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Intel blames software, COVID lockdowns for Arc GPU delays

And China to get first dibs when graphics chips do ship

Intel Vision The rollout of Intel's Arc discrete GPUs has been slower than expected for folks hungry for a fresh option in the computer graphics hardware market. This week, the x86 giant attempted to explain what's taking so long.

On the eve of this week's Intel Vision event, the chipmaker shared a note Monday acknowledging delays in its family of Arc GPUs for laptops. The US biz also clarified that Arc GPUs for desktops will only land in China in the second quarter, meaning by the end of June, before becoming more broadly available across the world.

Intel "launched" its lowest-end mobile GPU, the Intel Arc 3, at the end of March while promising the more powerful Intel Arc 5 and Intel Arc 7 graphics would hit laptops in early summer. Intel also vowed at the time that desktop GPUs would arrive in the second quarter. All of this was offered with no caveats.

In the weeks since, many would-be buyers of Intel Arc laptops haven't been able to find one. Until Monday, the best explanation Intel offered was in a Twitter reply on April 7, when the company said that availability started in South Korea with laptops from Samsung and that a broader geographical rollout would happen in the following weeks.

In the Monday note, Intel graphics executive Lisa Pearce acknowledged that the global rollout of laptops with Intel Arc 3 GPUs had been delayed due to "software readiness" issues and COVID-19 lockdowns — ostensibly in China — that have impacted global supply chains.

Pearce said Intel planned to have broader availability of Intel Arc 3 laptops from PC markers at this point, but the software and lockdown issues had delayed a broader rollout of laptops with the GPUs until this month. She added that laptops with Intel Arc 5 and Intel Arc 7 graphics "will start becoming available in early summer."

While Intel previously promised Arc desktop GPUs would arrive in the second quarter, Pearce said this is now only the case for PC makers in China. These companies will receive the lower-end Intel Arc 3 graphics cards for desktops first. Distribution will then expand to retailers in the country. Intel plans to expand availability globally after that point.

Later in the summer, Intel will, in theory, release the more powerful Intel Arc 5 and Intel Arc 7 graphics cards for PC makers globally. After that, retailers and other companies in the components channel will receive them.

This phased rollout may disappoint folks who build their own PCs and have been saving a PCIe slot for an Intel Arc card; Pearce said the company is prioritizing PC makers first to "initially limit" some of the variation in system configurations, which can be vast in the desktop world.

Pearce said Intel is starting its desktop rollout in China due to "proximity to board components and strong demand for entry-level discrete products."

"This staggered approach gives us confidence at each step that we can effectively serve our customer base," she said.

Up until recently, Nvidia and AMD have been struggling to supply the high demand there has been for their discrete GPU products, so it's no wonder that people are so hungry for a third option. ®

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