Intel recently began the second phase of its ongoing official Xe HPG Scavenger Hunt, and it appears the company may have inadvertently tipped its hat on pricing for its forthcoming Xe Arc Alchemist discrete gaming graphics cards in the fine print. Depending on how they perform, these could compete with the best graphics cards, but we'll have to wait and see.
The giveaway details four sets of winners, with the grand prize and first place winners receiving a free Intel Arc graphics card along with Arc-branded merchandise and anywhere between three to six months of Xbox Game Pass for the PC. Most importantly, Intel describes the grand and first place prize winners as having an "approximate retail value" of $900 and $700, respectively, which gives us a good idea as to how expensive Intel's Arc GPUs will be when they come to retail in the first quarter of 2022.
The grand prize goes to 100 winners, with an "Arc Premium" graphics card and a value of around $900, including six months of Xbox Game Pass. The 200 first-place prizes include an "Arc Performance" graphics card and three months of Xbox Game Pass. Game Pass costs about $30 for three months, double that for six months, plus there's other merchandise included with the prizes. That gives us a theoretical Arc GPU price of around $650 for the "performance" model and $825 for the "premium" model, though there's certainly a bit of flexibility and we could see prices that are $50–$100 lower or higher given we're still a few months away from Arc's release.
We're currently aware of three SKUs split into high-end, mid-range, and entry-level products. The high-end trim will come with 4096 GPU cores (or ALUs) and feature up to 16GB of GDDR6 memory. Performance remains largely unknown, but according to TFLOPS calculations we've seen, it could be close to a GeForce RTX 3080. Drivers and other aspects of the design will also be important, however, so performance might be quite a bit lower. We shall see.
Intel's Arc GPUs will be the company's first serious attempt at diving into the discrete GPU after more than two decades since the i740, and more than a decade since Larrabee. These GPUs should deliver good compute performance, based on what we've heard so far, and they'll include all the modern features you'd expect. They're fully DirectX 12 Ultimate compliant, which means they support ray tracing, mesh shaders, sampler feedback, and variable rate shading. The Arc architecture will also have some form of tensor cores for machine learning applications, and these will be used for Intel's own version of DLSS called XeSS.
While Intel probably didn't mean to reveal pricing already, even in "approximate" form, the actual launch could end up rather different from these early numbers. After all, the RTX 3080 theoretically starts at $700 and the RTX 3060 starts at $330, neither of which you'll ever really find for those prices in the current market. But a lot will depend on how the cards actually perform — in our GPU benchmarks as well (sadly) cryptocurrency mining, the latter of which continues to have a major influence on retail GPU prices.
Intel is working with third-party AIB (add-in board) partners like Asus, Gigabyte, MSI, and others for the launch. As such, we don't know what the cards will actually look like, though the above early rendering from CES 2020 likely bears little resemblance to the final product. We'll find out more in early 2022.