Intel’s new Arc Balanced Builds bundles address perhaps the most fundamental question in PC building: How can you get the most performance from a PC without overpaying?
Intel knows, at least where its own processors and Arc GPUs are concerned. And, based upon the results of its own (massive) internal tests, the company is working with retailers and system builders to discount bundles of its CPUs and GPUs to match the best combination for your buck.
PCs are rarely in “balance”: Some components are simply faster than others, so the flow of data from an SSD or hard drive through a motherboard’s chipset to a CPU, back and forth to memory, and out to the GPU is inevitably limited by a component. Upgrading that component simply passes the bottleneck to elsewhere else in the system. What enthusiast and consumer sites like PCWorld try to do when testing a CPU is use the most powerful GPU possible, in the hope that the CPU will be the bottleneck. When testing a GPU, the same logic applies: We use the fastest CPU we can get.
In the real world, that’s a bad strategy. There’s no reason to pair a budget GPU with the fastest Core i9, because the GPU simply can’t keep up. Ideally, then, you try to build a PC where the two components can scale up, hand in hand.
What Intel did internally was compare its Core microprocessors with its own Arc GPUs, testing them repeatedly across various configurations of CPUs and GPUs, as well as with various games, to try and answer the question of which CPU-GPU combination offered the most value without sacrificing performance or money.
The answer? The Arc A750/A770 pairs best with a Core i5 and Core i7, while the A380 really works best with a Core i3, and possibly a Core i5. While you’re free to pair an A380 (or any Arc GPU) with any Intel Core CPU, exceeding Intel’s recommendations will net you diminishing returns unless you upgrade the GPU.
It’s a task that enthusiast sites could take on, of course, but Intel certainly has an advantage: It has access to every CPU and GPU it manufactures, naturally.
What Intel has also done is work with system builders and retailers to come up with optimum builds. At Newegg, for example, you can buy an Asrock Phantom Gaming Arc 770 card for $329, but the specific Balanced Builds page also offers a bundle of a Core i5-12600K with an A770 for $369.98—a $20 savings. There are other deals, too, including a Core i5-12600K with an A770 card for $519.98, or $20 off. Intel is also working with Micro Center on even better deals (a Core i7-12700K, Gigabyte Z690 card, and a pair of 8GB DDR4-3200 DRAM) for $349.99, or $216 off. The Micro Center deals, though, are all in-store.
Intel is also working with Amazon on optimized PCs, as well as partnerships with PC makers at Best Buy and Costco, among others.
If you’re really interested in the finer details, Intel has shown its work: At the bottom of its blog post describing its achievement, Intel has also added an Excel file with its test results. Otherwise, this is really handy information for your next PC build, whenever that is.