Intel Arc A770 Limited Edition Review: Bringing Back Midrange GPUs

Intel's first legitimate discrete GPU in forever

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We're going to go in order of the most meaningful settings (in our opinion) for the Arc A770. That means 1080p and 1440p ultra first, then 1080p medium, and finally 4K ultra. Not all cards were tested at all resolutions, particularly at 4K. As you'd expect, 1080p means higher fps, often more than a lot of monitors need. 1440p represents more of a sweet spot, while 4K will generally need more GPU power than the A770 can muster, at least in more demanding games.

Also, note that we're focusing solely on the A770 for this review, so while the A750 numbers are present, we won't comment on them. Head over to that review for the A750 analysis.

Starting with 1080p and "ultra" settings, the Arc A770 puts up some good results. It averaged 85 fps across our test suite and outperformed the RTX 3060 by 13%. That puts it on equal footing with the RX 6650 XT (2% behind, if you want to be exact). That's a bit disappointing, as the A770 LE comes with twice as much VRAM, though 8GB of memory doesn't usually hold back performance at 1080p.

Flipping through the individual game results, things become a bit more chaotic. Against the 3060, there's only one game in our test suite where the Arc A770 doesn't claim the lead: Horizon Zero Dawn. Interestingly, that's a DX12 game, but Intel apparently hasn't fully optimized for it yet. Elsewhere, the A770 leads by anywhere from 4% (Flight Simulator) to as much as 35% (Red Dead Redemption 2). Finally, the A770 and 6650 XT split the games 50-50, with Arc trailing by as much as 19% (Horizon Zero Dawn again) and leading by as much as 28% (Red Dead Redemption 2 again).

If we were to extend our test suite to dozens more games, perhaps with more older titles that don't use DX12 or Vulkan, we expect the overall A770 performance would skew downward. At the same time, assuming Intel continues to put a serious effort into improving and optimizing its drivers, we could see some impressive performance increases over time. Take the best results (Borderlands 3, Forza Horizon 5, Red Dead Redemption 2, and Watch Dogs Legion); if Intel can get similar relative performance in a wider test suite, overall performance could easily improve by 10–20 percent.

But if you're thinking about picking up an Arc GPU, it's important to know that right now, there are going to be situations where the drivers hold Arc back.

Stepping up to 1440p Ultra drops the A770's performance by 22% compared to 1080p ultra, while the competing AMD and Nvidia cards lose 29% and 25%, respectively. That drop is also consistent with the Arc A750, so the extra VRAM on the A770 LE isn't really coming into play. Overall, the A770 still averages more than 60 fps, and it's 18% faster than the RTX 3060 and 8% faster than the RX 6650 XT — but still 13% slower than the RX 6700 XT and 11% slower than the RTX 3060 Ti.

Looking at the individual games again, the A770 gets a clean sweep of the RTX 3060 now, with leads ranging from 6% to as much as 32%. It also basically ties or beats the RX 6650 XT across the suite, trailing by 1% slower in Far Cry 6 and leading by up to 26% (RDR2). Also, note that only Flight Simulator and Total War: Warhammer 3 failed to average 60 fps or more.

If you're primarily interested in 1440p gaming, especially if you're willing to drop a few settings from ultra to high, the Arc A770 LE ends up as the better option against its direct competitors — again, assuming you don't want to play a game where Intel hasn't yet optimized the drivers.

As you might expect, given what we've already seen, 1080p medium actually decreases the Arc A770's relative performance. Arc performance improves by 56% compared to 1080p ultra, but the RTX 3060 is 68% faster and the RX 6650 XT is 73% faster. Any of these cards easily handle 1080p medium, but if you have a 144Hz monitor, you might prefer one of the non-Arc cards — at least for the time being.

What's likely happening is that Arc's drivers are becoming more CPU limited at lighter settings, meaning they can't scale as much as the AMD and Nvidia GPUs. This is something Intel has already talked about, how using the integrated graphics drivers as the base for Arc hampered overall performance, and it's something the driver team continues to work on.

With integrated graphics, they're so slow that it's often beneficial to move work from the GPU to the CPU. The CPU spends so much time waiting on the GPU that it has room for other work. But that's no longer the case with a faster dedicated graphics card, so the drivers need to give as much work as possible back to the GPU so the CPU can generate frames faster.

