Mt. Tiburon Testing: The Intel Arc A700 arrives and acquits itself handily

The new board series nestles comfortably between AMD RX 6600 XT and Nvidia RTX 3070

Jon Peddie

Intel’s official release of the long-awaited dGPU-based AIB was met with fanfare and some dismissive comments; haters got to hate. Because of Intel’s disconnect between its marketing department and engineering and manufacturing, the products were pre-announced way to soon, causing the company to have to make a bunch of apologetic comments and presentations. Everyone knows and will tell you how you should have done something.

The thing so many people didn’t take into consideration is that Intel has been supplying CPUs to every segment of every category PC, server, supercomputer, laptop, and workstation for about 40 years—and that includes the Fortune 100 and every government in the world. The importance of that statement is that Intel knows better than anyone what it means to be bullet-proof, backward compatible, dependable, and offer multi-year support. That stuff doesn’t show up in a table of specifications like TFLOPS or nanometers, but when your clients are the take-no-prisoners biggest of the big you better make sure every corner case is covered, or at least explained. And so, while Intel engineers and manufacturing people were doing what they had to do, and know how to do, marketing was running its mouth off with fancy slides pre-selling the product.

And so there was criticism and in some case disappointment. But as it turns out, Intel’s product answers the critics in performance. The first Arc board is very good.

The AIBs perform well, are affordable, run quiet, and are built to five nines.¹

We put the A7x0s through the usual battery off test, some simulated benchmarks, and a lot of games, as shown in the following table.

Tests used in the AIB evaluations

Some of the games produced very high frame rates (e.g., Metro Exodus at 1440, and Wolfenstein at 1440), while others like Bright Memory (a heavily ray traced demo for Nvidia) produced sub 10 fps scores.

We calculated a Pmark score based on TFLOPS, FPS, and Scores, and took the average of them, which is shown in the following table.

Pmark test results

As the table shows, the two-year old AMD RX 6600XT gets the highest Pmark scores. That is because it is the next to lowest cost and has the lowest TDP requirement. However, as shown in the following table, in the case of raw performance, the Nvidia RTX3070 significantly out-performs the other AIBs.

Test results

The raw data spreadsheet is available upon request.

The Intel Arc A750 gets the second best Pmark scores, as shown in the following chart. It is the least expensive AIB, but has above average TDP specifications. We suspect the Intel TDP is over specified.

Intel’s Arc A750 is a solid, economical performer

The Intel A700 series benefits from the PCI Express feature Resizable BAR. Resizable BAR was introduced in 2010 with PCI Express 3.0 in desktop motherboards. However, it required specific support at the CPU and GPU BIOS level and wasn’t implemented. Then in 2021, when AMD launched the Radeon RX 6800 XT, the company added support for Resizable BAR (Base Address Register), which AMD branded as Smart Access Memory (SAM).

R-BAR or SAM sets how much of the graphics memory is made available to the CPU (the setting is done in the system BIOS). In the past, the CPU has been limited to 256MB of the AIBs VRAM. Activating the system’s Resizable BAR can boost the CPU’s access to the full capacity of the VRAM. For games that have any CPU dependency, this can make a significant difference in performance by reducing read-write operations. And with the advent of PCIe 4.0 the benefits are even greater.

We ran a few tests (not exhaustively any means) to see what the effect might be on the Arc A770 and found the average improvement in FPS to be 32%—which is quite significant, and basically for free. The results are shown in the following chart.

Resizable BAR on and off

Every gamer has his or her favorite game and only sites like Babeltech do exhaustive testing of dozens games at difference resolutions. And gamers move from one game to another so they would likely know if the AIB they buy is a good performer, or has just been tweaked for a particular game. Overall, the Nvidia 3070 is the highest performer in this test suite, and the Arc A750 is the best overall performance-value AIB. When power consumption is added, the Pmark shows the two-year-old AMD RX6600XT to the best value. Hopefully, the different points of view give the reader information to make an intelligent choice and not add to the confusion.