The first custom Intel desktop GPU in 2022

The first custom Intel desktop GPU in 2022

The first custom Intel desktop GPU in 2022

Chinese graphics card manufacturer Gunnir has revealed the world’s first third-party custom desktop GPU from Intel’s new Arc Alchemist line, namely the Arc A380 Photon 6GB OC. Gunnir’s press release states that Intel has now officially launched the Arc A3 series in China, aligning with previous news that A3 GPUs would only be available there to start off.

So, does the A380 Photon impress? Well, we’ve yet to see specific benchmarks, but initial impressions frankly aren’t great considering the current level of competition in the desktop GPU market. The Arc A380 is an entry-level graphics card, currently believed to perform similarly to Nvidia’s GTX 1650 Super, and Gunnir’s Photon model tweaks the reference specs a little but not enough to become interesting.

The A380 Photon 6GB OC packs the same eight Xe cores and eight ray-tracing units as the default 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 in Gunnir’s card, up to 92W from the standard 75W. This is still lower than the GTX 1650 Super’s 100W TDP, but higher than AMD’s budget RX 6400 at 53W.

One key difference between the stock Arc A380 and the Photon is that Gunnir’s card uses a dual-fan design, unlike Intel’s original single-fan configuration. It’s unfortunately a rather uninspired design, which is a bit disappointing given that this is effectively our first glimpse of desktop Intel Arc cards. Oh, and the memory speed is inexplicably lower than the 16Gbps reference figure, running at 15.5Gbps instead.

Gunnir’s press release also teased an upcoming flagship GPU in the Arc range, which from this super-blurry image we believe is a three-fan model with a simile aesthetic design. Whether it’s Intel A770 or A780 GPU can’t be discerned, but Gunnir’s use of the term ‘flagship’ has us thinking it’ll be the high-end A780.

Blurred teaser image of Gunnir's upcoming flagship Intel Arc GPU

(Image credit: Gunnir, Intel)

Analysis: What’s Intel playing at with desktop Arc?

This release from Gunnir has all but confirmed previous leaks about Intel’s entry-level GPU, but it’s still left us feeling a bit confused. This is effectively Intel’s very first official step into the murky waters of the desktop graphics card market, and it’s taken that first step with virtually no fanfare whatsoever.

Perhaps the real explanation is that Intel is using the Chinese market as a testing ground for Arc, with tightly-controlled releases starting exclusively with Chinese laptop manufacturers, and doesn’t want to rock the boat too much in case other national markets take too much notice.

The A380 isn’t especially impressive – performance will barely scrape past the now 8-year-old GTX 1060 – so Intel wanting to keep things low-key right now does make sense. It likely won’t be troubling our best GPU rankings. However, if entry-level GPUs have the potential to sell well in China, it could be a savvy opening move from Intel, especially given that Nvidia’s budget GTX 1630 is on the way too.

Arc A5 and A7 GPUs are still on the way with no given release date, and it’s unclear at this point whether these will also begin life as China-exclusive products. Still, we’d expect Intel to make much more of a fuss about the A780 launch, since that card is expected to trade blows with Nvidia’s excellent RTX 3070.