Arc A370M tested: Intel’s first GPU takes on Nvidia and AMD in earnest
It finally happens.
After several years of teases, leaks, hints, and an extremely sweet desktop graphics card, Intel’s first Arc discrete GPUs are finally coming to mainstream laptops like the Samsung Galaxy Book2 Pro and Lenovo Slim 7i. .
But how do they work? To find out, I paid a visit to Intel’s Jones Farm campus in Portland, Oregon, where Intel invited me to put an Arc A370M reference laptop (based on MSI’s Summit E16 Flip Evo) in the wringer. I was given just over an hour to test Intel’s entry-level GPU using benchmarks of my choosing, in a similar arrangement to our recent early performance preview for laptop CPUs. 12th generation Core i9.
At the end of the line ? Intel may have just started in discrete graphics, but Arc’s results are already impressive.
3DMark Time Spy
We start in 3DMark Time Spy, a classic synthetic graphics benchmark that PCWorld uses frequently to judge the performance of anything that comes up on our benchmark.
The Intel Arc A370M posted a strong score of 4,405 in 3DMark Time Spy. That’s almost two and a half times faster than the Intel Iris Xe alone, a significant improvement that certainly puts the Arc A370M in a different performance class.
Of course, it’s the entry-level discrete GPUs that are the real challenge, and here the Arc A370M holds its own. It’s about 15% faster than Nvidia’s RTX 3050, as tested in HP’s Specter x360 16, and essentially on par with the Asus Vivobook Pro 15 OLED, which again powered an Nvidia RTX 3050.
Unsurprisingly, the Arc A370M lags behind the mid-level discrete graphics options found in laptops that explicitly target gaming. The MSI GF76 Katana’s RTX 3050 Ti is just under 50% faster, and the Acer Nitro 5 with an RTX 3060 nearly doubles the performance of the Arc A370M in this benchmark.
Final Fantasy XIV: Endwalker Reference
Playtests start with Final Fantasy XIV: Endwalker. This isn’t a test that PC World normally runs but, given that the Arc A370M is a low-key, entry-level offering, I thought testing an older popular game without cutting-edge features might give some insight . After all, a lot of people (myself included) spend more time in games like this than in Cyberpunk 2077 or Metro Exodus.
This test puts the performance of the Intel Arc A370M just under 50% above that of Intel’s Iris Xe graphics with 96 EU. It’s a much smaller gain than in 3DMark Time Spy, but still large enough to significantly improve the real-world experience. Iris Xe does just fine with 1080p and High (Desktop) settings, while the A370M is pretty smooth.
Intel’s benchmark laptop with Arc A370M falls slightly behind the HP Specter x360 16 with RTX 3050 in this benchmark, but the margin of victory is so small that it’s a hair’s breadth away from being tied. I doubt most gamers will see a difference in the real world when playing Final Fantasy XIV on each system.
Of course, the Acer Nitro 5 is in a different realm, as expected given its use of Nvidia’s RTX 3060. This type of mid-range discrete GPU allows gamers to aim for well over 60 FPS and enjoy a high refresh display.
Shadow of the Tomb Raider
Shadow of the Tomb Raider is now four years old, believe it or not, but still an excellent game to gauge how well a PC will handle the most engaging games of the “last-gen” console era.
Intel Arc A370M offers a significant gain over the Iris Xe here, coming so close to a 60fps average. Iris Xe can’t quite handle this game at 1080p and on the highest settings, struggling with an unacceptably high average of 21 (with plenty of mid-teen drops).
The Arc A370M also beats the HP Specter x360 16 with Nvidia RTX 3050 by over 15%, a bigger margin than I expected. That’s a nice boost and shows that the Arc A370M can indeed beat Nvidia’s entry-level graphics in certain situations.
Once again, the Acer Nitro 5 with RTX 3060 shows the difference between a mainstream laptop with entry-level discrete graphics and a “real” gaming laptop, easily beating all competitors.
Metro Exodus Enhanced Edition
Last we come to Metro Exodus Enhanced Edition, the most demanding game I’ve tested and the only game I’ve tested with ray tracing. Even then, I only used the high graphics preset, which sets ray tracing to its lowest “normal” setting and uses hybrid reflections instead of fully ray traced reflections.
Intel Arc A370M beats Iris Xe by an infinite percentage because, well, Iris Xe doesn’t meet the minimum system requirements for the game Metro Exodus Enhanced Edition is unusual because ray tracing is mandatory to run the game at all. This leaves Iris Xe in the cold of nuclear winter.
