Intel officially launched its Arc family of graphics solutions yesterday. We say “solutions” instead of “cards” because the first chips to arrive will be mobile GPUs. The launch info consisted of a ton of slides and explainers, as well as a 20 minute video presentation. At the very end of the video Intel pulled a Steve Jobs, adding “one more thing.” That one thing just happens to be what a lot of gamers are actually waiting for: Intel’s discrete desktop gaming card.
In what is now a common reveal tactic, the video shows the card being “built” with an animated 3D rendering. We see the Intel die mounted to the PCB, the cooling assembly getting attached, and finally a shroud appears over the card. The tagline reads, “Limited Edition Graphics Coming Summer 2022.” Despite it not being an actual real GPU, but a rendering of one, we can still draw several interesting conclusions.
Though the GPU in the video looks somewhat generic and like a reference design, its design elicits a pressing question: where are the power connectors? The video shows a 360 degree flyby around the card, and unless we’re missing something, there’s nowhere to plug in a power cable (or two). That would mean the card is drawing all its power from the PCIe slot, which only offers 75W. If that’s the case, that would mean this is an entry-level GPU, and not the fire-breathing 1440p gaming card fans were hoping for. It might just be that Intel left it out to give the card a cleaner look though. In February photos of a strikingly similar Intel GPU leaked, and it sported one six-pin and one eight-pin power connector. The leaked GPU even had a gap next to the six-pin connector, just in case an eight-pin connector might be needed on an upgraded model.
The second question is equally pertinent: why is it a Limited Edition? Back in January PC Gamer penned an open letter to Intel’s Arc team begging them to help solve the GPU crisis. With the ongoing chip shortage and GPU pricing out of whack for years, it was Intel’s time to shine. It could come into the market with an abundance of moderately-priced and powerful GPUs, and begin printing money. Surprisingly, Intel’s CEO Pat Gelsinger replied, saying, “We are on it.” Intel graphics guru Raja Koduri also replied, stating Intel is aware of the situation and wants to get millions of Arc GPUs into gamers’ hands. If that is the case, then why show off your GPU for the first time, but label it Limited Edition? You were supposed to beat them Intel, not join them!
Those details aside, it looks like a fairly pedestrian GPU. It has three DisplayPort and one HDMI connector. The dual fans are interesting in that they show the card doesn’t feature a blower fan, which a lot of people don’t like. It looks like there’s four heat pipes attached to an aluminum heatsink, so all in all, pretty normal stuff here. There’s nothing about it that screams “high performance” like the rumors suggest, but hopefully it’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
Also, what might be playing out is Intel is adopting the same rollout strategy on both desktop and mobile. In its announcement today, its low-end mobile chip is available now, with the more powerful chips coming later. Intel might do the same on desktop, launching a “limited edition” entry-level GPU to get its ecosystem in place. It might also need time to polish its software and drivers. Then, right around the time AMD and Nvidia drop their next-gen GPUs, Intel enters the game with the big boys. That’s just speculation though, so we’ll have to wait and see what Intel’s plans are later this summer.