Intel’s Arc Alchemist graphics cards have been greatly anticipated in light of the ongoing GPU shortage, and we finally have an official launch date. The first wave of GPUs released will be for laptops, and are set to be unveiled at an official Intel Arc event on March 30 at 8 am PST / 11 am EST / 3 pm UK (2am AEDT on March 21 if you're in Australia).
The Intel website has been updated with a dedicated page for the event, that teases 'A New Stage of the Game'. It explicitly mentions that we'll get to see "Intel Arc graphics take center stage and get a first look at our new discrete graphics for laptops".
There are a few different versions of the discrete laptop GPU, but the Arc A370M will be the first to launch, as confirmed by the Vice President of Intel's Visual Computing Group Lisa Pearce via a post on the Intel community blog.
This isn't a powerhouse by any stretch, but you can expect twice the performance compared to integrated graphics, with Intel basing these claims on average framerates at 1080p Medium settings in Metro Exodus, against Iris Xe integrated graphics. This makes it great not only for PC gamers who like older games or titles with low hardware demands, but also creatives who want to squeeze some extra juice out of their laptop in applications like Blender or Maya.
Pearce states in the blog that "We have been hard at work preparing our Intel Arc graphics products for gamers and creators. It has been an incredible journey, and we are excited to begin launching our mobile family of Intel Arc A-series GPUs on March 30th and showcasing key technologies, like Intel Deep Link, XeSS, and more."
We were initially hoping to see Arc Alchemist desktop GPU also launch in Q1, but in February, Intel revealed that they weren’t coming until the second quarter, expected to debut between May 2 and June 1.
Analysis: Why laptops first?
It may be a tad disappointing that the laptop versions of these graphics cards will launch before the desktop variants, but the reasoning is perfectly sound.
Pearce claims that "Intel technology powers a significant share of the world’s notebooks, and we have decades of experience building leadership platforms with our partners. By beginning to launch our mobile products first, we aim to bring all our technologies (CPU, graphics, media, display, I/O, etc.) to bear to deliver great experiences."
It makes sense to have all of your ducks lined up, especially with so many eyes watching this launch. Intel will only get one chance to make a good first impression when it tries to break into the GPU market, which has been solely dominated by AMD and Nvidia for some time (with the latter highly dominant in the desktop arena).
Laptops offer a safer 'public beta' to make sure any quirky drivers are nipped in the bud with patches before the desktop cards hit the shelves. Launching the Arc brand with too many issues could leave a negative perception hanging over it for a long time.
Intel is certainly playing it safe, but as GPU prices start to drop it may have missed its window to take advantage of AMD and Nvidia’s supply woes. With any luck, the laptop GPU launch goes smoothly so we can expect Team Blue to play a larger part in the greater market with next-gen graphics cards from 2022.
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Jess is a former TechRadar Computing writer, where she covered all aspects of Mac and PC hardware, including PC gaming and peripherals. She has been interviewed as an industry expert for the BBC, and while her educational background was in prosthetics and model-making, her true love is in tech and she has built numerous desktop computers over the last 10 years for gaming and content creation. Jess is now a journalist at The Verge.