Less than a month ago, Intel finally confirmed a March 30 release date for its Arc Alchemist A350M and A370M discrete laptop GPUs for general market availability. However, that date has come and gone with no visible changes in stock for any of the already-announced solutions sporting Intel's latest graphics technology. Via Intel support has now confirmed via Twitter that initial availability was never pegged for a global release. Instead, South Korean customers are the first able to get their hands on Samsung laptops sporting Intel's chip.
The situation does add some convoluted threads to Intel's messaging surrounding the availability of Arc Graphics. Originally slated for a Q1 2022 (January 1 through March 31) release, Intel's March 30 rollout happened a mere two days before the release slipped straight into Q2. And nothing in the company's presentations or materials up to this point referred to a regional rollout either, so it doesn't appear as if this is how Intel planned things out.
Apologies for the confusion, we had incorrect information. Samsung systems with Intel Arc graphics are available now in Korea and will scale to other regions. Additional OEMs in other regions will have systems in the coming weeks.April 8, 2022
However, it's not like South Korean customers are swimming in Arc GPU options. It appears that the only available laptop model featuring Arc Alchemist graphics is the company's Samsung Book 2 Pro, which is currently in stock on Samsung's website. The only model that features Intel's Arc Alchemist pairs it with a Core i7-1260P Alder Lake CPU alongside the entry-level Arc A350M GPU, which collectively drives a relatively meager 1080p AMOLED screen. A 1 TB SSD and 32 GB of DDR5 RAM round out its hardware specs. Intel's Arc A350M features six Xe cores, six ray tracing units, and a core frequency of 1150 MHz. The memory bus stands at a paltry 64-bits wide with a maximum memory capacity of 4GB from the chip's GDDR6 subsystem.
Interestingly, pricing isn't very palatable, as Samsung is asking 620,000 KRW ($2,137) for that particular configuration after a 17% promotional price cut.
It's currently unclear why Intel opted for an initial rollout of its Arc graphics cards in South Korea instead of the global release which was previously expected. However, the most likely reason lies not with Intel but with system integrators themselves. Companies are still rolling out mobility designs based on Intel's Alder Lake, which were introduced earlier this year.
The likely issue here is that these laptop designs were originally architected to feature either AMD or Nvidia's discrete GPU solutions. Integrating Intel Arc discrete solutions requires platform and software validation that aren't completely interchangeable between different GPU providers. If this is the case, then Intel must've partnered with Samsung specifically to at least have some Arc 350M units on sale when they were supposed to, turning this more into a paper launch than expected.
Other, speculative possibilities relate to either insufficient Arc Alchemist manufacturing volumes for a general market rollout, or issues with Intel's software and driver stack development. The company has already failed once in releasing day-0 drivers for the juggernaut Elden Ring, which released on February 24th. The latest - and only - Intel Arc graphics driver currently available stands at version 126.96.36.1995, and was released on March 30th. And it still doesn't include a single Elden Ring support or optimization reference. It does look like Intel isn't completely content with the state of its current software stack.
The new Samsung Galaxy Book 2 Pro sporting Intel's Arc A350M discrete GPU has already been put through its paces in a YouTube review. Performance-wise, Intel's entry-level option falls more or less around its expected performance profile. It appears Samsung opted to configure this solution for a 30 W TDP (out of a possible 25-35 W range). In that configuration, Intel's A350M proved to be around 14% slower than an Nvidia GTX 1650 on 3D Mark's Time Spy, and 22% slower on the Fire Strike benchmark. The chip does offer higher performance than Nvidia's entry-level MX450, although it seems the performance difference (17% in favor of Intel's A350M) can be attributed to its equally 17% higher TDP. The A350M also delivered a 3D Mark Port Royal score of 200 points.
That doesn't appear to be a very good showing from a 6 nm GPU, but we must remember that Intel is likely still working around the clock to improve its graphics drivers in time for Arc Alchemist's discrete desktop launch, which is currently slated for sometime around this Q2 (April 1st through June 31st). Let's hope that the launch showcases better availability than Intel's much smaller, mobile-oriented Arc A350M and A370M.