Intel’s high-end laptop GPU benchmarks are starting to worry us

Intel Arc Alchemist GPU
(Image credit: Intel)

Intel’s Arc A730M has popped up in some early reviews over in China – tentative material given the sources, and we’ll come back to that point – but this time one of the testers of the Alchemist GPU has used the latest driver which does officially support the A730M.

That driver was introduced yesterday (version carrying said support, and as laptops are now on sale with the A730M inside – but only in China – this is our first proper glimpse of the potential performance of Intel’s laptop graphics card which nestles just beneath the flagship A770M.

The situation is that two sources (flagged up by VideoCardz) have benchmarked a Machenike gaming laptop now on shelves in China, which has the A730M GPU inside. The first set of results come from ‘Golden Pig Upgrade’, a Weibo denizen who brought us a previous leak as we reported yesterday – but has now installed the latest Intel driver for this latest round of testing as noted.

The other results come from IT-Home, a Chinese tech site, although this didn’t use the new driver with support for the A730M, and overall, we’d still keep a healthily skeptical frame of mind when chewing over these scores.

Let’s look at Golden Pig Upgrade’s findings first, who compared the A730M to the RTX 3060 laptop GPU, using benchmarks of notebooks running one of Intel’s Alder Lake Core i7-12700H processors to give a fairly level playing field.

While the A730M still did well in synthetic testing – as we saw in the 3DMark results from yesterday – and beat the RTX 3060 by a long way (indeed, the Intel GPU outdid the 3070), that wasn’t the case with actual gaming benchmarks.

To pick some examples, Gears 5 hit 90 fps (frames per second) with the A730M, but that was a fair way behind the RTX 3060 which managed 133 fps. For Hitman 2, the Nvidia card led Intel’s GPU hitting 100 fps compared to 76 fps. Both of those were DX12 results – the resolution and settings weren’t shared, but clearly this is 1080p – but some DX11 benchmarks were run too, like Total War Saga: Troy, where Nvidia won by 136 fps to 114 fps.

There was some brighter news with Metro Exodus, mind, where the A730M beat the RTX 3060, averaging 77 fps compared to 72 fps (and we do know that was with high graphics settings at 1080p).

IT-Home’s testing was based on Intel’s Arc driver version, before the A730M was officially supported, so technically falls into the category of pre-release leakage for us – but the 3DMark results were similar to Golden Pig Upgrade, and the findings broadly line-up for real-world gaming, too.

Meaning that the A730M falls somewhat behind the RTX 3060, although in this case, the benchmark comparisons weren’t made directly by IT-Home, and were instead drawn to existing benchmarks for the games via; so we need to be especially cautious here. For what it’s worth, the A730M looks considerably slower than the RTX 3060 in Cyberpunk 2077, whereas Control saw roughly similar performance, but the Intel GPU actually edged ahead for Elden Ring – though we’re positively wading through salt here, really.

Analysis: Optimization aplenty still to be done for Arc?

The sum total of these benchmark comparisons – some of which are definitely shaky – is that the A730M is slower than Nvidia’s RTX 3060 in most of the games tested, but not all of them (and certainly not the synthetic testing with 3DMark, but that’s not as important as real-world gaming results). And the clear suggestion is that Intel is still very much working to improve the Arc graphics driver.

Metro Exodus is the key benchmark to focus on here, because we saw Golden Pig Upgrade run the game in their previous testing, but with an outdated driver – so now we can compare that result to the new driver that officially supports the A730M.

Previously, Metro Exodus (at high settings, 1080p) managed 70 fps, but with the new driver, it pushes up to 77 fps – but there’s a bigger tale to tell in terms of the lowest frame rate recorded. Previously, that dipped to a horrendous 9 fps – meaning at times, Metro Exodus became a seriously jerky slideshow – but now, we see a low of 45 fps, which is much more in line with what we’d expect.

In other words, the latest driver looks to have been tuned for Metro Exodus now, but not for some other games going by a number of the results witnessed here. Which again points to Intel still being in the process of optimizing the driver and smoothing it over for various problematic games. (Note that there are also reports of multiple games crashing or not even running at all with the Arc A730M, which really isn’t a good sign at all).

And all that ties in with what we’ve seen thus far – a very limited launch of discrete Arc laptop GPUs, only in Asia, mainly because Intel simply isn’t ready to unleash Alchemist products on the broader world and to regions like the US and Europe. Not to mention delays on desktop Arc, likely bound up in the same reasons of needing to further tune the software side of things, even if the hardware is ready to go.

Remember, all of this is just speculation, but things clearly haven’t gone to plan for Intel thus far with Arc GPUs, so it’s not exactly a massive leap to make when you look at early benchmarks such as the ones shared here.

Darren is a freelancer writing news and features for TechRadar (and occasionally T3) across a broad range of computing topics including CPUs, GPUs, various other hardware, VPNs, antivirus and more. He has written about tech for the best part of three decades, and writes books in his spare time (his debut novel - 'I Know What You Did Last Supper' - was published by Hachette UK in 2013).