The Bottom Line
- + $179 price point!
- + It outperforms the GeForce RTX 3050
- + Surprisingly decent ray-tracing performance for an entry-level card
- + Great looking physical design and build quality
- + Intel Arc driver game support is better than ever
- - It needs Resizable BAR to work properly, which is a shame for older rigs
- - There are still some glitches and issues (and some games like Starfield are unplayable on Arc)
- - Power hungry for a low-level card
- - Audible fans when under load
Should you buy it?AvoidConsiderShortlistBuy
When we think about entry-level PC gaming hardware, a graphics card designed for newcomers or those on a budget looking to jump into PC gaming without cranking visual settings but still able to push a high frame rate at 1080p in most titles (especially in competitive games), enthusiasts often look to offerings like the GeForce RTX 4060 or the Radeon RX 7600. However, the GeForce RTX 3050 represents a proper entry-level PC gaming option thanks to its MSRP of USD 249, at least on the Team Green side.
The GeForce RTX 3050 launched in January 2022, and with no word on a potential GeForce RTX 4050, the card can be found for less than its introductory price, but not by a lot. This is because there's not a lot of competition in the sub-USD 300 price bracket for new graphics cards in 2023 outside of select AMD RDNA 2 cards like the Radeon RX 6600 being sold with big discounts in locations where they're still available.
Intel's new Arc A580 is an interesting and mildly exciting release once you factor in its price - USD 179. It outperforms the GeForce RTX 3050 in all areas outside of power consumption, including real-time ray tracing - and it's cheaper. For those on a budget, $179 is much easier to manage than $249 or $299. Value for money goes a long way, and in the case of the Intel Arc A580, you're looking at a GPU that is not a drastic step down from the Intel Arc A750 - it shares similar specs and memory bandwidth. If Intel Arc A580 came in at USD 149, it would be the budget GPU to get. As it stands, it's one to consider for entry-level PC gaming.
The Intel Arc A580 was originally announced alongside the Intel Arc A750 and A770 combo last year but has been missing in action until now; perhaps Intel was waiting to sort out drivers and broader game support. Being an Intel Arc product, there are some caveats. Driver support and Intel's Arc Control software continue to improve each month, but you still need Resizable BAR enabled (or capable PC) to get the most out of the new Intel Arc A580. Plus, performance can vary from title to title. And there are major games like Starfield where performance tanks. Let's dig in.
Intel Alchemist Enters the Race
Below is a summary of the Intel Arc technology, applicable to all models.
The debut of the Intel Arc A750 and Intel Arc A770 graphics cards for desktops in 2022 marked Intel's arrival into the discrete GPU space. Not only that, but the appearance of new architecture from Intel designed for gaming, creation, and AI applications called Xe HPG - with that last bit standing for High-Performance Graphics. Like NVIDIA and AMD, Intel has spent the time and resources to develop its own Xe HPG graphics architecture with an approach that features some genuinely new ideas that deliver scalability from laptops up to high-end desktops.
Compared to the single measure of NVIDIA's CUDA Cores and AMD's Compute Units, Intel's Xe HPG architecture breaks down its technological blocks into 'Render Slices' - with each one containing four Xe Cores, four Ray Tracing Units, and the general building blocks of what make up a modern-day GPU. As brand-new architecture, Xe HPG has been built from the ground up with DirectX 12 Ultimate in mind, meaning that all Arc-based GPUs can handle the challenging task of real-time ray-tracing and use DX12 features like Variable Rate Shading and other bits of rendering technology.
Xe HPG architecture is built for AI, with dedicated AI hardware ala NVIDIA's Tensor Cores in the GeForce RTX range. Each Xe Core (there are four of these in each 'Render Slice') features hardware built for traditional rasterization tasks but also Intel Xe Matrix Extensions (Intel XMX) Engines capable of handling machine-learning tasks. This directly ties into Intel's XeSS rendering, which, like DLSS, uses AI to upscale. However, it isn't exclusive to Intel Arc GPU hardware; it is AI-based and benefits from Intel's accelerated machine learning via the Intel Arc series, but it is designed to work on all GPUs.