The Arc A370M gets away with the HP Specter x360 16 with RTX 3050 graphics and ultimately loses three frames per second. This reflects a 15% performance advantage for the RTX 3050 and hints that the Arc A370M might fall behind slightly in ray tracing compared to Nvidia’s hardware.
Acer’s Nitro 5 with an RTX 3060 crushes everything else in the field again, beating the Arc A370M and RTX 3050 machines by a triple margin. This noise may have something to do with the more limited 4GB of video memory available on the Arc A370M and RTX 3050, compared to 6GB on the RTX 3060. Ray tracing is notoriously memory hungry.
Improved topaz video AI
The last test is different – a content creation workload. Topaz Video Enhanced AI is a tool that can improve or improve the quality of video clips. I used Topaz Video Enhance AI to upscale videos for my own YouTube channel, Computer Gaming Yesterday, and found that discrete graphics can dramatically improve the performance of this application.
One quirk to note is that I ran this test using Topaz’s experimental multi-GPU support. Intel has worked with Topaz to make this feature work with Intel hardware. Intel Arc systems can simultaneously use discrete Arc graphics and integrated Xe graphics, one of the unique and intriguing “Deep Link” features offered by Intel Arc laptops with Intel Core processors. I tried using this experimental feature with the Nvidia laptops I had for comparison, in which case the Nvidia GPU was paired with Iris Xe integrated graphics, but it degraded performance significantly. So, for these systems, the results below show the performance when running only on the Nvidia GPU.
Comparing Intel Arc A370M to Iris Xe shows the benefit of using even entry-level discrete graphics for content creation. The Arc A370M cuts the sample clip nearly four times faster than the Iris Xe laptop. This could literally save you hours if you’re looking to scale video files longer than a few minutes.
The Arc A370M was found to be about 40% faster than the HP Specter x360 16 with Nvidia RTX 3050 graphics. That’s a pretty big win. Arc scores a bigger margin of victory over the RTX 3050 here than in other tests, showing that Intel’s hardware is making maximum use of experimental multi-GPU support.
How we tested
These tests were performed on Intel Arc A370M reference laptops located at Intel’s Jones Farm campus. I had access to not one, but five identical benchmarks, which allowed me to repeat the tests several times to verify the results. The results here are averages of the systems tested.
Intel also provided an Alder Lake benchmark, the equivalent of an MSI Summit E14 Flip, to provide a comparison to Intel’s Iris Xe graphics. Other systems evaluated, including the HP Specter x360 16 and Acer Nitro 5, are review systems not supplied by Intel. The Intel benchmarks and the HP Specter x360 16 were set to “performance” power management, while the Acer Nitro 5 was at its default setting.
Here is the list of parameters for each reference.
3DMark Time Spy: Standard Time Spy demo with default settings.
Shadow of the Tomb Raider: DX12 1080p Highest settings, Ray Tracing off, TAA on.
Final Fantasy XIV: Endwalker: 1080p at highest settings (desktop).
Metro Exodus Enhanced Edition: 1080p at high benchmark settings.
Topaz Video Enhance AI: An eight-second 1080p .MOV file was upscaled to 4K using the Artemis Medium Quality AI model.
What most gamers and enthusiasts want to know is simple: can you buy a laptop with Intel’s Arc and expect performance on par with Nvidia and AMD?
The answer, it seems, is yes.
These are good results for Intel’s Arc A370M. The faster of Intel’s two entry-level discrete GPUs appears to be on par with Nvidia’s GeForce RTX 3050 as implemented in a variety of mainstream business and enthusiast laptops (though laptops initial Arcs cost significantly more than RTX 3050 laptops). The Intel Arc A370M can easily handle “last generation” 3D games and can give a boost to content creation applications that rely on the GPU.
The Arc A370M falls short of the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 in Acer’s Nitro 5, but it’s not meant to compete in this segment. That task will fall to Intel’s Arc A550M, which has twice the memory (8GB vs. 4GB) and twice the Xe cores (16 vs. 8) compared to the Arc A370M. We’ll have to wait and see how the Arc A550M fares when it arrives this summer, but napkin math suggests it might lag behind the RTX 3050 Ti and RTX 3060 laptops.
I am satisfied with these numbers. Intel Arc offers a third option for people looking for a slim and portable Windows laptop to handle gaming and content creation. Now let’s hope Intel – and OEM system makers – can turn the current trickle of Arc-equipped machines into a flood.