As promised, Intel has released a new video (opens in new tab) highlighting the ray tracing technology behind its Arc Alchemist graphics cards. While the Arc A770 has yet to prove itself, the looming graphics card aims to fight for a spot on the list of best graphics cards.
We've already seen how the Arc A380 measures up to the competition in ray tracing performance. However, the Arc A380 is the entry-level SKU with just eight ray tracing units (RTUs), whereas the Arc A770 bears the flagship crown and has 32 RTUs. The Arc A770 is much more interesting, especially since Intel's backing up its previous claims that Arc is competitive or even a bit better than Nvidia's second-generation RT cores inside Ampere.
That's quite the claim, though Intel does go on to provide some low-level details of its ray tracing hardware. Unlike AMD's Ray Accelerators and the Radeon RX 6000 series of GPUs, Arc has full ray tracing acceleration. AMD uses the texture units to do ray/box BVH intersections at a rate of 4 box/cycle. Intel does the BVH traversal in hardware and can do 12 ray/box intersections per cycle. Beyond that, both AMD and Intel can do 1 ray/triangle intersection per cycle, per core. Nvidia can do twice the ray/triangle intersections per RT core with Ampere, but it's not exactly clear what the ray/box rate is — for Turing or Ampere.
Intel details its BVH cache, which further speeds up BVH traversal. The RTUs also have a Thread Sorting Unit that takes the results of the ray tracing work and then groups them according to complexity to help maximize utilization of the GPU shader cores. It all sounds pretty good on paper, but how does it work in the real world of gaming?
According to Intel's benchmarks, the Arc A770 delivered better ray tracing performance than the GeForce RTX 3060 at 1080p (1920x1080) on ultra settings. Alchemist outperformed Ampere between 1.04X to 1.56X. The Arc A770 only lost to the GeForce RTX 3060 in four titles, including F1 2022, Guardians of the Galaxy, Battlefield V, and Deathloop. Intel's graphics card is tied with the GeForce RTX 3060 in The DioField Chronicle.
Ray tracing taxes the graphics card regardless of the resolution. As a result, performance drops as you increase the resolution. That's where Intel's XeSS AI upscaling technology comes in to save Arc. Intel used the highest possible settings for its XeSS 1440p tests with ray tracing configured to the maximum.
The results showed that the Arc A770 struggled to deliver frame rates above 40 FPS in titles such as Ghostwire Tokyo and Hitman 3. However, with XeSS enabled on a balanced preset, the Arc A770 showed 1.77X higher performance in Ghostwire Tokyo and 1.61X in Hitman 3. That's with the balanced preset, though. So if you value performance over eye candy, the XeSS performance setting can help boost performance further.
With XeSS on the performance preset, the Arc A770 offered over 2X better frame rates in Ghostwire Tokyo and Hitman 3. The graphics card also revealed visible performance upflits (up to 1.68X) in the other tested titles, like Shadow of the Tomb Raider, Arcadegeddon, or The DioField Chronicle.
Barring any further delays, the Arc A770 should arrive on the retail market before the end of the year. Intel has kept a tight lip on the graphics card's pricing. However, new clues suggest that the Arc A770 could cost around the $400 mark. That would make sense, considering the official MSRP for the RTX 3060 is only $330. It's not at that price, at least not yet, but with Ada Lovelace on the horizon, we could see GPU prices continue to fall.