If you have cast your longing eyes across the Intel Arc website, you are now greeted with lots of specifications and a smattering of marketing buzz-words to whet your appetite for the GPU range from Team Blue. From laptops to workstations, and paying close attention to gamers, Intel have covered all their bases, staking their claim in the graphics cards landscape.
A few days ago, however, the biggest news in the Arc saga came out - the Intel Arc A380 is shipping on 22nd August in the USA, available for limited backorder online.
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Intel Arc Desktop Gaming GPUs
With a massive share of the GPU market, gaming is at the top of everyone's list when we're discussing Intel Arc. There has been quite a lot of discussion around whether Intel is cancelling their graphics card project, with scathing comments and murmurs coming from leakers like prolific YouTube creator Moore's Law Is Dead.
If we set aside the leaks and rumblings from around the internet for a moment, and take a look at the official Arc website for gaming GPUs, we can now see the A380 is the only graphics card mentioned. Whatever is happening with the rest of the line-up, this is official specifications and what the actual benchmarks are based on, which we've seen from Gamer's Nexus and other reliable sources, alongside the Intel Arc A750 in recent months.
It's here. It's finally here.
A few days ago, ASRock came out of nowhere with their ASRock Challenger Arc A380, or to give it its full title - the ASRock Challenger Arc A380 6GB GDDR6 PCI Express 4.0 ITX Video Card A380 CLI 6G OC. We have previously only seen Intel's version of the A380 as well as the regular and water cooled Gunnir Arc A380.
This is our first glimpse of a real A380 in the wild, and it is currently available for backorder in the USA for $139, limited to two per customer, and ships on the 22nd August 2022. This price point is a jaw-dropper, but are the specifications just as exciting?
On the ASRock website, we can see all of the official specifications, which gives us an idea of where the very affordable GPU sits in terms of benchmarking:
|Clock: GPU / Memory ||GPU Clock: 2250 MHz |
| ||Memory Clock: 15.5 Gbps |
| || |
|Key Specification ||Intel® Arc™ A380 Graphics |
| ||6GB 96-bit GDDR6 |
| ||DirectX® 12 Ultimate |
| ||PCI® Express 4.0 Support |
| ||1 x 8-pin Power Connector |
| ||3 x DisplayPort™ 2.0 with DSC / 1 x HDMI™ 2.0b |
| || |
|Key Features ||Small Form Factor Design |
| ||Striped Axial Fan |
| ||0dB Silent Cooling |
| ||Super Alloy Graphics Card |
| ||8K Resolution Support |
| || |
The benchmarks we've seen for the A380 thus far have been encouraging. Though, it's worth noting Arc GPUs are less than ideal for people with older operating systems, thanks to ReBAR (Resizable Base Address Register), which is going to be a required feature to play at acceptable performance levels.
Good news, bad news
There's good news and bad news for anyone buying the A380 early on. The good news is, you are getting great value for money, and it's not difficult to imagine who this graphics card will appeal to: parents. The Intel Arc based entry level gaming PCs we're going to see coming out will be priced at the lowest end of the spectrum. Right now, this is not the mid-range GPU we expected, but its the entry level GPU we deserve.
The bad news is actually a double-edged sword, in that it's not as bad as it could be. Because Intel Arc is new, the driver support for games - particularly older ones - is not great. Intel are certainly going to ramp up this side of the project, and like all other manufacturers entering a market, they are going to need time and support from consumers. They have to start somewhere, and when you see the performance in new games achieving better results than the AMD RX 6400, for example, you can put this down to Intel's architectural advantage and driver support.
The other side of the coin, making this not-so-bad-news-after-all is if Intel ensures they have driver support for the consumer market segment that matters most in this price range, they will do just fine. Minecraft, Roblox and Esports titles will be high on their list of priorities, if they have any sense.
Intel Arc A380 best features
Striped Axial Fan - 0db silent running
This discrete, small form factor GPU has a Striped Axial single fan design, for enhanced airflow, and to optimize GPU cooling. The 0db rating comes from the spin/stop feature, which will be music to the ears of those who do not solely use their PC for gaming. For optimal cooling (and lower power draw) the fan spins when the temperature increases, and stops if the temperature goes low.
This effectively means when you are working on a spreadsheet and don't need the Arc 380 to kick in, your GPU will happily sit at an optimal temperature in complete silence. Load up Halo Infinite, on the other hand, and you'll likely hear the fans spin up, but if the Striped Axial fans in ASRock's AMD Radeon RX 6000-series are anything to go by - it won't be loud.
Modern graphics support
The A380 supports ray tracing, DirectX 12 Ultimate, Adaptive Sync, Variable Rate Shading (VRS) and more. With a maximum resolution of 4K at 60Hz via HDMI, and 8K media support at 60Hz over DisplayPort on up to four monitors, the overall features are not lacking. The ASrock Challenger offers 1x HDMI port, 3x DisplayPort 2.0 ports.
Low power consumption is one of the best features of the A380, requiring a single 8-pin power rail from your power supply, and will be coming in very low on benchmark tests if the Gunnir version is anything to go by.
Video encoding for streaming
It's unlikely that Intel could ever do poorly with video encoding, so it comes as no surprise that the A380 has been dusting off it's shoulders in triumph over AMD and NVIDIA. Intel's AV1 encoding is currently performing extremely well in these new cards, so the future is bright for streamers.
This first iteration of Intel’s QuickSync Video H.264 encoder, which is available on both Arc GPUs and Intel 12th Gen iGPUs, is ahead of both AMD and NVIDIA in terms of quality. Although NVIDIA's 40-series launch may compete with Intel when they launch, this is still great news for those who need AV1 video encoding to succeed.
AOMedia Video 1 (AV1) is an open, royalty-free video coding format that is predominantly used for streaming. Unlike H.264/AVC and HEVC, AV1 has the backing of founding and contributing companies like Samsung, Microsoft, Netflix, Google, Facebook, Cisco, and Amazon. Better yet, it operates as a royalty-free licensing model, which means even though it is state of the art, open source and zero-budget startups can use it freely.
"Theoretically, if Twitch enabled AV1 streaming right now, a streamer using an Arc A380 to encode their broadcast would enable everyone involved in this process to cut their bandwidth in half — the streamer themselves, the viewer, and Twitch/Amazon — without taking a hit in quality. It also means you can immediately get a jump in quality without changing any network requirements on the streamer’s end." - Adam Taylor, EposVox
Whilst the Intel Arc A750 is beset with issues right now, and there are more leaks surrounding it than my worst performance in the 1989 classic, Pipe Mania, it is coming. Steve Burke ceremoniously tested the Intel Arc A750 Limited Edition alongside former-NVIDIA now Intel graphics engineer, Tom Peterson, and although it was a discussion based around highly technical challenges and features, it revealed a better look at Intel's Xe architecture. This is the most exciting discussion point right now, because it references Ray Tracing - a position in the market dominated by NVIDIA, to a point where AMD refuse to compete.
When the first A380s launch in the UK, you can find them on the CCL website here. With the launch in the USA from ASRock, be prepared for news very soon... we recommend you keep your eyes on our socials to see when you can place your order.