The Worrying Rumblings of Intel Canceling its Discrete GPUs

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Avatar for LateToTheParty
1 year ago

Co-published on Publish0x.

The “Big 2” in the graphics card industry is Nvidia and AMD with their RTX and Radeon GPUs, respectively. Nvidia has been the undisputed leader, capturing the lion’s share of marketshare. However, the Radeon cards have greatly improved once they transitioned from the GCN to RDNA architecture. The latest RDNA2 architecture, in particular, allowed AMD to go toe-to-toe with Nvidia’s offerings in the rasterization department.

But there was a big problem after Nvidia’s Ampere and AMD’s RDNA2 cards launched in 2020: unavailability. Due to the COVID pandemic, stock of these cards were super low due to supply chain issues. For 2021 and a bit of 2022, the cards would sell far greater than their listed MSRP because demand outstripped supply by a significant margin. The GPU landscape looked bleak for consumers.

However, there was a glimmer of hope as Intel planned to launch its own set of discrete GPUs with its Arc lineup. As Nvidia and AMD were content with selling their cards at inflated prices, many, including myself, felt that a third company could shake up the market. With more competition, it would incentivize Nvidia and AMD to lower the prices. Even better, Intel also planned to launch its own upsampling technology called XeSS to compete with Nvidia’s DLSS. Like with AMD’s FSR, it is platform agnostic and open-source. Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger said that Arc would launch in Q2 2022.

That didn’t happen.

Intel Arc's Insecure Future

Instead, Arc got pushed back and had one of the quietest launches I’ve seen. YouTube channel Gamers Nexus reviewed the Arc A380 and the results were mixed. The card had the performance of around the RX 6400 albeit with higher power consumption. It ran DirectX12 and Vulkan games decently, but struggled with DX11 games. Arc’s biggest weakness is its driver as demonstrated in a later video by Gamers Nexus. Visual artifacts when running Smooth Sync and crashes when booting Arc Control were just a few of a myriad of problems. Granted, Intel acknowledged the problem and stated that it would strive to fix the issues.



However, the future of Arc and Intel’s discrete GPU future began to turn murky. Moore’s Law is Dead, a YouTuber who has a good track record with leaks, published a video claiming that Arc is “canceled”. His sources allege that there are high level discussions at Intel about ending its discrete GPU efforts. At best, Battlemage, the next generation after Arc, will release and that will be it.



But Why...?

Obviously, take all insider information with a grain of salt, but it’s not all that unbelievable. Intel recently ended Optane and CEO Pat Gelsinger has stated that the company will likely exit more businesses. The company yielded disappointing results in both the second and third quarters as it missed expectations both times. In response, the stock price fell significantly from a 2022 high of $56.03 per share in January 11 to below $30 currently. With investors getting antsy, the pressure is on Intel to perform and one way to do that is to cut what is losing or not making money.


Source: Yahoo! Finance

Over the course of this summer, GPU prices have dropped significantly due to supply outstripping demand. With Ethereum executing the Merge today, GPUs are no longer needed to mine ETH as the cyptocurrency has moved to Proof of Stake. With Ampere and RDNA2 cards falling in price, the value proposition for Arc cards dropped. On top of that, Lovelace and RDNA3 are around the corner which will effectively make Arc a generation behind. (The early end of) Q2 2022 was Intel’s best chance and when it pushed back Arc’s launch, it was pretty much game over.

My Thoughts

If the rumblings about Intel canceling its discrete GPUs are true, then it’s unsurprising, but also a big shame. The market would greatly benefit from a third competitor. AMD pretty much eats Intel for breakfast when it comes to GPU performance in laptop chips, so it would be nice to see Intel become more competitive in that segment of the market. While I did not expect Intel to offer fantastic performance out the gate, “good enough” performance would’ve been fine.

And it’s not like Intel is half-assing its efforts either. Digital Foundry published its analysis of XeSS on Shadow of the Tomb Raider. While it is not as good as Nvidia’s DLSS, it actually comes very close and that’s saying a lot considering how long Nvidia has been working on DLSS. While XeSS has more flicker, it goes toe-to-toe with DLSS in disocclusion and movement. It even does a better job with preserving hair detail in one instance. Yes, XeSS can run on any GPU, but Intel’s GPUs receive the smallest performance penalty thanks to XMX.



With Intel prioritizing revenue, it looks unlikely that the discrete GPU arm of the company will survive. However, I do hope that it either lives on a slim off-chance or it eventually makes a comeback in a not so distant future. The pieces are there. It just all comes down to execution.

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Comments

Discrete gpus make no sense in 2022, newer integrated solutions can outperform sub-100$ cards easily.

Where discrete gpus make sense is hardcore AAA gamers, and those who have ancient 10 year old computers. The latest one is out for intel, as they refused to even write a generic video bios for the cards, which means they can only run in newest intel motherboards. The first one is also out for intel, as they are unable to compete with hardcore offerings of nvidia and amd.

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1 year ago

Problem is that there's not many options. Only AMD's Ryzen 6XXX laptop chips offer respectable integrated graphics performance and availability has been infamously low. The best desktop APUs currently are the 5000G chips which run on the outdated Vega. By the time the Zen4/RDNA3 desktop APUs are out, you better pray that the motherboard and RAM prices will have fallen to more reasonable levels.

There is the Minisforum HX90G that has the Ryzen 5900X and Radeon 6600M for $800 barebones which is actually not bad: https://store.minisforum.com/products/elitemini-hx90g .

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1 year ago