Computer Components

Are Intel Arc Graphics Cards any Good?

Performance: Middling but Improving

Raw Power: In terms of pure performance, Intel Arc cards sit solidly in the mid range. They can outperform older cards and generally handle modern games at 1080p with decent settings. Not long ago they used to fall behind similarly priced options from Nvidia and AMD in many titles. Although that seemed to have changed after Intel released a massive boost of performance through their drivers.

Driver Issues: Early on Intel Arc cards were plagued by software problems. That’s because drivers significantly impact performance and compatibility. Intel has vastly improved them recently though.

Ray Tracing: Intel’s first generation Arc cards aren’t ray tracing powerhouses. While they technically support the feature, performance takes a big hit compared to Nvidia’s RTX cards in this case.

Where Intel Arc Shines

Value: Intel Arc cards generally sell for less than their direct competitors. If you care about your budget and you don’t want to spend thousands of $ on Nvidia Graphics they actually offer decent performance per dollar.

AV1 Encoding: Intel Arc cards are the best for working with the AV1 video format. This is a niche but important feature for some professional video workflows.

XeSS Upscaling: This is Intel’s answer to DLSS upscaling lower resolution images to improve frame rates. It looks promising so far.

Who Should Consider Intel Arc?

Budget Gamers: If you’re willing to accept less than stellar performance for a lower price, Arc cards are the best option in my opinion.

Media Enthusiasts: People who edit a lot of video especially in the AV1 format will appreciate the dedicated hardware support in Arc cards.

Early Adopters: If you like buying things that the general public still hasn’t adopted and you don’t mind frequent driver updates + you want to support an underdog in the GPU market Intel Arc is a fantastic option.

Who Should Look Elsewhere

Performance Seekers: If max frames per second is your priority Nvidia and AMD offer slightly better options at slightly higher price points.

Ray Tracing Fans: For the best ray tracing experience Nvidia is still king.

Plug and Play Users: If you want a guaranteed smooth experience with a broad range of games, Arc’s driver situation might still be a concern.

Specific Models

The current Arc lineup is divided into the A300, A500 and A700 series:

A300 Series: Low end cards, mostly targeting laptops and integrated graphics. Decent for very basic gaming and media work.

A500 Series: Entry level desktop cards competing with the likes of the Nvidia GTX 1650. Expect playable frame rates in less demanding titles.

A700 Series: These go up against Nvidia’s RTX 3060 and AMD’s RX 6600 series. They can support 1080p and even some 1440p gaming, but again, might lag behind the competition in certain games.

Limited Editions

Intel released special Limited Edition versions of the A750 and A770 cards. These come with slightly higher clock speeds custom cooler designs and a focus on aesthetics. They cost a bit more than the standard models.

External Factors to Consider

Game Optimization: Individual games can vary wildly in how well they run on Intel Arc hardware. Some titles play amazingly well while others are more picky and optimized on Nvidia Graphics. Check benchmarks and reviews specific to the games you play most.

Resizeable BAR: Modern motherboards and games support this technology which will boost performance on Intel Arc cards. Make sure your system is compatible.

Pricing: Intel Arc’s value proposition depends a lot on fluctuating prices. Look out for sales and compare them to the competition.

The Future of Intel Arc Graphics

Intel has committed to its graphics side of the company. Next generation Arc Battlemage cards are in development and they are promising significant improvements in performance and features. There’s massive potential there that the general public has no idea about. Intel is also developing some state of the art fabs and your future Nvidia graphics card might be produced in an Intel facility anyway.

Should You Buy Intel Arc?

That depends on your personal needs and risk tolerance. If you’re a budget focused gamer willing to mess with settings and wait for driver updates, Intel Arc is worth it. If you prioritize guaranteed performance and a smooth user experience out of the box, Arc can be a bit of a gamble right now.

The Verdict (For Now)

Intel Arc is a disruptor in the graphics card market. While not without faults they offer decent value and unique features if you know what you’re getting into. Driver updates are vital, so the appeal of Arc cards will most likely (and already has) improve over time.

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