Chinese graphics card maker Gunnir has unveiled the first third-party custom desktop GPU from Intel’s new Arc Alchemist lineup, namely the Arc A380 Photon 6GB OC. Gunnir’s press release states that Intel has officially launched the Arc A3 series in China, lining up with earlier reports that A3 GPUs would only be available to begin with.
So, does the A380 Photon impress? Well, we have yet to see specific benchmarks, but initial impressions are frankly not good considering the current level of competition in the desktop GPU market. The Arc A380 is an entry-level graphics card, currently believed to have similar performance to Nvidia’s GTX 1650 Super, and Gunnir’s Photon model tweaks the benchmark spec a bit, but not enough to make it interesting.
The A380 Photon 6GB OC includes the same eight Xe cores and eight ray-tracing units as the standard A380, but the ‘OC’ part of the name implies that its 2,450MHz boost clock will be higher than the GPU’s stock frequency. The TDP is also higher on the Gunnir board, up to 92W from the standard 75W. This is still lower than the 100W TDP of the GTX 1650 Super, but higher than the AMD RX 6400 Budget at 53W.
A key difference between the Arc A380 and the Photon is that Gunnir’s board uses a dual fan design, as opposed to Intel’s original single fan configuration. Unfortunately, it’s an uninspired design, which is a little disappointing, as this is effectively our first glimpse of desktop Intel Arc boards. Oh, and memory speed is inexplicably lower than the 16Gbps reference figure, running at 15.5Gbps.
Gunnir press release also teased an upcoming flagship GPU in the Arc lineup, which, from this super blurry image, we believe is a three-fan model with a similar aesthetic design. It’s not possible to discern whether it’s the Intel A770 or A780 GPU, but Gunnir’s use of the term ‘flagship’ makes us think it will be the next-gen A780.
Analysis: What is Intel doing with the desktop Arc?
This Gunnir release has all except confirmed previous leaks about Intel’s entry-level GPU, but it still left us a little confused. This is effectively Intel’s first official step into the murky waters of the desktop graphics card market, and it has taken that first step with virtually no fanfare.
Perhaps the real explanation is that Intel is using the Chinese market as a testing ground for the Arc, with tightly controlled releases starting exclusively with Chinese laptop makers, and doesn’t want to rock the boat too much if other domestic markets take too much notice.
The A380 isn’t especially impressive – the performance is barely above the 8-year-old GTX 1060 – so Intel wanting to keep things low-key now makes sense. It probably won’t be bothering our best GPU rankings. However, if entry-level GPUs have the potential to sell well in China, it could be a smart opening move by Intel, especially since Nvidia GTX 1630 budget is also on the way.
The Arc A5 and A7 GPUs are still on the way with no set release date, and it’s unclear at this point if they will also start life as China-only products. Still, we expect Intel to make a lot more noise about the A780 launch, as this card is expected to trade blows with Excellent RTX 3070 from Nvidia.