How did Intel fare in 2022? In many ways, it’s been a year-long roller coaster ride for Team Blue, with some ups and some downs. Let’s dive right in and look at where Intel has made big strides this year, and where it has more or less fallen off the rails.
Raptors on the loose
In early 2022, Intel made progress in regaining desktop PC market share from AMD with solid sales of Alder Lake CPUs, then followed suit strongly later in the year with the introduction of new 13th Gen CPUs.
Intel released its Raptor Lake processors in October 2022, or at least the first group of desktop processors, led by the flagship Core i9-13900K. And despite being “only” a refresh of Alder Lake on paper, the newcomers to the 13th Raptor Lake bristled with much more core performance, boosted cache, and performance got a good boost over Alder Lake.
The flagship 13900K blew us away in terms of multi-core performance in particular, and is a really good heavyweight chip, although it’s power hungry and obviously not cheap. However, later in the Raptor Lake series, there were processors that also shone, with the Core i5-13600K proving to be a more affordable option, offering great gaming performance at a great value.
There’s no doubt that Intel won the mid-range chip battle against AMD’s Ryzen 7600X, which hit store shelves just before the 13600K, and while those CPUs were a fair match in terms of performance, Team Red lost out due to the upgrade cost of moving to the new Zen 4 platform. (Namely, a new motherboard – at the time of writing, there are still no truly wallet-friendly options on the table – plus DDR5 RAM is a must while cheaper DDR4 memory can still be used with the Raptor Lake).
In short, Raptor Lake was Intel’s big win in 2022, so much so that AMD has slashed the prices of its (still very new) Zen 4 CPUs (specifically for Black Friday, but also after). In short, the Core i9-13900K also stole the crown for the fastest overclocking in desktop CPU history – an astounding 8.8GHz. This highlighted the potential of this silicon for overclocking enthusiasts.
The not-so-magical launch of Intel’s Alchemist GPU
In 2022, Intel finally released its Arc Alchemist discrete graphics cards to take on AMD and Nvidia. It was a great moment for Intel to start to establish itself as the third player in the graphics card market and introduce much-needed competitiveness, although unfortunately the start that GPU Arc (for laptops and desktops) started can be described in two words: shaky and shaky. Both of those words obviously mean the same thing, but the early days of the Arc were so ubiquitous that it doubles the shaky nature of the launch.
We witnessed delays, GPUs that were only launched in Asia, Intel’s promises that things weren’t that far off, and then more delays… you know. In short, the disappointment was on many fronts, from pushing release dates – or not even delivering them – to the performance of the Arc graphics cards that arrived in 2022 (the budget-oriented A3 series and the top-of-the-range A7 series). Unstable drivers and performance issues have proven to be thorny issues in many games.
At one point, it was even rumored that Intel was in such bad shape with its Arc GPUs that the company considered abandoning the entire project, which Team Blue vehemently denied and has since proven to take Arc seriously.
In fact, towards the end of the year, Intel made some serious strides with the Arc GPU drivers, bringing significant performance gains to certain games. That’s an optimistic note that should end at least for 2022, and if Intel can continue to fine-tune drivers and a competitive price, the Arc story of its new GPUs could have a happy ending after all. Which is definitely not what we anticipated mid-year, that’s for sure.
It’s clear that Nvidia is still open to attack at the budget end of the market, which seems to be a much lower priority for Team Green, and a specific space where Intel could take advantage of the dominant GPU power.
XeSS – which is Intel’s equivalent to Nvidia’s DLSS or AMD FSR – has also quietly established itself as a force in the frame-rate boosting world, with an impressive initial showing in its early years.
We have to remember here that in their first incarnations, DLSS and FSR had quite a few obstacles, and Intel’s initial salvo with XeSS is relatively impressive in this initial implementation. This bodes well for the future, as does the progress made with the Arc graphics driver we just mentioned.
Process accelerator floor
Intel ended 2022 with a big talk about how it is accelerating chip development and production, including producing chips for third parties like MediaTek, and moving to more advanced processes – that is, faster, more efficient chips – without any delay. And lag on that front is something Intel has suffered greatly from in the past as you may remember (being stuck on 14nm refreshes of their CPUs for what felt like an eternity).
But all of that is a thing of the past, according to Ann Kelleher, vice president and general manager of technology development at Intel, who said in December that Intel is not only on the right track, but is actively ahead of the competition in some areas. Team Blue is already mass-producing 7nm chips – another process from the current 10nm silicon – and the company is poised to start producing 4nm one step after that.
It’s code for “watch out AMD – we’re coming to steal more territory from Ryzen processors.”
Falling profits and job cuts
While progress may be back on track with refinements and new processes and plans to regain leadership in chip manufacturing, there have been some tough decisions for Intel in 2022 as its profits have plummeted significantly (a large drop in sales obviously doesn’t help Team Blue).
You may recall that Intel shut down its Optane memory business in July, then in September CEO Pat Gelsinger warned that Intel’s performance would continue to decline in the future, in key areas such as server CPUs (where the decline is projected to continue into 2025 r.).
It all culminated in October’s announcement of cost-cutting plans that include a “significant number” of staff layoffs, with Intel aiming to save around $3 billion over the next year (and much more in the future, to the tune). up to $10 billion in annual cost reductions by 2025).
Intel was successful in 2022, especially with consumer CPUs – and Raptor Lake more than cemented the progress made on the back of Alder Lake – but that was played out against a backdrop of difficulties in the server market, a horribly rocky and disappointing Arc GPU launch, along with declining profits and downsizing.
So it’s hard to call this a successful year for Intel, but the company seems to be adjusting to be well-positioned for better things in the future. Certainly in terms of increasing chip production capabilities and staying on track to move to new processes without delays – Meteor Lake processors are still planned for 2023.
And let’s not forget that Arc graphics cards weren’t completely laundered in 2022. It was a bad start for GPUs, let’s face it, but Intel drivers made big strides in terms of performance gains as the year drew to a close (and XeSS has established itself nicely). Indeed, Intel gained a significant share of the discrete GPU market at 4% at the end of the year, with the potential to increase spending in the budget arena in 2023.
There is a feeling that the negative aspects of the past year will perhaps be changed into more positive ones – apart from these very unfortunate job losses, of course.