Intel Arc A750 review: Intel’s cheap graphics card comes good
Until recently, the story of Intel’s Arc GPUs has been a litany of mild disappointments. After years of it being easier to buy an original O’Keefe than a reasonably priced graphics card, the Arc series brought hope that it might actually be possible to get a decent PC upgrade for less than £500. Then they were repeatedly delayed, confirmed to possess some unwelcome technical quirks (like wanting Resizable BAR on at all times), and ultimately released with merely decent-ish performance. Nothing awful, but nowhere near as special as they once seemed like they could be.
In 2023, however, Intel Arc may be on a redemption… arc. A series of driver updates, Intel claims, have improved average FPS performance by up to 87% since launch, with major gains in frame times (the time between each new rendered frame) as well. The specific model we have here, the Arc A750 Limited Edition, has also had its price cut from £330 / $289 to £250 / $250. More power for less money? I’d say that’s worth a fresh evaluation.
Especially since this new pricing brings the Arc A750 Limited Edition further into a realm that Nvidia and AMD currently seem disinterested in: genuinely affordable, maybe even what you could call cheap graphics cards. Yes, it’s satisfying to run Cyberpunk 2077 at maxed-out 4K on a DLSS 3-wielding RTX 4070 Ti, but that still costs the better part of a grand, and 1080p remains the most-used monitor resolution for gaming by far. The world needs a better choice of lower-end cards, and the Arc A750 now has a better chance to deliver.
A warning, though: while this GPU does impress in benchmarks, it hasn’t ditched those quirks. Chief of which: you still need to manually enable Resizable BAR (or Smart Access Memory, as it’s called on AMD CPU-based systems) to get its best performance. This isn’t too difficult, and your BIOS’ EZ mode may even include a simple toggle for it, but I’m wary of Intel setting a precedent where such deep dives into your PC become the norm. Graphics cards have worked out of the box, driver updates aside, for ages – let’s not regress from that, pretty please. There’s also the issue of reduced compatibility, as Resizeable BAR is only supported by Intel 10th Gen chips and newer, while Smart Access Memory needs at least a Ryzen 3000 CPU. Got an Core i7-8700K, or a Ryzen 2600X? The Arc A750 will still function, but not as effectively.
Intel Arc A750 review: 1440p benchmarks
So, perhaps the Arc A750’s ReBAR preference means it’s not quite as for-the-masses as its new price would allow. However, once it is enabled, this modest GPU can comfortably outspeed its closest low-budget rivals, while often keeping pace with more expensive fare. This is the case even at 1440p, a higher resolution than its 1080p comfort zone.
Here, the Arc A750 never failed to combine maxed-out quality settings with at least fairly smooth framerates, unlike the RTX 3050 and RX 6500 XT. Intel’s card is somewhat less consistent than the Nvidia and AMD alternatives, dropping down to the RTX 3050’s level in Final Fantaxy XV and Horizon Zero Dawn, but those are balanced out by great showings in Shadow of the Tomb Raider, Watch Dogs Legion, and Metro Exodus. In these, it either competes with or outperforms the £300+ RTX 3060 and RX 6650 XT. The Arc A750 and RTX 3060 traded blows quite evenly at launch as well, suggesting that not every game has received a massive FPS gain from Intel’s driver updates, though I do recall that the RTX 3060 was originally faster in Hitman 3. Now, that’s reversed, putting the Arc A750 in the lead.
Hitman 3, which I suppose we should now be calling Hitman World of Assassination, is also one of a growing number of games that supports Xe Super Sampling (XeSS). This is Intel’s answer to Nvidia’s DLSS upscaling/anti-aliasing combo, and honestly, it’s not quite as sharp as DLSS when upscaling to 1440p – though it is just as good at the more recent versions of AMD FSR, another upscaling option.
Because XeSS and FSR are both GPU agnostic, meaning they’ll work on any modern graphics card (including Nvidia ones), they’re not really a selling point for their respective brand’s hardware in the same way that DLSS is. Nonetheless, it’s good to have alternatives for non-RTX owners, and XeSS works pretty well on the Arc A750. On its Quality setting, XeSS nudged that 112fps average in Hitman up to 125fps, and in Shadow of the Tomb Raider, the same setting helped maintain a smooth 54fps average even after adding Ultra-quality ray tracing.
