What’s it like owning a brand-new Intel Arc A700-series graphics card? Is it the show-stopping clapback against Nvidia that wallet-pinched PC gamers have been dreaming of? Is it an absolute mess of unoptimized hardware and software? Does it play video games?
That last question is easy to answer: yes, and pretty well. Intel now has a series of GPUs entering the PC gaming market just in time for a few major industry trends to play out: some easing in the supply chain, some crashes in cryptocurrency markets, and more GPUs being sold near their originally announced MSRPs. If those factors continue to move in consumer-friendly directions, it will mean that people might actually get to buy and enjoy the best parts of Intel’s new A700-series graphics cards. (Sadly, limited stock remains a concern in modern GPU reviews. Without firm answers from Intel on how many units it’s making, we’re left wondering what kind of Arc GPU sell-outs to expect until further notice.)
While this is a fantastic first-generation stab at an established market, it’s still a first-generation stab. In great news, Intel is taking the GPU market seriously with how its Arc A770 (starting at $329) and Arc A750 (starting at $289) cards are architected. The best results are trained on modern and future rendering APIs, and in those gaming scenarios, their power and performance exceed their price points.
Yet our time with both Arc-branded GPUs has been like picking through a box of unlabeled chocolates. While none of our testing results were necessarily revolting, a significant percentage tasted funny enough to make a general recommendation pretty tricky.
Warning: Intel buyers will want (if not need) a ReBAR-compatible PC
There’s a lot to get into with Intel’s latest major entry into the GPU market, and it’s important to start by addressing a considerable barrier to entry for potential customers.
Intel strongly urges buyers of its new Arc graphics card line to triple-check their computer’s support for a pair of relatively recent features: Resizable BAR (“ReBAR”) and/or Smart Access Memory. We say “and/or” because they’re branded versions of the same technology. The shortest explanation is that a ReBAR-compatible motherboard can send much larger chunks of data to and from the graphics card on a regular basis, and Intel would really like you to turn the feature on if possible.
Will the Arc A750 and Arc A770 graphics cards work without Resizable BAR enabled? Yes, but we don’t recommend it. Intel’s Arc architecture leans heavily into ReBAR’s wide-open pipeline to your GPU’s frame buffer—so much so that it doesn’t have a fallback when a game’s workload includes constant streaming of assets like textures. The best example I found was in driving along Cyberpunk 2077‘s sprawling highways at high speeds. With ReBAR enabled on my AMD Ryzen 7 5800X system, I could expect smooth-enough driving at 1440p with “high” settings enabled and ray tracing disabled. (This test’s “1 percent low” frame rate count, indicating the worst persistent dips, measured above 30 fps, which is pretty good.)
I then rebooted, disabled ReBAR on the BIOS level, and played the same Cyberpunk segment again. The result was nigh unplayable, thanks to constant multi-second pauses and chugs. To give this scenario a fair shake, I immediately reloaded the save file in question and tried again in case this was a matter of one-time shader compilation causing the stutters. The bad numbers persisted between the tests.
Should your favorite games revolve around tight corridors or slower runs through last-gen 3D environments, the Arc GPU difference between ReBAR enabled and disabled can range from a margin-of-error sliver to a 10–15 percent dip. But even if you can stomach those issues, you might run into significant quirks outside of gaming. In my case, Google Chrome and Microsoft Edge would both routinely glitch with ReBAR disabled while videos played in any tab. The whole browser window would turn into jibberish while the rest of the OS environment remained intact. It looked like this:
The only fix for this error was to enable ReBAR. If you don’t have a relatively recent CPU-and-motherboard combo that supports either ReBAR or Smart Access Memory—basically, Intel’s 10-series and up or AMD’s 3-series and up—the rest of this review may be moot for you.
That’s an unfortunate brick wall for a PC gaming market dominated by budget-priced CPUs and GPUs.