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Intel’s new Arc GPUs will give NVIDIA and AMD a run for their money

Updated Aug 16th, 2021 5:50PM EDT
Intel Arc
Image: Intel

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Intel announced the brand new Intel Arc graphics brand on Monday, a move that signals Intel is betting big on computer gaming. For now, Arc is literally just brand name. But Intel also promises that the first-gen Intel Arc discrete GPU will deliver fantastic gaming performance on laptops and desktops. Intel also wants to provide several generations of discrete GPUs that are meant to turn gamers away from AMD and NVIDIA. However, gamers looking for GPU alternatives from Intel will have to wait for the first Arc product. Alchemist will drop in the first quarter of 2022 in several unspecified supported devices.

Intel did make one valid point earlier this year in its unfounded criticism of Apple’s custom M-series chips. Macs aren’t great for gaming. But that’s not because of the M1 chip that Apple produced. Intel-based Macs aren’t great for gamers either.

The Intel Arc GPU announcement shows that Intel has big plans for gaming that go beyond MacBook buyers. The company explains how huge the gaming market is in the marketing materials it released on Monday. Intel talks about the billion hours of game content published online last year. It also mentions the three million years of game content gamers watched online in 2020. The message is clear: Intel is ready to bet big on gaming.

Intel Arc’s first GPU is called Alchemist

“Today marks a key moment in the graphics journey we started just a few years ago,” Intel’s Roger Chandler said in a statement. “The launch of the Intel Arc brand and the reveal of future hardware generations signifies Intel’s deep and continued commitment to gamers and creators everywhere. We have teams doing incredible work to ensure we deliver first-class and frictionless experiences when these products are available early next year.”

Intel Arc GPU will include hardware, software, and services, spanning multiple generations. The Alchemist is the codename for the first-gen Intel Arc GPUs set to launch in the first quarter of 2021. Similarly-named GPU versions will follow: Battlemage, Celestial, and Druid.

You might know Alchemist as DG2, which isn’t a catchy name. Intel explains the Intel Arc tech is based on the Xe HPG microarchitecture. Also, it will offer full support for DirectX 12 Ultimate.

Alchemist and its Intel Arc successors will deliver support for hardware-based ray tracing and artificial intelligence-driven super sampling.

Ray tracing has been the talk of the town for years, so you’d expect Intel to go for it. But the AI super sampling feature is also a notable upgrade. It’ll allow laptops and desktops to upscale games from lower resolution, rivaling similar technologies from Nvidia (DLSS) and AMD (FSR).

That’s all theory so far, as we’re yet to learn what devices will ship with Intel Arc GPUs onboard. While you wait, check out the following video that shows various games running on pre-production Intel Arc GPUs:

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.