There’s finally some news on Intel’s Arc Alchemist release date, but not the kind anyone outside of Nvidia and AMD really wanted to hear: Arc Alchemist and Battlemage could get the ax due to irreparable hardware failures that sap their performance, and it threatens to scrap Intel’s full Arc discrete graphics line.
This report comes from YouTuber Moore’s Law is Dead (opens in new tab)and it’s a doozy, full of internal politics, bitterness and reproach at Intel for the company’s graphics unit not being able to deliver the discrete graphics cards that have been hyped for over a year.
I highly recommend watching the video for all the tea, but most importantly, internal sources at Intel have told Moore’s Law is Dead there is a potentially fatal hardware flaw in the Arc Alchemist GPU that the graphics unit had hoped to fix using a driver fix, but that fix doesn’t work. That’s the hardware challenge, reportedly, and it could extend to Battlemage as well. If true, it would certainly explain why Intel Arc’s launch was, well, odd.
Where it gets really messy is that Intel’s graphics unit has done Arc PR for Arc Alchemist cards that Intel told investors would launch in Western markets by the end of the second quarter of this year. We’re now in the third quarter, the cards haven’t launched yet and Intel insiders outside of the graphics unit are angry that the graphics unit is doing PR, saying that cards are ready when they don’t appear to be ready at all.
In addition, there are apparently problems with Intel AIB partners who, according to a supposedly leaked presentation, were lining up to produce Intel Arc cards from the end of July. Moore’s Law is Dead says none of the board partners he’s spoken to has any idea what’s going on, and the AIBs aren’t happy about the situation at all.
Finally, cue Pat Gelsinger, Intel’s CEO, who is reportedly now investigating whether the entire Arc discrete graphics project should just be canceled. As Moore’s Law is Dead highlights in the video, there were some strong hints of this frustration during Intel’s earnings call this week, where Gelsinger acknowledged the disappointing earnings and said that while the global chip shortage was still a major problem, “execution” issues of Intel’s side also contributed to Intel falling well short of Q2 earnings expectations (opens in new tab).
So that’s more or less the report Moore’s Law is Dead presented, and we haven’t independently confirmed anything ourselves, although we’ve reached out to Intel for comment and will update this story if and when we hear from the company.
So, uh, when exactly are we going to see these cards? Ask for a friend
It’s too early to say exactly what’s happening with Intel Arc, but Moore’s Law is Dead report doesn’t come out of nowhere. Intel Arc Alchemist is over a month late from its intended US launch date, and the number of cards we’ve seen in the wild has been bizarrely inconsistent, with performance throttling from a few lines of code to the main scratcher that would be Intel’s first discrete graphics card. be launched in China and India first.
Fair enough, those are two of the largest consumer markets in the world, and China has plenty of techies looking to get their hands on some Intel cards too, but there’s no way to shake an uneasy feeling about all of this. This doesn’t feel like a well-planned product launch, and the recent PR appearances by some Intel representatives on the graphics card team invariably fail to answer the question everyone is asking: when are these cards coming out?
Of course they are available in China and India so technically they are “out”, but I mean worldwide. That’s a question Intel doesn’t seem to answer at this point, and it’s a damn shame if there ever was one.
Budget builders can’t take a break
Earlier this week, I wrote about the problem of semiconductor manufacturers like Nvidia, AMD and, yes, Intel, pursuing increasingly powerful hardware in an arms race with rivals and how that has very real implications in the real world. The mass abandonment of any power-efficiency pretense in anything but the most basic Chromebook processor is disturbing.
Not so bad, but still terrible is the pricing of an increasing number of people, mainly gamers but also academics and researchers who actually need powerful GPUs for scientific work, and who are just not the target audience for these cards anymore.
There are rumors that Nvidia’s RTX 4090, when it launches later this year, will cost less than the RTX 3090. That’s a nice start, but the RTX 3090 will cost $1,499. Will the RTX 4090 cost $1,449? $1,299? You know what else costs $1,499? A graduate course of 3 credits at the City University of New York-Brooklyn College. The cost of the RTX 3090 was frankly obscene when it launched, and it remains that way.
You used to be able to rely on AMD to provide a cheaper option for the rest of us who couldn’t afford a GeForce card anymore, but that ship is sailing too. There’s still value to be found among graphics cards out there, which is why the Nvidia RTX 3060 Ti tops our list of best graphics cards, but that herd is thinning out pretty quickly.
That was ultimately my hope for Intel Arc. As a newcomer to the cold war of graphics cards between Nvidia and AMD, there was room for Intel to drop in on a solid budget for a lower-midrange lineup and clear out in that budget-conscious, friendly market. I hope Moore’s Law is Dead turns out to be completely wrong on this one, but it looks kind of iffy here for all gamers stuck with outdated hardware like the RTX 1050 and AMD RX 470.
If Intel eventually completely overhauls or scraps Arc, that will be a real blow to budget-conscious gamers and builders out there, and the budget side could really use a solid win these days.