Intel Arc A380 Review: Great for Video, Weak for Gaming

The Intel Arc A380 has to be one of the worst graphics card launches in history — not the hardware itself, necessarily, but the retail launch of the hardware. By all indications, Intel knew the drivers were broken when the hardware was ready for release earlier this year. Rather than taking sufficient time to fix the drivers before the retail launch, and with the clock ticking as new AMD and Nvidia GPUs are on the horizon, Intel decided to ship its Arc GPUs first in China — likely not the sort of approach a company would take if the product were worthy of making our list of the best graphic cards.

Several months later, after plenty of negative publicity courtesy of GPUs that made their way to other shores, and with numerous driver updates come and gone, Arc A380 has officially launched in the US with a starting price of $139 (opens in new tab). The single offering on Newegg sold out and is currently back ordered, but that’s likely more to do with limited supplies than high demand. Still, the A380’s not all bad, and we’re happy to see Team Blue rejoin the dedicated GPU market for the first time in over 24 years. (And no, I don’t really count the Intel DG1 from last yearsince it only worked on specific motherboards.)

How does the Arc A380 stack up to competing AMD and Nvidia GPUs, and what’s all the hype about AV1 hardware encoding acceleration? You can see where it lands in our GPU benchmarks hierarchy, which if you want a spoiler is… not good. But let’s get to the details.

Arch Alchemist Architecture Recap

(Image credit: Intel)

We’ve provided extensive coverage on Intel’s Arc Alchemist architecture, dating back to about one year ago. At the time we first wrote that piece, we were anticipating a late 2021 or early 2022 launch. That morphed into a planned March 2022 launch, then eventually a mid-2022 release — and it’s not even a full release, at least not yet. Arc A380 is merely the first salvo, at the very bottom of the price and performance ladder. We’ve seen plenty of hints of the faster Arc A750which appears to be close to RTX-3060 performance based on Intel’s own benchmarks, and that should launch within the next month or so. What about the faster still Arc A770 or mid-tier Arc A580 and other products? Only time will tell.

Arc Alchemist represents a divergence from Intel’s previous graphics designs. There’s probably plenty of overlap in certain elements, but Intel has changed names for some of the core building blocks. Gone are the “Execution Units (EUs),” which are now called Vector Engines (VEs). Each VE can compute eight FP32 operations per cycle, which gets loosely translated into “GPU cores” or GPU shaders and is roughly equivalent to the AMD and Nvidia shaders.

Intel groups 16 VEs into a single Xe-Core, which also includes other functionality. Each Xe-Core thus has 128 shader cores and roughly translates as equivalent to an AMD Compute Unit (CU) or Nvidia Streaming Multiprocessor (SM). They’re basically all SIMD (single instruction multiple data) designs, and like the competition, Arc Alchemist has enhanced the shaders to meet the full DirectX 12 Ultimate feature set.

(Image credit: Intel)

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