Intel Balanced Builds Pair High-Value Core CPUs With Arc GPUs For Budget Gaming Bliss

intel arc tom ryan
It's one of the most basic axioms of building a PC: make sure you have enough CPU for your GPU. That goes both ways, though; if you're building a gaming PC, there's no point spending out hundreds of dollars for a high-end CPU when you're going to slap a mid-range or mediocre GPU into it. This rings true even more now than ever before when top-end processors from Intel and AMD have as many as two dozen CPU cores while games barely use four.

That's basically the message of the latest video from Intel's graphics arm, starring none other than the usual crew of Tom A. "TAP" Petersen and Ryan Shrout. Titled "Balanced Builds," it presents some data to suggest that folks building with Arc A7-series graphics cards—that's the A770 and A750, in case you didn't know—are probably best-served iwth Core i5 or Core i7 processors, while folks who are keen to buy a Core i9 should shop elsewhere.

right cpu gpu

The blue team's boys didn't exactly say that in the presentation, but that's what's implied by one of the charts that comes up. Essentially, when recommending "the right CPU for the right GPU," Intel tacitly acknowledges that its own Arc A770 GPU isn't powerful enough to really make use of a Core i9 CPU.

As amusing as that is, the data presented later in the video is much more interesting. Intel says it has done over 15,000 test runs with ten different CPUs and nine different GPUs across more than 50 games, generating "tens of thousands" of data points.

low cpu dx12

The conclusion at which it has apparently arrived is that for most DirectX 12 games, a Core i5-12400F—currently just $161 on Amazon—will get you essentially the same performance out of an Arc A750 GPU as a $570 Core i9-13900K. Not exactly a shocker, but it's cool to see hard data backing up the assumption.

cpu dx11

In DirectX 11 titles, there's a much more pronounced difference between the CPUs. DX11 as an API is much more likely to be bound up on single-threaded performance, and comparing the same two CPUs again sees the 12400F system falling off by more than 20% compared to the 13900K in the worst case, which happens to be Final Fantasy XIV Online.


As if to support the earlier assertion that folks with Core i9s should be buying competitors' cards, Intel presents this slide, which shows that the GeForce RTX 4090 loses a lot more performance when stepping down into lower-tier CPUs. Again, it's not a surprise to anyone who follows this stuff, but it's kind of funny and even a little admirable to see Intel being so up-front about the matter. To us, the thing that sticks out in this chart is how close the Core i5-13600K flies to the much more expensive Core i9 CPU, just as we saw in our review.

balanced builds prices

So what's the point of all this? Mostly to point out that you can buy a bundle with a Core i5 and an Arc A750 GPU for under $450. Stepping up your graphics chops to the Arc A770 may be advisable as well, considering the deals going on right now on partner cards for $340. The performance isn't going to blow your pants off if you're already on an AMD RDNA 2 or NVIDIA RTX 3000-series system, but if you're hanging onto some older hardware and could use a budget-friendly upgrade, Intel has a real point.

partner systems

The company also notes that its partners are putting out systems with these so-named "balanced builds." Maingear, Thermaltake, iBuyPower, Micro Center, and ABS will all be offering systems spec'd with mid-range or entry-level Intel CPUs paired with the appropriate Intel GPUs, so even if you'd rather not build yourself, you could still snag a reasonably-priced upgrade.

intel driver improvements

Finally, Intel would like to make sure everyone is aware of the progress with its Arc graphics drivers. The blue team remarks that it has released 21 drivers since last October when it launched the A7 series graphics cards, and that those driver packages have been zero-day updates for 42 different games. The XeSS AI upscaler has found its way into over 50 titles already, and of course, optimizations continue apace. With a little luck, the next Arc hardware launch should go significantly smoother than the first.