As mentioned above, each 'Render Slice' also features dedicated ray-tracing hardware. Beyond this, there's a unique Thread Sorting Unit designed to help with efficiency and be able to do other tasks simultaneously to improve RT and other performance.
A shared cache can also be used for any compute workload, shading task, or in-game texture-related thing. For creators, the Xe media engine offers hardware-accelerated AV1 encoding with support for encoding and decoding up to 8K with VP9, AVC, HEVC, or AV1.
As a brand-new piece of architecture, Intel has designed Xe HPG for modern-day gaming and graphics card usage. From playing visually stunning titles with ray-tracing, competitive shooters like Counter-Strike 2, or simply watching or even streaming content - it's all here, including support for DisplayPort 2.0.
Specs and Test System
As a GPU from Intel's first-ever line-up of discrete GPUs designed for PC gaming, specs-wise, we're comparing the Intel Arc A580 with the Intel Arc A750 and Arc A770. Per the image, the main takeaway is that you've got similar specs across all three models, pointing to a situation where Intel has built its line-up for entry-level and mainstream gamers. Even though it's great to see the lower power rating on the SPARKLE Intel Arc A580 ORC OC Edition, the overall rating and power consumption are much higher than the GeForce RTX 3050. This means you're getting (on average) 19% better performance at 1080p; this comes at the cost of using over 30% more power.
Where AMD hasn't skimped when it comes to the Arc 580 relative to the competition is in the memory department. Even though you're looking at the same 8GB of GDDR6 for a lower-spec GPU, this is delivered on a 256-bit memory bus, so jumping to 1440p doesn't mean a massive hit to performance. That said, the SPARKLE Intel Arc A580 ORC OC Edition is not what you'd consider a 1440p GPU. But it is an OC Edition, which sees the out-of-the-box boost clock go up to an impressive 2400 MHz.
As highlighted by the specs, the Intel Arc A580 sits comfortably alongside the bigger Arc 750 and Arc 770 combo - to the point where it probably would have made more sense to call it the Intel Arc A700 or A720. There's the same DisplayPort 2.0 support, AV1 video encoding and decoding, 8K video support, and dedicated AI hardware to make the most out of Intel XeSS upscaling.
- GPU: Intel Arc A580 Graphics
- Model: SPARKLE Intel Arc A580 ORC OC Edition
- Interface: PCI Express 4.0
- Microarchitecture: Xe HPG
- Render Slices: 6
- Xe-cores: 24
- Ray Tracing Units: 24
- Intel Xe Matrix Extensions (Intel XMX) Engines: 384
- Xe Vector Engines: 384
- Graphics Clock: 2400 MHz
- Memory: 8GB GDDR6
- Memory Speed: 16 Gbps
- Memory Interface: 256-bit
- Total Memory Bandwidth: 512 GB/s
- Display Connections: 3 x DisplayPort, 1 x HDMI
- TBP: 185W
- Recommended PSU: 650W
- What's in the Box: SPARKLE Intel Arc A580 ORC OC Edition
Kosta's Test System
- Motherboard: MSI MPG X670E Carbon Wi-Fi
- CPU: AMD Ryzen 9 7900X
- Cooler: Corsair iCUE H100i RGB PRO XT Liquid CPU Cooler
- RAM: 64GB (2x32GB) Corsair DOMINATOR PLATINUM RGB DDR5 DRAM 5200MHz
- SSD: Sabrent Rocket 4 Plus-G M.2 PCIe Gen 4 SSD 4TB, Sabrent Rocket 4 Plus Plus M.2 PCIe Gen 4 SSD 8TB
- Power Supply: Thermaltake Toughpower GF1 850W
- Case: Thermaltake Core P3 Tempered Glass Snow
- OS: Microsoft Windows 11 Pro 64-bit
Physical Design and Cooling
The entry-level SPARKLE Intel Arc A580 ORC OC Edition features a similar design aesthetic to the SPARKLE Intel Arc A750 TITAN OC Edition I reviewed a few months ago, with a bright blue chassis that is stylish and well-built. The blue flourishes extend to PCIe power connectors, and the metal backplate adds to the quality of the affordable brand-new gaming GPU.
