I am really, truly tired of graphics card prices. Don't get me wrong, I love the NVIDIA RTX 4090 as a thing, a feat of engineering. The performance it delivers is truly breathtaking, even if its size is equal to its power.
But it's also insanely expensive. Even more so in the UK where I am. The same applies to the RTX 4080, and even AMD's newest range of high-end Radeon cards. Albeit they're at least more affordable than NVIDIAs. And the new $800 RTX 4070 Ti isn't close to being a solution.
There are now three companies making consumer GPUs and it's the newcomer, Intel, that's getting the most backing from me. The Intel Arc A770 is my favorite of all recently released graphics cards, and I really, really hope that Intel sticks it out and helps to change the game for us all.
NVIDIA is the market leader and can do what it likes
You know how the iPhone is crazy expensive and Apple has no interest in trying to make it more affordable? Its popularity alone means there's little need to consider it.
I feel like a similar situation is in play with NVIDIA graphics cards, too. AMD has plenty of die-hard fans, but NVIDIA is the clear market leader. So where's the motivation to try and make these things cheaper?
NVIDIA CEO, Jensen Huang, has already proudly declared Moore's Law to be dead as part of the justification for high GPU prices. Not everyone shares the same opinion, but NVIDIA has done everything it can to tell us that these things are expensive, they're always going to be expensive from now on, and that it's perfectly OK.
Except, it's not. Not for those of us out there who don't live in a bubble and have bills to worry about.
There's also the small fact that NVIDIA, like AMD, starts at the highest end, most expensive models, first. As of now, there's no RTX 4050 or 4060 series for desktop users. The RTX 4070 Ti is the 'lowest' end new card available and it's $800 at least. So buyers on tighter budgets either have to get something older, or used. The same with AMD's latest high-end Radeon cards.
Or, they could buy from Intel.
Intel seems committed to trying to be affordable
When the Intel Arc desktop graphics cards first launched, the company was very clear in its press briefings that it believes in trying to keep prices as reasonable as possible. The Arc A770 16GB is the most expensive of the current batch, with a recommended price of around $350.
Sure, it can't touch the RTX 4090, 4080, or even the 4070 Ti. Not in gaming performance at least. But it's not trying to be high-end, and I can tell you from plenty of experience using one, it's a very good graphics card. I play at 1440p and the A770 is capable of delivering high frame rates and graphical fidelity at this resolution. Hell, it can even just about handle ray tracing at times.
It's also every bit as modern as the 40 series. Besides ray tracing, one of the standout features is the hardware AV1 encoder. All Intel Arc desktop GPUs have this, right down to the circa $150 A380. AV1 encoding is going to become more important for content creators in the future, and Intel has an affordable way to add one to your system without spending a heap of your hard-earned cash.
There are drawbacks, such as no hardware support for DX9, so older games are hit-and-miss as to how well they work, if at all. Intel has since said it plans to work on this, but it relies on Microsoft translating it into a more modern API. For example, I can play the older Borderlands titles just fine, but Batman: Arkham Asylum will crash at the same point at the beginning of the game every single time. But for modern games, things are generally fine.
Intel's commitment to value, though, alongside how good the first-generation Arc graphics cards actually are when you spend enough time with them, is why I'm fully behind the blue team. I like an underdog anyway, but I have a real appreciation for what Intel is trying to do. Long may it continue.
Saving money with Intel, and cloud
I also want to bring up cloud gaming, because it's becoming more and more attractive, even from NVIDIA itself. We're not in a position yet where it can replace local gaming, but it's getting better all the time (even if Google decided to get out of it.)
Naturally in areas without great internet it's a non-starter, and the library available is nothing like what you'll find on Steam, for example. But with Microsoft and NVIDIA, in particular, putting a ton of effort into making it work, for a lot of folks it's another reason not to spend a fortune on an expensive graphics card.
NVIDIA's own GeForce Now service has just announced a new tier based on the RTX 4080 at the same event as the RTX 4070 Ti launch. You can subscribe to this for a number of years for the same price as an RTX 4070 Ti and if you have the connection and hardware for it, you'll get better performance from the games.
All of this adds up, and I'm definitely in the camp of spending less money on graphics cards without really having to sacrifice a great deal. I'm enjoying my gaming, and with the combination of Intel Arc and the cloud, I don't feel like I'm missing out on anything. No matter how much I love the RTX 4090.
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Richard Devine is a Managing Editor at Windows Central with over a decade of experience. A former Project Manager and long-term tech addict, he joined Mobile Nations in 2011 and has been found on Android Central and iMore as well as Windows Central. Currently, you'll find him steering the site's coverage of all manner of PC hardware and reviews. Find him on Mastodon at mstdn.social/@richdevine