Alchemist Turns Intel Into GPU Vendor

Arc Products Are Company’s First Significant Discrete-Graphics Cards
Intel’s new Arc products are its first significant discrete GPUs, using competitive performance and hardware ray tracing to bring new competition to laptop-PC graphics cards.
Bryon Moyer
Bryon Moyer

Intel’s new discrete GPUs, branded Arc, represent the company’s first significant attempt to compete against entrenched AMD and Nvidia graphics cards. The products, code-named Alchemist, target laptops; two low-end models are scheduled to arrive in April and the rest in July. Intel initially targets content creators while it works to build a solid game library.

Arc is based on Intel’s Xe-HPG architecture. New to the company’s GPUs are matrix units, which boost AI throughput by 16x. Hardware ray tracing (RT) also makes its Intel debut, bringing the Arc features up to par with other discrete GPUs. The largest Alchemist chip contains 32 RT engines and 512 matrix units that generate 216 trillion operations per second (TOPS), but it requires up to 150W.

To complement its GPUs, the company provides software for super-sampling, super-resolution, and DirectX as well as hardware support for smoothing frame- and screen-refresh-rate synchronization. For content creators, it maintains the older GPUs’ Deep Link features that enable load and power sharing.

The company intended to debut the Alchemist PC GPU last year, but it suffered several delays. To fill the gap, Intel produced a discrete GPU called Iris Xe Max that essentially replicated Tiger Lake’s integrated GPU on a laptop add-in card; that product launched last October with little fanfare and fewer sales. Delivering considerably more performance, Alchemist is the company’s first serious discrete offering. Although benchmarks aren’t yet available, the family’s specifications are in line with competing products from AMD and Nvidia.

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