Today, technology tester and commentator Igor Wallossek of Igor's Lab has suggested that the fate of Intel's Arc graphics cards is "on the brink." His report (originally in German) suggests that Intel has managed to get on the wrong side of system integrators, board partners, and even retailers.
However, some of the most serious trouble noted is with its board partners. At least one major AIB is shutting down production of Arc graphics cards completely "due to quality concerns," according to Wallossek's sources.
We have reached out to Intel Graphics for comment, and will update this story when we get a reply about the revelations in the Igor's Lab report.
Intel's journey into discrete GPUs, with the Arc Alchemist graphics card range, hasn't had the most auspicious of starts. Most tech commentators have been fairly measured and accommodating with this new consumer venture for Intel, wishing to give it the best of chances--especially as it unfolded at a time when graphics cards were extremely difficult to buy.
With such a positive perspective, it is easier to forgive a brand new GPU architecture and driver set having its fair share of bugs, flaws, and quirks. But has Intel's Arc juggling act started to drop too many flaming torches for some to continue with their support? Igor's Lab shares murmurings of discontent from multiple sides.
First, we will concentrate on the most serious and pressing-sounding issues now facing Intel Arc, the problems with its branded manufacturing or add-in board partners, AIBs. One of the first problems AIBs have faced, according to the report, is that Intel suggested they concentrate first on system integrator and OEM customers. This business is inherently lower margin, and doesn't let a big-name graphics card maker make the most of its brand of extensive range of models.
There is a further serious issue for AIBs, if another revelation by Wallossek is correct. He states that "many of the larger board partners are still sitting on massive amounts of inventory." Of course, as time and technology marches on, the value of these inventories are dropping. Graphics cards are currently widely reported to be sliding down a very steep slope, with regard to market pricing.
The last, and another very serious issue for AIBs, is our headlining pick that "at least one" major AIB has decided to cease production of Intel Arc graphics cards completely. Wallossek says the reasoning behind this drastic action isn't related to the other complaints, outlined above. Instead, the AIB reckons they must stop production "due to quality concerns." Hopefully more about these concerns comes to light soon, and Intel addresses them, along with rumors of both hardware and software issues plaguing Intel Arc.
Which AIB (or AIBs) have decided to stop production of Intel Arc graphics cards isn't disclosed, but we still haven't seen any products from the big three: Asus Gigabyte, or MSI. Only yesterday, ASRock joined Gunnir with official Arc A380 product pages and China retail availability.
Intel published a new Arc A750 promo video yesterday, embedded above, but much of this performance information was revealed previously. Also, remember that Raja Koduri Tweeted about being "very much committed to our [graphics] roadmap," a couple of days ago.
In other words, we don't think Intel is considering giving up on discrete graphics already, but there does seem to be more than a little trouble brewing right now.
Anyway, not a good outlook, but what Intel does from now onwards will count for AIBs and SIs, since this is a lot of money they'd have to write off as a loss otherwise.
As a general statement, just thinking from the timing and scope of things, I'll put the blame on this whole kerfuffle on management. I'm 1200% sure no sane engineer (even a new hire) for the Graphics division would be insane enough to look at the amount of features* promised and say "yeah, we can hit the deadlines no problem". Plus, as stated everywhere, it's not like it was a big secret Intel iGPU drivers have always sucked donkey marbles, even with the basic features and they wanted to do 10x more with new hardware? I know hindsight 20/20 is great, but I was the first to say the drivers would be the last bastion for Intel with the GPUs.
All in all, I hope Intel puts their humble pants/trousers and just helps alleviate the situation so they do become another participant in the discrete GPU market. We all benefit from that, even if Intel is known for their shenanigans.
You are right, they've had a serious case of feature creep and lets say optimistic deadlines. They need to pair it down, say we've got a basic relatively stable graphics driver, and maybe we can also record or one other thing. But to have it do like 20 things Intels never done or never done on that level in the first place all at once? Pure friggin insanity, and clearly a case of management plugging their ears when the engineers are speaking and saying "get it done", Ive never understood that mindset in engineering companies, you'd figure they would know better. Honestly if they don't call it quits, they've got 3 to 5 years of work to get to decent parity with AMD and Nvidia. It would be a bit disheartening if they did quit this soon, I don't love Intel, i think they can be a pretty crappy company for the market (I would say sometimes but its actually pretty often), but a third player in the graphics market, especially one with production capacity, would shake things up considerably.
After 20+ years of sub-par IGP drivers beyond essential functionality to run Office and similar workloads, there was absolutely no basis to have any faith Intel would pull a miracle out of its ass for its dGPUs.
Need more marketing slide-decks. STAT !! (j/k) It has been 25 years of Chipzillah Fail __ from the i740 AGP to Hades Canyon, but generally good things have come out of it__ for the tens of billions of dollars spent it in the end.
I mean, look at Larrabee . . . ( eye roll ) . . .
I do hope that Intel loosens up and continues to invest in dedicated graphics. Nvidia and AMD need a strong competitor. Intel isn't there yet, but they will get there if they don't pull the plug.
All these AIBs signed up to build Intel cards and sell them for a profit during the crypto boom. With the delays and Intel's announcements about pricing their cards by their lowest performance levels, their top model is going to be $400, not $1000. Not much in it for the AIBs and Intel probably doesn't want a lot of cards on the market if they can try and rapidly swap out the old silicon with corrected versions.
Of course, there likely will be some issues related to Intel's drivers for a while, and that could make some partners hesitant to market Intel's cards under their usual gaming brands. But that's not necessarily the main reason a manufacturer would back out of selling them.
I heavily doubt AIBs are suspending A380 card manufacturing on a whim or greedy streak. All of the reviews make it clear that the A380 has very limited viability beyond $150 in its current form.
The three scenarios that make the most sense to me are:
1- a silicon re-spin is coming and AIBs want to minimize the number of boards they will need to rework
2- Intel has postponed the A380 launch while it attempts to figure out the issues it has failed to sort out before the launch window yet again
3- AIBs have decided to limit potential brand damage from Intel's still inadequate drivers, dysfunctional software and possibly unresolved hardware issues
I have no trouble believing GN's claims of bone-headed software issues. The most bone-headed problem I've had with Intel's Control Center for much of 2021 is Control Center only listing the primary GPU (GPU0 - GTX1050), which meant I couldn't configure the IGP (GPU1 - UHD730) since I couldn't select it. During that time, I was delegating browser hardware acceleration to IGP in order to conserve GPU VRAM. At some point after Intel fixed that issue, either Nvidia or Intel screwed something up and I'm periodically getting Nvidia driver restarts when the IGP is enabled, so I had to give up browser delegation to IGP.
I never once experienced an Intel iGPU issue. But it's sort of like buying a Prius. It's dependable but not very sporty or exciting. (To the Prius owners I offend, me being a former one, I apologize in advance.)
Their Arc GPU drivers however are major cringe. I'm even afraid to try for gits and shiggles after all the reviews I saw.
If I were to take a bet, I would say it's a small player who can't take the loss of non selling GPUs.
If there is a critical flaw in silicon, it becomes Intel's responsibility to reimburse the AIBs for the defective product.