Intel Opts for China-Exclusive Desktop GPU Launch

Intel tossed gamers a curveball this week by belatedly announcing that its upcoming desktop Arc GPUs will only be available to the Chinese market during its Q2 launch. Customers outside of China will have to wait until late summer to get their hands on pre-built Intel Arc systems. It’s another disappointment for Intel’s not-so-triumphant return to discrete GPUs, but probably the best it can do right now.

  • Intel launched entry-level Arc 3 mobile GPUs end of March
    • But as a Samsung exclusive in South Korea
    •  Laptops with Arc 5 & 7 cards should arrive in early summer
  • Entry-level budget Arc 3 GPUs will still launch in Q2
    • But only in China through pre-built computers, with component sales after
  • More powerful Arc 5 & 7 GPUs will launch “later this summer” globally
    • But only with OEMs and system integrators at launch & component sales after

It’s All in the Fine Print
Intel is clearly struggling to keep up with its GPU launch roadmap, which we noted during the initial announcement. The company may be technically hitting promised deadlines, but it’s Arc’s launch is seemingly scaled back every month.

  • Supply: Chip supply still remains tight, and China’s spring COVID lockdowns will snarl supply chains this summer
  • Software: Intel admitted that they’ve “had some software readiness delays”; in fairness, AMD & Nvidia have had years to finetune drivers
    • No updates on Intel’s open-source XeSS upscaling software, which was already delayed to summer

This course correction, on paper, helps Intel ration limited supply and give itself the best shot possible at ironing out software problems by limiting system configurations. 
Did Intel Miss Its Chance?
If Intel was looking to take advantage of the pandemic GPU boom, it may have missed its window. Arc GPUs won’t enter retail channels in volume until the holiday season, where they will be competing with new launches from AMD and Nvidia. If there is a silver lining, it’s that Intel isn’t competing in the premium segment this year; however, AMD & Nvidia are likely to start offloading their less competitive products in the coming months as GPU prices trend back to MSRP.