Intel Updates Arc Alchemist With Big Driver Gains And A New Low Arc A750 Price
Intel’s Arc A770 and A750 GPUs have been on the market now for over three months. The cards have faced an uphill battle from fierce GPU competition, but with several major driver and software updates released, Intel says it is time to check back in.
Intel Arc Alchemist launch buildup generated more buzz than most other product releases in recent memory, as the third entrant gamers hoped would break-up the graphics card duopoly. After a few delays, the Intel Graphics team successfully delivered its high-end Arc A770 and A750 graphics cards in October of last year.
As much as the enthusiasts in us pined for a third major player in the gaming GPU market, the reality of GPU business is that it's a really tough gig. In certain game engines and APIs, these cards could shine and punch well above their weight, however a few software glitches and driver bugs highlighted that Intel still had some work to do. This was particularly evident when playing older DirectX 9 based titles, and that’s a big deal for PC gamers with extensive legacy game libraries.
In addition, before launch, the company had led an impressively transparent campaign, primarily spearheaded by Tom “TAP” Petersen and Ryan Shrout, where the status and positioning of the cards was candidly disclosed. Weaker DX9 performance, for example, did not sting so hard because we were told up front it would be that way. Regardless, these deficits were still unacceptable, and Intel needed to make up ground in a hurry, and today the company hopes to reclaim some of it.
Arc Alchemist Q1 Update
Well, it seems Intel has done just that. Today, the Intel Graphics team has provided an update on where Arc stands for Q1. Specifically, the company is positioning the Arc A750’s pricing even more aggressively with a price cut while also highlighting the culmination of performance gains via software optimization the team has achieved thus far.
The Arc A750 launched at $289 which was reasonably well-positioned at the time. Intel has now taken $40 off the sticker, making it just $249 starting today. The price cut alone may help move units, but may not matter if the card’s user experience is a mess.
To that end, Intel is touting a 43% overall improvement for DX9 games. We already caught a glimpse of this with another recent update where Intel specifically targeted an assortment of DX9 titles. The latest 4086 driver brings broader DX9 improvements as it highlights through A750 performance figures. The exact uplift since launch varies, but four of the highlighted games have achieved gains exceeding 70%, all of which are massively popular even to this day.
The most important aspect of performance is not mere average framerates though. Frame pacing can be even more important as irregularly delivered frames can feel jittery regardless. Thankfully, Intel has significantly clamped down on variations. This graph shows the wildly varying launch performance in the background (dark gray), with the current relatively flatlined results in the foreground (white). There are still occasional slow spikes, but the overall picture is a night and day improvement. Even NVIDIA and AMD cards will run into the occasional slow frame, as is the nature of real-time graphics rendering.
This results in even greater 99th percentile improvements across the range of games tested at 1080p. Both Skyrim and CS:GO fully double their framerate nadirs, but most of the field still sees at least a 50% improvement.
Performance improvements are not restricted to 1080p, either. Gamers targeting 1440p resolutions will enjoy similar gains, though not as dramatic in all cases.
While DirectX 9 games are the focus, they are not the only benefactors of Intel’s software tuning. As an example, Warframe can leverage more modern graphics APIs including DirectX 12 and Vulkan. Looking at its (generally preferred) DirectX 11 mode though, the A750 has seen a jump from 159FPS at launch to 250FPS now with the 4086 driver.
These significant performance deltas combined with a price reduction significantly strengthens the A750’s value proposition. Most newer titles have not needed as much optimization as Arc was already built with DirectX 12 as the goal, so the value gains reflected are mostly due to the price drop. For other titles, though, the culmination can be nearly a 2x improvement in value.
Intel also provides figures against what it views as its largest competitor, NVIDIA. Relative to the RTX 3060 12GB (priced at an average $391 on January 26th, 2023), the Arc A750 is positioned to deliver significantly more performance per dollar in nearly all of the broad range of titles listed—including most of the DX9 comparisons.
There is still a long road ahead for Intel, but the progress made so far does inspire confidence. Beyond continuing to wring out performance, the software suite itself is probably the next hurdle Intel needs to get over. Many reviewers and consumers alike had issues with the control panel overlay user experience. Intel has heard this feedback, but still needs a little more time to finalize a new Arc Control experience.
In any case, this is a cue for us to revisit our own testing, so stay tuned if you would like to see us prove out Intel’s claims. If you are an Arc user, we would also love to hear how your experience has been.