4K ultra naturally represents the reverse of 1080p medium. The graphics workload is so high that the GPU becomes the major bottleneck. We didn't test the RTX 3060 or RX 6650 XT at 4K ultra, but if you look at the cards we did test, like the RTX 3070 and RX 6700 XT, you can see that Arc once again closes the gap a bit.

Where the RX 6700 XT was 15% faster than the A770 at 1440p ultra, that lead drops to 8% at 4K. (Of course, much of that likely stems from AMD's Infinity Cache being less effective at higher resolutions.) Meanwhile, RTX 3070 still holds a sizable 20% lead at 4K, but that's less than the 25% lead it held at 1440p and 1080p ultra. 

Jarred Walton is a senior editor at Tom's Hardware focusing on everything GPU. He has been working as a tech journalist since 2004, writing for AnandTech, Maximum PC, and PC Gamer. From the first S3 Virge '3D decelerators' to today's GPUs, Jarred keeps up with all the latest graphics trends and is the one to ask about game performance.

  • ingtar33
    When Intel can deliver drivers that don't crash simply opening a game i might be interested; however until the software side is figured out (something intel hasn't done yet in 20+ years of graphic drivers) I simply can't take this seriously.
    Reply
  • edzieba
    If you're getting a headache with all the nebulously-pronounceable Xe-ness (Xe-cores, Xe Matrix Engines, Xe kitchen sink...) imagine it is pronounced "Ze" in a thick Hollywood-German accent. Much more enjoyable.
    Reply
  • tommo1982
    I'd like to see benchmarks cappped at 60fps. Not everyone uses high refresh rate monitor and today, when electricity is expensive and most likely will be even more in the near future, I'd like to see how much power a GPU draws when not trying to run the game as fast as possible.
    Reply
  • AndrewJacksonZA
    FINALLY, Intel is back! Or at least, halfway back. It's good seeing them compete in this midrange, and I hope that they flourish into the future.

    And I really want an A770, my i740 is feeling lonely in my collection. ;-)
    Reply
  • AndrewJacksonZA
    edzieba said:
    If you're getting a headache with all the nebulously-pronounceable Xe-ness (Xe-cores, Xe Matrix Engines, Xe kitchen sink...) imagine it is pronounced "Ze" in a thick Hollywood-German accent. Much more enjoyable.
    The "EKS-E" makes it sound cool!
    Reply
  • -Fran-
    Limited Edition? More like DoA Edition...

    Still, I'll get one. We need a strong 3rd player in the market.

    I hope AV1 enc/dec works! x'D!

    EDIT: A few things I forgot to mention... I love the design of it. It's a really nice looking card and I definitely appreciate the 2 slot, not obnoxiously tall height as well. And I hope they can work as secondary cards in a system without many driver issues... I hope... I doubt many have tested these as secondary cards.

    Regards.
    Reply
  • chalabam
    No tensorflow support on the age of AI?
    Reply
  • LolaGT
    The hardware is impressive. It looks the part, in fact that looks elegant powered up.

    It does look like they are trying to push out fixes, unfortunately when you are swamped with working on fixes optimization takes a back seat. The fact that they have pushed out quite a few driver updates shows they are spending resources on that and if they keep at that.....we'll see.
    Reply
  • AndrewJacksonZA
    -Fran- said:
    I hope AV1 enc/dec works!
    Same. I have a BOATLOAD of media that I want to convert and rip to AV1, and my i7-6700 non-K feels sloooooowwww, lol.
    Reply
  • rluker5
    Looks like this card works best for those that want to max out their graphics settings at 60 fps. Definitely lagging the other two in driver CPU assistance.
    And a bit of unfortunate timing given the market discounts in AMD gpu prices. The 6600XT for example launched at AMD's intended price of $379. The A770 likely had it's price reduced to account for this, but the more competitors you have, generally the more competition you will have.

    I wonder how many games the A770 will run at 4k60 medium settings but high textures? That's what I generally play at, even with my 3080 since the loss in visual quality is worth it to reduce fan noise.
    Reply