It's a small two-slot GPU with two fans that make up SPARKLE's TORN cooling system, and the lighting (limited to the logo) changes color based on the current GPU temperature. If you see this go red, it's probably time to exit save and exit whatever you're playing. SPARKLE might be a new name to most, but it's a company that exited the GPU space in 2013 and has a history that dates back 40 years. SPARKLE is focused exclusively on Intel Arc GPUs and is leaning into the Intel blue aesthetic.
However, when I opened the SPARKLE Intel Arc A580 ORC OC Edition, I was surprised to see two 8-pin power connectors - which feels out of place for an entry-level GPU looking to outperform the GeForce RTX 3050. As mentioned earlier, the power consumption is higher than the competition.
As for the effectiveness of the cooling, it's something of a mixed bag in that temperatures remain in check, but fan speeds do creep up over 2000 RPM when stressed, making audible noise compared to the sort of silent GPUs you find at higher prices. The fans do turn off when temperatures drop below a certain threshold, but with high idle temps and power usage, the fans do tend to switch on and off quite often when simply browsing or doing productivity things.
Benchmarks - 15 Game Averages
The Games and Tests
In 2023, PC gaming is a complicated and varied space, from indie games to major blockbuster releases and titles that push hardware and technology to their limit with the adoption of effects like real-time ray-tracing.
This is all a way of saying that the 15 in-game benchmarks we've chosen (and run at 1080p and 1440p) represent a wide range of styles, not only in terms of genres, like first-person shooters and racing games, but also in the API technology (DirectX 11, 12) and cutting-edge features like ray tracing and upscaling technology.
Results include DLSS, XeSS, and FSR 2, where possible, as these technologies are the sorts of things, especially in 1440p and 4K, which you'd turn on. Six of the 15 game benchmarks also feature ray tracing. Also, each title is set to ultra-equivalent quality settings to push GPU hardware and minimize CPU bottlenecks at higher resolutions.
Also, it's just fun to max out a game's visual settings and see the results. Here's the breakdown of games, graphics settings, and what's being tested.
- Assassin's Creed Valhalla: Ultra High-quality settings, with the in-game benchmark tool used.
- Borderlands 3: Ultra quality settings, with the in-game benchmark tool used.
- Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II: Ultra quality setting, in-game multiplayer benchmark tool used. AMD FSR, Intel XeSS, and NVIDIA DLSS results are included.
- Cyberpunk 2077: Ultra quality setting, in-game benchmark tool used. AMD FSR, Intel XeSS, and NVIDIA DLSS results are included.
- Cyberpunk 2077 (RT): Ray tracing Ultra quality setting, in-game benchmark tool used. AMD FSR, Intel XeSS, and NVIDIA DLSS results are included.
- DOOM Eternal (RT): Ultra Nightmare quality setting with ray-tracing enabled, the opening of Mars Core campaign level used to benchmark. NVIDIA DLSS results are included.
- F1 22 (RT): Ultra High-quality setting with ray tracing, one lap of the Bahrain track benchmarked. AMD FSR and NVIDIA DLSS results are included.
- Forza Horizon 5 (RT): Extreme quality setting with ray tracing enabled, in-game benchmark tool used. AMD FSR, Intel XeSS, and NVIDIA DLSS results are included.
- Hitman (RT): Ultra-quality settings with ray-tracing, Dubai scene benchmarked. AMD FSR, Intel XeSS, and NVIDIA DLSS results are included.
- Horizon Zero Dawn: Ultimate quality setting, in-game benchmark used.
- Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy (RT): Ultra quality setting with ray tracing enabled, the in-game benchmark tool used. NVIDIA DLSS results are included.
- Rainbow Six Extraction: Ultra quality settings and in-game benchmark tool used. NVIDIA DLSS results are included.
- Red Dead Redemption 2: Maximum quality settings, with in-game benchmark tool used. AMD FSR and NVIDIA DLSS results are included.
- The Division 2: Ultra quality settings with in-game benchmark tool used.
