Intel Arc A770 Limited Edition Review: Bringing Back Midrange GPUs

Intel's first legitimate discrete GPU in forever

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Ray tracing can be extremely demanding, and Nvidia GPUs have generally held the lead at similar price points compared to AMD's GPUs. With Arc, we now have a third player, and as we hinted earlier, it looks as though Intel put a lot more effort into the ray tracing aspects of the hardware.

If you're used to seeing Nvidia demolish AMD at ray tracing, Arc should be a nice breath of fresh air. The A770 LE soundly beats the RTX 3060 by 25% on average at 1080p medium, though Arc couldn't run Minecraft. That's apparently something Microsoft needs to fix, not a driver bug — the game looks for "known" GPUs and only allows you to enable DXR on certain models. That's… annoying, and Microsoft, of all companies, ought to know better. Query the hardware for its capabilities and then expose the functionality, rather than limiting support to known quantities! But I digress.

AMD's RX 6650 XT doesn't do nearly as well with our DXR test suite. The A770 is 50% faster at 1080p medium and is still 21% faster than the costlier RX 6700 XT. That's a nominal win for Intel and Arc over the competition… except we need to consider Nvidia's DLSS.

Intel offers a reasonable competitor to DLSS in its XeSS, but DLSS has been promoted for four years now. XeSS is just getting started. Right now, there are only a handful of games with XeSS support, and we can imagine Intel basically pleading and cajoling game developers into adding it. Theoretically, anything with DLSS 2 could be made to support XeSS (and FSR 2) with minimal effort, but getting that to happen is another matter.

Depending on the game, DLSS in Quality mode typically improves performance by 20–40 percent. Quality mode is nearly indistinguishable from native rendering and sometimes looks superior, so it's a great option. That would easily put Nvidia's RTX 3060 back in the lead, but if a game also supports XeSS, we'd be back to an Arc victory.

More or less maxing out the ray tracing settings at 1080p can cripple performance, particularly without DLSS, XeSS, or FSR 2 support. Comparing apples to apples, though, Intel's A770 LE continues to deliver impressive results. It clearly wasn't kidding when it said it put a lot of effort into the RTUs (ray tracing units) and related hardware.

At 1080p ultra, the A770 still leads the 3060 by 23%, beats the 6700 XT by 19%, and demolishes the RX 6650 XT by 50% again. The RTX 3060 Ti is still 9% faster, but that's also a more expensive card. The only real blemish on Arc is the currently buggy (memory leak?) Bright Memory Infinite result. Even in the very demanding Cyberpunk 2077, the A770 still manages to go toe to toe with Nvidia's 3060 — and let's not even look at the RTX 3050, please.

What about 1440p ultra with DXR? Well, that's a bit more than Arc A770 can manage, at least with native rendering. To be fair, the same is true of most other graphics cards that cost less than $500. Only the RTX 3070 and above can break 30 fps across our DXR test suite at 1440p, or AMD's RX 6800 XT. If you prefer putting it in older terms, the A770 LE basically ties the RTX 2080 Super at these settings. Not bad for about half the price and twice the VRAM, three years later.

Of the five games we tested, only Control and Metro Exodus Enhanced reached playable framerates of 30 fps or more. With XeSS Performance mode, you could probably double a lot of the numbers and that could make everything playable in a pinch, but at present, the confirmed XeSS titles are relatively few in number. Which brings us to our XeSS testing on the next page. 

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