Those who have been following the saga of Intel’s foray into the GPU market know it’s been a rough ride so far. The company’s first GPUs were touted as being ready to launch in Q1 of this year. And yet, here we are in mid-May, and there’s nary a spec of silicon in sight. Yesterday we posted reports of another delay which would push its desktop GPUs out to “late summer.” That delay has now been confirmed by Intel itself.
In a new blog post, Lisa Pearce, Vice President and General Manager for the Visual Compute Group, delivered an update on Arc. She covered Arc mobile, desktop, and drivers, but we’ll cover the desktop first. Here’s the question she posed to herself: When are the desktop cards with Intel Arc graphics coming? Her answer: “Unlike notebook designs, desktop systems have a vast set of combinations, including memory, motherboards, and CPUs. To initially limit some of this variation, we will launch working with system builders and OEMs with specific configurations.”
“We will release our entry-level Intel Arc A-series products for desktops (A3) first in China through system builders and OEMs in Q2. Retail and retail component sales will follow shortly in China as well. Proximity to board components and strong demand for entry-level discrete products makes this a natural place to start. Our next step will be to scale these products globally.”
“Roll-out of Intel Arc A5 and A7 desktop cards will start worldwide with OEMs and system integrators later this summer, followed by component sales in worldwide channels.”
“This staggered approach gives us confidence at each step that we can effectively serve our customer base.”
Suffice to say this is both not a surprise based on our previous reporting, and also a big disappointment. The company has been rumored to be having issues with its GPU drivers for some time now. Though Miss Pearce didn’t address the reason for the desktop GPU delays in her post, or even call it a delay, she did reference drivers when discussing Intel’s launch for Arc mobile in her blog. She wrote, “We planned to have broader OEM availability at this point; however, we have had some software readiness delays (emphasis bears) and, together with COVID lock downs impacting global supply chains, OEM designs are only this month becoming more widely available.”
Ah yes, software readiness delays. Sounds like drivers then, which is what we initially reported. This is a surprise to exactly nobody at this point. It comes after the company previously failed to deliver timely updates for its OEM part that’s already in the wild. Then on top of that, in a March 30th blog post, Miss Pearce promised a software update by the end of April. This update would include optimizations for certain benchmarks to be toggled on-and-off. This would allow gamers to see the difference between “optimized” performance and general performance in benchmarks. That update never arrived, and she addressed that issue in this newest post. She apologized for not giving an update sooner, but said Intel decided to add more functionality to the update. She closed with this note, “This has required additional development time, but we believe this will be the best solution for our Intel Arc graphics customers, and we’ll circle back in the next few weeks on when we expect to post the first driver with this capability.”
“We’ll circle back to tell you when we think it might be ready” does not instill confidence, to say the least. I will try that with my editor when my next article is due. (Hey now. I am not an ogre -Ed) In all seriousness, this is not good news for Intel. At this point there’s not much more to say. We’ll still be excited to check it out when it arrives, but Arc may be overshadowed if it doesn’t arrive before late summer. That’s when Nvidia and AMD’s next-gen are slated to hit shelves. If Intel’s top-level GPU is equivalent to an RTX 3070, it might seem quaint when Nvidia’s fire breathing 600W GPU arrives. The same can be said for AMD’s RDNA3 GPUs too, which are rumored to be equally monstrous. To be fair to Intel, at least this time they are acknowledging the delays. We greatly prefer that to them just removing timeline language for the website.