Go inside CES 2022, I focused on Intel Arc Alchemist. Since the announcement of Arc and the generations it will be made up of, Intel has committed to a release date in the first few months of 2022. But at the beginning of the show that year, we knew almost nothing about Arc Alchemist other than its name.

Regrettably, Intel’s CES 2022 keynote didn’t bring much light into the darkness. The company confirmed that discrete Arc GPUs will hit 50 laptops and desktops in 2022, but still won’t deliver hard metrics or even the number of cards in the range. The clock is ticking for Intel Arc Alchemist, and with the murmur of internal battles mounting, it bodes well for the future of the company’s discrete GPUs.

As great as Intel Arc Alchemist is – and I hope it is – some optimistic skepticism is important.

I’m struggling to get Arc on the right track

Intel held its CES keynote the day before the exhibition space opened, as it usually does. The company spent six minutes talking about it Arc alchemist, half of which was taken by an Intel Deep Link demo – a technology Intel launched in 2020.

During that time, we’ve learned that Intel supplies cards to its manufacturing partners, that over 50 mobile and desktop designs are “coming soon,” and that XeSS and upscaling technology is similar to Nvidia’s Deep Learning Super Sampling (DLSS), comes to Death Stranding Director’s Cut on the pc. Intel also re-confirmed that the Arc Alchemist launch date will be sometime in the first quarter of 2022.

Three days after the keynote Intel has cleaned up this release date from the Arc Alchemist product page. It wasn’t just in one place, either. Wherever the company mentioned “Q1 2022”, you will now only see “2022”. Normally this wouldn’t be a big deal, but it has been followed by weeks of rumors of internal delays and battles with release dates at Intel.

Well-known leaker Moore’s Law is Dead detailed the release date in a video released in December, with one of the sources saying the release date has changed about a dozen times. Another said something seems to be “wrong” about the way the Intel graphics manage and execute the Arc Alchemist startup.

It is never a good idea to take rumors as law. But given Intel’s reluctance to launch a line of products in a few weeks’ time, I’m skeptical. Even if the cards hit the market in the first few months of the year, it looks like the majority of the range will hit the market later in the year.

That is not bad in itself. Delays are a good thing in most cases as they allow designers to spend more time getting a product right rather than simply taking it into the wild with errors. However, that doesn’t seem to be Intel’s approach here. Given the reinforcement of the release date, it seems like Intel would eat its cake and want to eat it too – keeping the promised release date while the bulk of the range is being postponed in the background. I’m speculating, but that impression stayed with me after Intel’s CES keynote.

When you have it, show it off

A rendering of an Intel Arc Alchemist graphics card.
Image credit: Wccftech

You can try getting information from cryptic marketing and the phone game with speculation about the release date, but you don’t have to go that far. If Intel could showcase Arc Alchemist at CES, it would have. Or at least it should.

Intel has a load of Arc alchemist information at Architecture Day in August 2021. We learned about XeSS, the N6 manufacturing process, and the Xe-HPG architecture that powers the range. And since then, everything we’ve heard has been piecemeal and drawn out so far that even minor announcements, like a single game that supports XeSS, seem important.

Even with no specs, Intel hasn’t even hinted as much about what Arc Alchemist is trying to achieve. Where do the cards fit in the current GPU market? Can buyers expect flagship, mid-range, or low-end performance? How many cards are there in the range? I could spend a few hundred words on just rhetorical questions, and that’s not good for a product coming out any moment.

Intel usually doesn’t shy away from sharing performance metrics. Even though Intel wasn’t ready to provide specific numbers, I still expected information on relative performance – a vague graph showing competitors to the flagship card or a line graph showing how performance scales across the range.

These numbers generally have no meaning and are always skewed to favor the brand they are presenting. But they set expectations and show that a product is making progress towards a goal promised by the company.

Hold your breath

LEDs form the Intel ARC logo.

Intel Arc Alchemist aims to do that AMD / Nvidia duality that has dominated pc graphics for more than two decades, but CES was a worrying sign of an allegedly disruptive product. Not much bothering Intel right now. The company threw its hat in the ring, but that was it.

I’m not opposed to Arc Alchemist, and to be honest, I advocate Intel bringing the much-needed competition into graphics. After CES, however, my enthusiasm waned. I’m looking forward to Arc Alchemist, but remain skeptical until Intel will provide more specific information about the range.

That doesn’t mean I’ve lost all of my enthusiasm for Arc Alchemist. XeSS and hardware-accelerated ray tracing are a successful duo, and Intel has made major improvements to its graphics products in recent years. Arc Alchemist looks great for all we know – but that’s the problem right now; we don’t know much.

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