Intel recently announced that it is working on a dedicated graphics solution both for desktops and laptops, describing features and performance that might be powerful enough to challenge the leading GPUs from Nvidia and AMD. Gaming is more than just fun and games, with a huge amount of time and effort spent on building virtual assets and communities, driving some of the biggest leaps in graphics technology ever seen in recent years.
Nvidia announced its GeForce RTX 30 series in September, bringing a startling leap in performance over the previous generation. Nicknamed BFGPU, its top-end RTX 3090 can sustain 60 frames per second (FPS) gaming while outputting 8K resolution, the first GPU to achieve this feat, and handle real-time ray tracing in 4K at 30 frames per second. At $1499, this is out of range for most, but provided a great demonstration of how far its technology has advanced. AMD answered with its Radeon RX 6900 XT, matching Nvidia in many ways but not going so far as offering 8K gaming. At the moment, Nvidia still seems to offer the best high-performance GPU while AMD offers lower prices and might have better value for some gamers, depending on their needs.
Intel CPUs offer integrated graphics but the chip titan has been exploring dedicated graphics solutions and the newly announced Arc brand will be carried through multiple generations as a high-performance gaming GPU and system for both laptops and desktop PCs. The first generation is scheduled to launch in the early months of 2022 under the ‘Alchemist.’ codename. Intel is focusing on gaming with this new system but does note that its discrete graphics will have no problem with video streaming, using accelerated artificial intelligence (AI) enhancement to upscale video to 4K resolution. A similar AI-powered super sampling will speed up frame rates and smooth high-quality gaming. Intel gave several examples of this with video captured of popular games using a pre-production version of its new Arc GPU.
Intel’s announcement included a teaser with impressive examples and bold claims, but much is still unknown about how the new Arc GPU will stack up against the quality currently available from Nvidia and AMD. How Intel prices Arc will also have a big impact on how much value it provides to gamers. What is clear is that Intel is planning on making a long-term investment in advancing its graphics technology and it has good reason to do so. AMD manufactures both CPUs and GPUs, leveraging that fact to offer an integration that normally isn’t possible, such as its Smart Access Memory feature that allows both chips to read from and write to all of the graphics memory, which is often a cause of slowdowns.
Intel hasn’t provided all of the details yet or any benchmarks, however, it did include a list of features including variable rate shading, AI accelerated video enhancement with 4K resolution upscaling, real-time ray tracing, and AI accelerated super sampling. While AMD has not released an AI super sampling solution, Nvidia has. Nvidia and AMD seem to be limited, at the moment, by the current supply shortages that are impacting automakers and many tech industries, giving Intel a bit more time to catch up. Nvidia and AMD probably won’t have any new GPUs ready until next year and Intel is launching its Arc dedicated graphics in the first quarter of 2022, so it might be challenging competing solutions from 2020, giving it an advantage. More details will come in the next few months on what Intel and its Arc GPU will offer PC gamers.