- Total War: Warhammer III: Ultra-quality settings with the in-game Battle Benchmark tool used.
15 Game Average FPS - 1080p Results
Entry-level 1080p gaming is what the SPARKLE Intel Arc A580 ORC OC Edition and with an average frame rate of 74 FPS across our 15-game benchmark suite, the performance is there for playing games with 'High' visual quality settings. Our tests include cranking things to Ultra-equivalent settings to put pressure on the GPU, so with some tweaking, you can hit triple-digits - especially in competitive titles. Compared to the GeForce RTX 3050, you're looking at a 19% improvement in overall performance, and even when stacked up against the Intel Arc A750, the difference is single-digit, with the new GPU being around 8.6% slower.
As an Arc GPU performance varies from game to game, and there are titles where the SPARKLE Intel Arc A580 ORC OC Edition delivers impressive results - Cyberpunk 2077 without ray tracing performs closer to the GeForce RTX 3060 than the GeForce RTX 3050. And then there's Hitman with ray tracing, which sees the SPARKLE Intel Arc A580 ORC OC Edition outperform the Radeon RX 7600 by 13% - showcasing that Intel is a step ahead of AMD and Radeon when it comes to intensive RT workloads. Of course, an entry-level 1080p card isn't something you'd buy specifically for ray-tracing, but it's a result worth highlighting.
15 Game Average FPS - 1440p Results
Jumping to 1440p (using the same 'Ultra' quality presets), the average frame rate drops to 53 FPS - a 28% drop off that isn't as big as expected. This comes down to the 256-bit memory interface, so dialing down the visual quality at this resolution can deliver solid performance at this resolution. DOOM Eternal with ray tracing is playable at 84 FPS, outperforming the Radeon RX 7600 - but this is the exception and not the rule. Intel XeSS, in titles where it's supported, comes in handy at 1440p because image quality doesn't suffer as much as it does when enabling the upscaling tech at 1080p.
However, at 1440p, the lead over the GeForce RTX 3050 shrinks to 10.4%, with the gap between the SPARKLE Intel Arc A580 ORC OC Edition and the Intel Arc A750 increasing slightly to around 10%. As with all of the performance data for the Arc A580, keep in mind that the USD 179 price point is significantly cheaper than the more powerful offerings in the list. A true entry-level GPU that can dabble in some 1440p gaming depending on the use case and game.
Benchmarks - 3DMark FireStrike
The 3DMark results for the SPARKLE Intel Arc A580 ORC OC Edition are more than a little strange, as they point to untapped potential in the architecture and plenty of work to do on behalf of Intel in improving drivers and support for a broader range of PC games. We pointed out this when reviewing the Intel Arc A750, but at this stage, a year after Arc's debut, it's probably safe to say that 3DMark is not a good indicator of what to expect with Intel Arc performance.
For the synthetic 3DMark FireStrike test, which is a DirectX 11 benchmark covering 1080p, 1440p, and 4K resolutions, the results indicate that the Intel Arc A750 performs on par with the GeForce RTX 4060 for 1080p gaming - when this is not the case. The 1080p result also shows that it's 20% faster than the GeForce RTX 3050 - also not true.
Benchmarks - 3DMark TimeSpy and Port Royal
With 3DMark TimeSpy being DirectX 12-based, it's a more relevant synthetic benchmark for modern games - and the Intel Arc A580 and Intel's architecture were designed with this API in mind. Even so, we see similar results to the 3DMark FireStrike tests, with the SPARKLE Intel Arc A580 ORC OC Edition matching performance with the GeForce RTX 4060 and the Radeon RX 7600 when it comes to the 1440p and benchmark.
The only instances where the GPU comes close to matching the Radeon RX 7600 (and exceeding it in the latter example) are with Red Dead Redemption 2 and Hitman with ray tracing enabled.
3DMark Port Royal is a synthetic ray-tracing benchmark, and this is one 3DMark result that does come close to matching real-world examples with games with intensive ray-tracing effects. Well, in one instance - Hitman. The results for that game match what you see here, with the SPARKLE Intel Arc A580 ORC OC Edition sitting above the Radeon RX 7600 and the GeForce RTX 3060.
