A hot potato: Intel bit off more than it could chew with Arc Alchemist, but the company seems determined to get the software side of things right before flooding the market with its GPUs. Suffice to say this erases the little hype built around Team Blue's discrete GPUs, but at least the company isn't afraid to admit its drivers are not up to par with Nvidia and AMD's
With Arc Alchemist, Intel wanted to dive into the discrete GPU market with a splash. However, it looks like the company will miss the current window of opportunity and will instead launch most of its GPUs closer to when Nvidia and AMD will introduce their next-gen graphics solutions.
When Intel introduced its mobile Arc GPUs, it was clear from the subdued event that things didn't quite go according to the original timeline. In a blog post, Lisa Pearce, who is vice president and general manager of Intel's Visual Compute Group, sought to clarify why we aren't seeing that many Arc GPUs in the wild and likely won't for a while yet.
As we've suspected from the relatively chaotic driver development, Intel hit a snag in that department. This coupled with pandemic-related factory lockdowns has forced Intel to delay the wider rollout of its Arc mobile GPUs. Still, the company promises more laptops sporting Arc 3 GPUs will become available later this month, while laptops equipped with higher-end Arc 5 and Arc 7 GPUs will land sometime in June.
This is a best-case scenario, so we'll have to wait and see how this will pan out in the coming weeks. But more importantly, gamers who have been waiting to see if Intel's desktop Arc GPUs can measure up to Nvidia and AMD offerings are in for a major disappointment. Intel's approach with the Alchemist cards is to first release them in China and hopefully follow up with wider availability in a few months.
In other words, Intel will test-drive its Arc 3 desktop solutions in China with system builders, as it believes low-end offerings are a more natural fit for this large and price-sensitive market. Arc 5 and Arc 7 will also debut in pre-built systems worldwide sometime in July or August, so you likely won't find any standalone desktop Arc cards until the end of summer.
Pearce notes Intel chose this staggered approach to "effectively serve our customer base," which translates to a lack of readiness in the software department that has been confirmed by the lucky few who were able to test the company's entry-level Arc A370M and A350M GPUs. Nevertheless, these graphics solutions do show some potential in early gaming benchmarks, so the delay might be the right decision if Intel can iron out the remaining software issues in a few months.