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How Intel can become the frontrunner in the GPU race in 2024

Intel had a tough time with Arc Alchemist, and it seems like they might have another challenge with their next-gen Battlemage GPUs. The competition is fierce as always, and AMD and Nvidia have some big plans for the upcoming year. Even though there are some potential problems ahead, Intel might still impress us with Battlemage — in a positive way. Here’s what’s happening with Intel Arc Battlemage right now, and why it could be one of the top GPUs of the year.

Before Intel Arc Alchemist was released, one of the major complaints was that the public was left in the dark for a long time. The release date was delayed multiple times, and there wasn’t much info about the GPUs, unlike the constant leaks and hype we’re used to with Nvidia and AMD. That’s pretty much the situation we’re in with Battlemage right now, and it’s disappointing. Most of what we know is just from rumors.

So, what kind of performance can we expect from Arc Battlemage? It’s probably safe to say that Nvidia’s RTX 50-series or AMD’s RDNA 4 won’t have to worry about it, but current-gen cards might feel the heat. The exact specs are still unknown, and it’s no surprise — we’re still in the early stages. However, the rumors have been getting less and less optimistic.

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Are we in for another Intel vs Nvidia battle?

Early leaks suggested that the top-tier Arc Battlemage could go head-to-head with Nvidia’s RTX 4070 Ti in gaming. However, YouTuber RedGamingTech has since reported that the specs have been significantly reduced. The flagship is now rumored to have 40 Xe cores, a maximum clock speed of 3GHz, GDDR6 or GDDR6X VRAM with a 192-bit bus, and 18MB of L2 cache. Just to compare, the Arc A770 has 32 Xe cores. It’s difficult to see how this GPU could outperform the RTX 4070 Ti.

YouTuber Moore’s Law Is Dead also shared an update on the specs, indicating models with 512 execution units (EUs) down to 256 EUs. That’s the same maximum number of EUs as the Arc A770. However, other rumors are quite contradictory. PCGamer suggests that Battlemage will double the number of shaders and improve efficiency, and that the Xe core count should be “a lot higher.”

Intel is clearly optimistic about Battlemage’s future. Tom Petersen, an Intel fellow, recently discussed the development of Battlemage, and it seems to be progressing well. Many Intel engineers have reportedly shifted their focus to developing the next generation of GPUs, known as Arc Celestial, while the software team is fine-tuning Battlemage for its release. Although 2024 is a possibility, early 2025 might be a safer estimate.

The uncertainty extends beyond just Battlemage’s release date. It’s not hard to imagine that Intel’s entire graphics division might have undergone some changes when its head, Raja Koduri, left last year to lead a startup focused on generative AI.

On the flip side, while that change was huge, it shouldn’t have a major impact on Battlemage’s development. However, future generations might feel the effects more, which is where that sense of uncertainty comes in. As it stands, we don’t even know if Intel will just stick to mobile chips or also release desktop versions of Battlemage, let alone what comes after that.

Will Battlemage follow Arc Alchemist’s path?

Intel Arc Alchemist was available in both desktop and laptop versions, but the same might not be the case for Battlemage. According to Moore’s Law Is Dead, a leaked Intel document suggests that there might not be dedicated Battlemage graphics for laptops. This hints that we might only see a desktop chip, which is a bit strange considering that entry-level gaming laptops are a great fit for a GPU like Battlemage.

A recent Wccftech article reveals that Intel’s Linux Kernel patches include support for Xe2 Battlemage iGPUs, specifically for Adaptive Sharpening Filter technology. This filter, which operates through the display engine, applies sharpening in games and videos, with a strength that can be adjusted from 0 (off) to 255 (maximum).

These iGPUs are expected to be part of the next-gen Lunar Lake CPUs, Intel’s upcoming laptop range. The desktop chips are named Arrow Lake this time around. It’s too soon to say if Battlemage will be available in laptops beyond integrated graphics solutions. Likewise, it’s tough to predict what the future holds for Intel Arc Celestial and Intel Arc Druid. However, there have been rumors about Intel potentially shutting down its discrete graphics division at that time.

Once again, we’re turning to Moore’s Law Is Dead for leaks. The YouTuber mentioned that internal Intel documents list both Celestial and Druid as a single-tile configuration. This was labeled as “alternative flagships,” and there are reportedly still two low-end dies that haven’t been officially canceled. However, if this does happen, both Celestial and Druid may only exist as APU GPU tiles.

We’re still stuck with uncertain rumors instead of solid info, with anywhere from nine months to over a year before Intel Arc Battlemage is released. However, the confirmed details we have suggest that Intel might have a better shot at success with Battlemage than it initially appears.

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Can Intel offer what the market needs?

Intel was aware of the product it was releasing when it launched Alchemist. Petersen and Ryan Shrout (who has since left Intel) both openly discussed Alchemist’s capabilities, but they were also transparent about one thing — Intel had a strategy, and it wasn’t about dominating in performance.

Rather than promoting Alchemist as the most powerful GPU on the market, which it certainly wasn’t, Intel focused on performance-per-dollar. The Arc A770 was launched at $350 for the 16GB version, while the Arc A750 had a list price (MSRP) of $290. This made these GPUs cheaper than their AMD and Nvidia equivalents. Initially, this strategy wasn’t as apparent due to the aforementioned issues with Alchemist, but now, it’s a different story altogether.

Intel’s Arc A770 is available for as low as $290, and it can outperform similar GPUs in both rasterization and ray tracing. AMD’s previous-gen cards struggle with ray tracing workloads, but Intel handles them quite well, even competing against Nvidia’s current-gen RTX 4060 Ti.

Intel didn’t make much of an impact with Arc Alchemist. In fact, I don’t know anyone personally who owns these GPUs outside of testing. That’s not too surprising, considering they’re a first-gen product. Many see these purchases as a leap of faith. But looking ahead to Battlemage, I think Intel is in a much better position to compete with Nvidia and AMD. It doesn’t even need to make any big changes. If it can stick to the strategy it used with Arc Alchemist, it’ll already be on the right track.

If Intel can avoid the problems that affected the cards at launch and maintain its value-oriented approach, it could aim for the most popular parts of the discrete GPU market — the entry-level and midrange segments. Most of us don’t have rigs with RTX 4090s, and cards like the RTX 3060 or the GTX 1650 are the most common in Steam’s Hardware Surveys. These graphics cards, focused on value rather than raw performance, are what gamers are looking for these days — and Intel can probably deliver that.

Vishal Kawadkar
About author

With over 8 years of experience in tech journalism, Vishal is someone with an innate passion for exploring and delivering fresh takes. Embracing curiosity and innovation, he strives to provide an informed and unique outlook on the ever-evolving world of technology.