Intel front man Tom Petersen recently appeared for an interview and open discussion with PCWorld about updates, fixes, and the future for the Arc graphics group.
The timing is no coincidence either. Intel kicked off a new campaign earlier this month to reset perceptions of its discrete GPUs. The company now advertises significantly improved drivers and enacted a price cut on the A750 to sweeten the deal and bring in more adopters. Suffice to say, it’s working. At least as far as public opinion goes.
The underlying question is whether it will be enough, because there’s a lot of lost ground Intel needs to make up for. Intel’s Arc Alchemist lineup did not launch on time, and ended up being one of the strangest rollouts we’ve ever seen.
Aside from the delays, public company statements repeatedly confirmed different product launches only for stock to be unavailable for weeks or months on end. This continued throughout 2022 until the A750 and A770 desktop cards were finally available in small quantities by fall.
Since then, more Arc stock has become available, but the lackluster launch reviews didn’t give much reason to purchase anything. If there’s one thing gamers will not stand for, it’s bad drivers. The Arc launch drivers were buggy and poorly optimized in many cases. DirectX 9 games were particularly troubled. However, Intel’s done an incredible amount since then to improve the experience. We’re only talking a matter of several months.
They told us so?
It’s no secret that graphics drivers are very difficult to get right. Quality drivers are why Nvidia captured so much market share, and AMD struggled for years to catch up. Intel rightly deserves praise for what it’s done, even if the launch product clearly wasn’t ready. This didn’t happen by chance though. Intel’s Arc team consists of industry veterans such as Tom Petersen, who have shown persistent optimism and confidence in Arc.
Petersen didn’t shy away from admitting the many stumbles in the recent interview. In some cases, he even recommended holding off on trying Arc graphics, such as for VR. However, he did emphasize the progress the driver team has made already and reaffirmed continued game support and improvements. As far as Petersen is concerned, Intel’s in it for the long haul when it comes to graphics and believes Arc is meeting expectations as a new GPU brand.
Looking ahead, he also stated that most of the Arc team is now working on the second-generation Battlemage architecture. Battlemage will include performance improvements and fixes based on design issues uncovered during the development of Alchemist. No specific details are available on Battlemage yet, but Petersen did bring up chiplets/tiles as a reference to creating APUs (both CPU and GPU hardware combined on a single chip). Given Intel’s established presence in the CPU space, it’s a no-brainer that better graphics would complement its entire business.
We have our own Intel Arc A750 review coming soon, and we are “pleasantly surprised” regarding the experience. Intel Arc has without a doubt been on thin ice for a while, so here’s hope Team Blue finds its bearings and pushes forward to become a competitor in the gaming graphics space. The Alchemist driver updates are a good start, but there’s plenty more that needs to happen for Intel Arc to become a successful brand.