Intel Arc A770 Limited Edition Review: Bringing Back Midrange GPUs

Intel's first legitimate discrete GPU in forever

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While the Arc A380 technically arrived first, the Intel Arc A770 represents Team Blue's best foot forward for the graphics card market. We can't say it's perfect or even a better option than the competing AMD and Nvidia cards, particularly if you play a wider selection of older DX11 (or earlier) games, but compared to the A380 just one month ago, the overall experience is much improved. If Intel can keep iterating on the drivers for a few more months, it could be a serious competitor in the midrange market.

Given the Arc A770 Limited Edition represents the best-performing Arc Alchemist GPU Intel currently has available, outside of overclocking, Arc maxes out at mainstream levels of performance. It's faster than the RTX 3060 in our testing, even in ray tracing games, but it's clearly slower than the RTX 3060 Ti. The same goes for AMD's RX 6650 XT, which it can match or beat in standard games, and it easily surpasses AMD's GPUs in the realm of ray tracing.

Intel also has some other interesting ideas. One is Smooth Sync, which obscures screen tearing with vsync off by blurring the boundary between the current and previous frames. It wasn't quite ready for use when the A380 first started getting into reviewers' hands, but after running everything in the current test suite with Smooth Sync enabled, I can say that I never noticed tearing as a problem. Others might be more keen-eyed, but it's an interesting alternative to getting a more expensive adaptive sync display with a high refresh rate.

I also watched a bunch of videos with the A770 installed, and everything worked without a problem. That's not too surprising, but it's good to know that quirks during everyday use are likely far less common than driver incompatibilities with games. Intel's media encoding capabilities remain excellent and are another potential selling point, assuming you'll actually use them.

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Where the Arc A770 truly shines is in the value department. Sure, AMD's RX 6700 XT has been on sale for as little as $360 in recent weeks, but it's now selling for $410 or more. The RX 6650 XT might cost $50 less, but it also has half the VRAM and substantially weaker ray tracing performance. As for Nvidia, there's no question the A770 has the potential to deliver superior performance for a lower price. Except when the drivers occasionally hold it back.

The safer bet right now would be buying an AMD or Nvidia GPU. They're known quantities, and both companies have been working on graphics drivers for decades. Of course, Intel has decades of driver experience as well… but it's only just starting to truly take such things seriously. Just check out what we said last year when we benchmarked the Intel DG1 or even our review of the Arc A380 last month. Things are improving, but there's still work to be done — and there will be more driver work to do as long as Intel keeps supporting its GPUs.

We can't help but wonder what Intel might have been able to do if Arc had been fully ready to ship earlier this year. Whatever the cause of the delays — and there were most definitely delays, as companies don't do a full deep dive into a new GPU architecture and reveal most of the secrets a full year before launch — the fact is we now have Intel Arc GPUs facing off against AMD and Nvidia GPUs. It's great to finally see some new blood in the dedicated graphics card market.

Now, Intel needs to take the learnings and successes of Arc Alchemist and execute better on delivering the follow-up Battlemage in a timely fashion. The A770 might be able to trade blows with current midrange RX 6000-series and RTX 3000-series cards, but when Nvidia's Ada Lovelace and AMD's RDNA 3 enter that market, we suspect the A770 and A750 will be in for some stormy seas. 

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