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In the new NUC tiny PC, Intel replaces Nvidia with its own Arc GPU

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The most potent mobile Arc GPU will purportedly be used by Intel’s newest miniature gaming machine.

image credits: technohoop

The next generation of Intel NUC mini PCs have apparently been confirmed, according to a user who posted a detailed hardware breakdown on the forums of Chinese tech giant Baidu (please note that the page linked there is in Chinese).

Naturally, the NUC 12—codenamed “Serpent Canyon,” following the “Phantom Canyon” NUC 11—will use an upgraded version of Intel’s 12th-generation Alder Lake i7-12700H processor. This processor replaces the i7-1165G7 found in the NUC 11. This is a considerable increase on its own, but the graphics card is more intriguing.

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The NUC 12 is expected to employ Intel’s own Arc A770M laptop GPU as opposed to the Nvidia GeForce GPUs that were used in all of the NUC 11 variants prior to it (up to the RTX 3080 found in the console-destroying NUC 11 Extreme). The A770M, which already appears in other gaming laptops, is Intel’s highest-spec graphics card in the Arc mobile portfolio with 32 Xe-cores and 16GB of video RAM.

Although we don’t yet know the A770capabilities M’s in detail, predictions place it in the same performance range as Nvidia’s RTX 3060 Ti, making it a respectable option for 1080p gaming. The NUC 12’s price and release date are yet unknown, but the user on the Baidu forum claims that they will be.

The Intel NUC family of small-form-factor PCs are primarily utilised in corporate and educational settings when there is insufficient room for a full-size desktop. But some NUCs are made specifically for gaming, and this new variant appears to meet the bill.

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Is China serving as the prelude to the outbreak of a GPU war?

Given that Intel’s Arc graphics cards have finally entered the market, this decision by the company may have been expected (albeit only in China so far). It wouldn’t make much sense for Intel to continue employing a major rival’s hardware in its products, even though Intel may realistically be aiming for its CPU rival AMD. Nvidia still controls the largest share of the discrete GPU market.

Intel’s laser emphasis on the Chinese market for the new Arc GPUs has been interesting, and has made the manufacturer’s ambitions rather plain. It very much looks like Intel isn’t looking to threaten Nvidia’s domination of the high-end graphics card sector, but rather to take on AMD at the more cheap end of the market.

Budget GPUs are more popular with Chinese consumers (and the Asian market as a general), especially given the high number of internet cafés in that region. But the introduction of Intel’s new Arc cards hasn’t exactly gone well. Intel’s long-awaited comeback to the GPU market has been plagued by high starting prices for the Arc A380 desktop and weak early performance numbers from the Arc A7 cards.

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Our assumptions that the Chinese market is being targeted first due to the high presence of low-cost GPUs there were validated when we contacted Intel for feedback. Intel also mentioned that they expect to ‘scale Arc A-series 3 graphics devices with our partners internationally in the coming weeks’ and noted that the Arc deployment has been adversely affected by ‘software readiness delays’ and COVID-19 lockdowns.

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