This isn't the case in games that only offer light RT, like F1 22 and DOOM Eternal, but it's additional proof that Intel is a step ahead of AMD regarding ray-tracing performance. It would be awesome to see Intel drop a high-end or enthusiast GPU with its Xe HPG architecture, something to compete with the likes of the GeForce RTX 4070 Ti and the Radeon RX 7900 XT. Based on what we see here, the RT results would probably surprise many people - NVIDIA included.
Benchmarks - 1080p Gaming
Benchmarks - 1440p Gaming
Benchmarks Summary, Ray-Tracing Performance, and XeSS
With impressive ray-tracing performance for its price point, it's a nice feature but not a main selling point for the SPARKLE Intel Arc A580 ORC OC Edition. RT is still something where you need a somewhat powerful GPU, and for it to be viable in most games that offer cutting-edge lighting effects, you'd probably need - at a bare minimum - a GeForce RTX 4060. Or, to be safe, a GeForce RTX 4070. As a 1080p card for gaming with high settings (and not cranking things to Ultra), you can expect a solid 60fps in most games with the Intel Arc A580. And for USD 179, that's a pretty good deal.
Regarding Intel's upscaling, XeSS delivers better image quality than AMD's FSR 2 while falling behind NVIDIA DLSS - which is still the champ regarding image quality. To maintain fidelity, it's still something you'd mostly consider enabling when gaming in 1440p. However, it can be used for 1080p depending on the title and if you're willing to take a hit to visual quality to maintain performance. Intel XeSS support is growing; it's included in modern releases like Assassin's Creed Mirage, Hogwarts Legacy, and Call of Duty. Adoption is still far from FSR or DLSS, but it's getting better as time passes.
What's also getting better is Intel Arc performance in older DirectX 11 titles, with recent driver updates offering massive performance increases to the point where things are in a pretty good place right now. There are still some quirks (my Acer Predator X27 4K display didn't play nice over DisplayPort, so I had to switch to HDMI for more accurate results), but this also applies to Intel's Arc control software, which is improving. I wish it offered more control over display settings as, like Radeon software, it simply points you to Windows for all that.
Temperature and Power Efficiency
With its two-fan cooler, backplate, and robust build quality - not to mention the substantial out-of-the-box overclock - the SPARKLE Intel Arc A580 ORC OC Edition hovers at around 65 degrees when under load. The memory temperature is about 75 degrees, but the fan speed is slightly faster than most premium GPUs. This means it's an audible GPU, so you will hear it if you're right next to your PC case, though it's not obnoxiously loud.
However, the fans have a silent mode for when the GPU is idle - however, on that note, idle power usage sits pretty high at around 40-45W. For an entry-level GPU, the build quality, cooling, and overall design of the SPARKLE Intel Arc A580 ORC OC Edition is excellent - and once it's sitting in your case, it looks like it's worth more than USD 179.
Releasing a brand-new GPU that targets PC gamers with the promise of decent performance in modern games is a rarity in 2023, so much so that the arrival of the Intel Arc A580 could indicate Intel's place in the discrete graphics card market in the future. A company that caters to budget-conscious gamers looking to upgrade or slap together an affordable build to play games with friends. With close to 20% better performance than the GeForce RTX 3050, it delivers on that promise (to an extent), even if that doesn't sound all that exciting.
You'll need a Resizable BAR capable PC and motherboard to get the most out of it, which could be a stumbling block for some - but the good news is that even outside of the Intel Arc A580, the entire range has been aging - to borrow an AMD term - like a fine wine.
Connecting up the SPARKLE Intel Arc A580 ORC OC Edition, I wasn't sure what to expect; the price point made me think that maybe it fell short of the competition by such a margin that it was being priced accordingly. Throw in a great physical design and look, and it's an enticing option - especially because there's nothing else in its price bracket outside of AMD RDNA 2 cards being sold at a massive discount. Now, if it managed to reach the heights of the GeForce RTX 3060 for $179, then we'd call this a game changer. It offers great value, and it's commendable to see GPUs coming with a lower price point again.