Roughly five years of effort have reached a moment of fruition for Intel’s graphics chip efforts, as the company launched a new batch of products designed for video games on laptops Wednesday.
The new graphics chip is called the Arc 3, and while the chip itself will end up on laptops, the technology behind it has uses well beyond video games. The chip's architecture, AI processing capabilities and supporting software is shared by Intel between server and PC business units, according to Intel Vice President Roger Chandler. Each unit will be able to take common building blocks and then refine that technology into chips aimed at their respective server or PC customers.
“We have a derivative, kind of parallel architecture: It’s based off the same DNA, and it's really aimed toward the data-center class of products,” Chandler said. “We’ve got similar paths here, and so it’s a cross-segment business plan.”
The new laptop graphics chip is a further sign of the changing Intel: The company, once known for its chip manufacturing prowess, has contracted TSMC to manufacture the Arc 3. Shortly after CEO Pat Gelsinger took over the top boss job, he said the company’s future plans included betting heavily on regaining its leadership in chip fabrication, but also said the company would more willingly use contract chip manufacturers such as TSMC.
Inside the Arc 3, Intel says it has combined its Xe cores, with real time ray-tracing units — the technology makes computer images look more realistic — and specific processor functions for AI and media encoding for streaming video.
Intel is pitching the Arc 3 chip as a step up from its integrated graphics technology, powerful enough to handle the demands of newer video games with comfort and perform creative tasks related to video editing. This summer, Intel plans to release the Arc 5 and Arc 7, adding more memory and processing horsepower.
“We wanted to design a graphics product that can deliver great gaming experiences, but it’s also designed for what the new world looks like: because we’ve all been through this period of time where we’re all working remotely, or our kids are educating remotely,” Chandler said.
To achieve the results Intel has unveiled Wednesday, Chandler said that the company had to look beyond its offices and executive suites: At least half of the engineers and others working on the graphics chip effort came from outside of Intel. After years of ceding the separate graphics processing market to Nvidia and ATI, which eventually was bought by AMD, Intel revived its effort and began integrating graphics processing into its central processor designs.