With the departure of Intel's Accelerated Graphics Unit head Raja Koduri, many feared that Intel Arc's future was in serious doubt, but there's some cause for hope as Intel reportedly placed a very large order with TSMC for Intel Arc GPUs for its next-gen graphics card lineup.
The new report comes from Taiwanese outlet Commercial Times, which cites insider sources to say that not only has Intel put in orders for TSMC silicon to power its next GPU line, Intel Arc Battlemage, but also the line after that, Intel Arc Celestial. This is a very strong sign that Intel is fully committing to its graphics card division after a fairly rocky start.
Intel Arc Alchemist hasn't gained the kind of foothold in the GPU market that a lot of us have hoped for, especially since they've generally been pretty tough to get a hold of and those cards that do exist in gamers' PCs have had some notable driver optimization issues. Still, the AMD and Nvidia duopoly doesn't do any of us any good, so having a third player in the fight would add some much-needed competition.
That may be coming sooner than expected, as one industry source said that the next-gen Battlemage cards, built on Intel's Xe2 architecture, will launch in the second half of 2024, with Intel Arc Celestial landing in the second half of 2026. This would put it several months after the launch of most of Nvidia and AMD's best graphics cards of this generation, so Intel is still behind the other two major players in terms of manufacturing cadence. Still, better late than not at all.
The source also indicates that Intel Arc Battlemage will be built on TSMC's 4nm process, with Celestial fabbed on its 3nm process.
Intel Arc is still in the fight
I was very concerned when Raja Koduri left Intel, since his departure could very well have signalled the end of Intel's discrete graphics card division. The economy hasn't been in the greatest shape, and Intel's financials have looked a bit soggy this past year, so there's every reason to think Koduri's exist was the final blow for the project.
That doesn't seem to be the case, and as Tom's Hardware notes, Intel is taking Arc Alchemist as a learning experience on how to better build Battlemage rather than as a cause for abandoning the effort altogether.
Given the rampant price inflation for GPUs in recent years, including from traditionally budget-friendly AMD, we desperately need another graphics card manufacturer putting out quality product to help keep prices down. The high-cost of entry for the market means only Intel can really step into that space, so its exit after Alchemist would have been extremely discouraging.
Fortunately, reports of Intel Arc's demise have been premature, and the hope of a competitive, and hopefully more affordable, line of graphics cards lives another day.