When it comes to PC hardware, there are only ever two options for either a CPU or GPU. On the CPU side, it’s between Intel and AMD; the GPU side is dominated by Nvidia and AMD. But the GPU duopoly is coming to an end next year, with the announcement that team blue is throwing down the proverbial gauntlet with its new line of gaming GPUs.
Intel announced today that it’s working on high-performance, gaming-dedicated GPUs as part of its Arc series of GPUs. Apart from gaming GPUs, Intel Xe architecture will be available as integrated graphics for CPUs and in data center and supercomputer hardware. No word on clock speed or video memory yet, but we should know more later this year before the GPU launches sometime in early 2022.
The Intel Arc GPU is based on the Xe HPG microarchitecture, which can be found on Intel’s first-generation dedicated GPU, the DG1, a low-budget option found only in pre-built PCs. This new second-generation DG2 GPU is being named Alchemist, with following iterations in the Arc series named Battlemage, Celestial, and Druid.
Beefier than expected — While it’s still early to start making comparisons, especially when we don’t know the price, the hardware seems to have some potential. When Alchemist launches, users can expect hardware ray tracing, support for DirectX 12, and something Intel is calling “artificial intelligence-driven supersampling,” which is basically Nvidia’s DLSS feature that upscales gameplay to higher resolutions by using AI-dedicated cores that result in smoother framerates with less effort from the hardware.
With DLSS being one of the most game-changing features on current hardware, I doubt this GPU will be a “bugdet” option, but we’ll have to see. I’m just glad we have more options to choose from, and I’m hoping Alchemist can be a viable third option when GPU shopping.
Gameplay footage using the Alchemist GPU has been shared on Intel Gaming’s Twitter, and it doesn’t look half bad. There’s no fps counter or information on what settings the games are running on, but everything from Forza Horizon 4 to Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds to Metro Exodus and even the Crysis Remastered Trilogy look to be running well. Intel did hedge by mentioning the games were running on Intel Arc pre-production Silicon, but the tiny glimpse into Intel’s new lineup of GPUs shows promise so far. It’s a big step in the right direction, especially after the release of its DG1 GPU.
Looking back — Though Intel has long made CPUs with integrated graphics for general-purpose computing and very low-level gaming, the DG1 is Intel’s first foray into the GPU market. According to Tom’s Hardware, who benchmarked the budget offering, the DG1 can’t be bought off store shelves because it requires special support for installation. The lack of availability makes it a non-existent option for anyone building a gaming PC. Not that anyone would want to, though, since it lacks the performance to go up against years-old budget options. The DG1 is a shoddy first attempt at breaking into the GPU market, but there’s hope that Intel learned something and applied it to Alchemist.
If the price is right — With the GPU shortage still ongoing, a third GPU option could help ease demand, or at the very least offer some gamers a different experience. But the success of Intel’s first gaming-dedicated GPU is riding on affordability. With DLSS and ray tracing, it appears Alchemist will go toe-to-toe with Nvidia’s line of RTX 30 series and AMD Radeon 6000 series GPUs, which would put it up there in terms of price.
It may turn out to be a worthy competitor, but I don’t imagine gamers will put down the same kind of money for an untested GPU platform when other options with longer histories are available. In any case, Intel is shaking up the stagnant GPU landscape, hopefully setting a fire under the two titans of the GPU industry. That’s good for us. Whether good or bad, more competition in the GPU market can only be good for consumers, with the possibility of more competitive prices from team green team red now a possibility next year.