Yes, ray tracing support is here as well, and for a £250 graphics card it ain’t half bad with these shiniest of visual effects. Evidently, if it can nearly hit 60fps at 1440p with a bit of upscaling. Compare and contrast with the similarly priced RX 6500 XT, which ostensibly supports ray tracing but folds like a Maccies napkin whenever you try to actually use it.
All that said, the Arc A750 isn’t really a 1440p card. None of these GPUs are, when they can only reach over 60fps in a handful of games. It, and indeed its ray tracing capability, are much better suited to the next rez down…
Intel Arc A750 review: 1080p benchmarks
The Arc A750 once again has its weak points in Final Fantasy XV and Horizon Zero Dawn, but even so, it’s generally hitting 60fps or higher (sometimes much higher) on the highest preset options. Again, it handily beats the RX 6500 XT and RTX 3050 on average, and is more often than not a match for the more expensive RTX 3060 and RX 6650 XT.
When the pricier cards pull ahead, they do so drastically: on any gaming monitor with a refresh rate higher than 60Hz, the Arc A750’s 30-40fps disadvantage in FFXV and HZD will be visibly apparent. The same goes for the RX 6650 XT’s lead in Assassins’ Creed Valhalla. But then, AMD’s model is about £60-£80 more than the Arc A750 Limited Edition, and at what passes for the “budget” end of today’s graphics card market, that’s just as big a difference.
With that in mind, it’s impressive that the Arc A750 is able to keep up in tough tests like Metro Exodus, Watch Dogs Legion and the Total War: Three Kingdoms battle benchmark. Although I don’t normally like thinking in terms of terribly dull “frames per penny” calculations, you can clearly see how the Intel GPU looks like the better-value choice.
1080p also makes it easier for the Arc A750 to show off its ray tracing powers. XeSS and other upscalers tend to blunt sharpness too much to use at this resolution, but the Arc A750 doesn’t need them, averaging 58fps in Metro Exodus with Ultra-quality ray tracing on top of its regular Ultra preset. Hitman 3/World of Assassination averaged 47fps with full RT enabled, which is a big drop down from 154fps without, though that’s still playable.
In fact, if you’re specifically looking to try ray tracing on the cheap, know that the Arc A750 turns the tables on the RX 6650 XT with these kinds of settings. Where the A750 produced 47fps in Hitman, the RX 6650 XT could only manage 29fps, an even steeper drop from its respective rasterised performance. It handled Ultra ray tracing in Metro Exodus better, averaging 45fps, though the Arc A750’s 58fps will look noticeably smoother onscreen. Probably smoother than what the RTX 3060 can do, too – I don’t have an Ultra preset/Ultra RT test result for Nvidia’ GPU in the books, but we have previously recorded it averaging 57fps at 1080p using the High preset and Ultra RT. In other words, 1fps slower than the Arc A750 despite using lower general quality settings. That’s no small achievement, when Nvidia RTX models have been ray tracing specialists since their inception.
While they’re not part of our usual benchmark regimen, I also tried some older DirectX 9 games, Team Fortress 2 and Counter Strike: Global Offensive. DX9 was a particular weakness of Arc cards at launch but now it seems…fine, now? At 1080p with maximum quality settings, TF2 could tick along at anywhere between 100fps and a little over 200fps, while CS:GO flitted around the 80-100fps range without any stuttering.
You could be cynical about all of this, and point out that £250 is only cheap for a gaming GPU by the warped standards of the 2020s. Which wouldn’t be entirely unfair – I remember when you could get a Radeon RX 570 for less than half of that – though since it’s just been on the sharp end of a an £80 price cut, the Arc A750 Limited Edition is surely making steps in the right direction. Besides, this is not a GPU that will just scrape by at minimum quality. At 1080p especially, it can cope with the highest settings and traced rays you can chuck at it, and will do so with less sweat than some of its costlier rivals.
Physically, it doesn’t even feel cheaply made. Its dual fans are quiet, and the bodywork has an unnecessary but wholly likeable soft-touch finish. There are board partner versions of the Arc A750 available, but expect them to cost more and look uglier.
I’m recommending the Arc A750 Limited Edition, in case that weren’t obvious. That’s not to say I approve of its effective demand for Resizable BAR, and for Intel’s next GPU generation (Arc Battlemage, s’called), I’d prefer if they launched with optimal performance rather than ironing it out over months of updates. Nevertheless, in the here and now you won’t get more 1080p power for less money, and if the cost of that is an underwhelming release, so be it.