable with its upcoming RX 6750 XT.
Drivers are already looking like the Achilles heel of Intel’s success in the GPU world. It could even become a new battleground in the GPU turf wars. As an example, Nvidia recently highlighted its GeForce Game Ready Driver program in a detailed blog post. In the post the company took a blatant shot at its competition, exclaiming, “we don’t release sub-par beta drivers with minimal testing, let alone multiple conflicting beta drivers forked from different development branches that support different games and products, which confuse customers.”Though Nvidia was likely taking aim at AMD more than Intel, the timing suggests Nvidia will continue to bang this drum going forward.
Finally, we wrote previously that earlier delays made it seem like Intel might miss its window of opportunity with Arc. We can say now it most definitely has missed it. It had a chance to launch into the market all by itself from January to well, now, essentially. It wouldn’t have had to worry about competing launches, and there was also a GPU shortage back then too. Though we’re not out of the woods yet on midrange GPU availability, the situation has improved dramatically in the past two months.
Fast forward to now, in early May, and we’re rumored to be very close to the launch of AMD’s upgraded RDNA2 GPUs (RX x50 models). As summer wears on we’ll be getting even closer to either the RDNA3 launch, Nvidia’s Ada Lovelace GPUs, or both. Intel’s Arc doesn’t seem to be designed to compete against either of those GPU architectures. The point is there’s a heck of a lot more GPUs available now than there was three months ago. That said, if it can’t get its drivers in shape, it won’t really matter anyway; Arc will be DOA. Still, hope springs eternal, and there’s still a good chance Intel will come to market with a very competitive product. Hopefully we’ll find out more details at this week’s Intel Vision event, which takes place on the 10th and 11th.