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Intel details sort-of-annoying fix for high idle power consumption in Arc GPUs

Arc is Intel's attempt to shake up the GPU market.
Enlarge / Arc is Intel’s attempt to shake up the GPU market.

Intel

Intel’s Arc A750 and A770 GPUs were finally released earlier this month after years of teases, announcements, and delays, and the end result is a pair of GPUs that generally offer respectable performance for the price. But Intel’s first true gaming-focused dedicated GPU architecture has also had lots of first-generation jitters, including glitchy drivers and performance issues in games that don’t use modern DirectX 12 or Vulkan graphics APIs.

Another early issue may be idle power consumption — the amount of power these GPUs consume when they aren’t being actively used or when they’re only rendering your desktop. Intel published a troubleshooting article late last week that acknowledged that Arc desktop GPUs could suffer from “high idle power consumption,” along with steps for remediating the issue.

Users will need to go into their PC’s BIOS and configure a pair of advanced PCI Express power management settings — the “Native ASPM” (or Active State Power Management) setting should be enabled, and the “PCI Express root port ASPM” setting should be enabled and set to “L1 Substates.” You’ll also need to set the PCI Express Link State Power Management setting to “maximum power savings” in Windows’ advanced power options settings.

Intel acknowledges that the settings will be found in different places in different BIOSes and that they may be named different things.

Testing from Tom’s Hardware shows that with the settings enabled, Arc A750 power consumption at idle dropped from 37.3 W to 15.5 W, a significant drop. The same settings didn’t seem to have an effect on an Arc A770 card, though it’s unclear whether this is a motherboard bug, a GPU hardware or firmware or driver problem, or something else.

Intel may be able to address the issue in the long-term with driver or firmware updates for the Arc A-series GPUs, but the troubleshooting article doesn’t make it sound very likely. Intel says that the company “will be looking at making optimizations in future generations,” which makes it sound like we’ll need new hardware to address the issue decisively.

This isn’t the first BIOS-related change Intel has asked Arc users to make. The cards’ performance also suffers significantly when a feature called Resizable BAR (or ReBAR, or Smart Access Memory, or SAM) is disabled in your BIOS. Nvidia and AMD cards can also benefit when Resizable BAR is enabled — it allows your processor to address your GPU’s memory all at once instead of in 256MB chunks — but the performance impact one way or the other is considerably smaller.

What the idle power consumption fix and the Resizable BAR issues have in common is that not all BIOSes provide access to these settings, particularly if you’re using an older PC or a pre-built desktop from a PC company rather than a modern, self -built gaming PC with an enthusiast-grade motherboard. It’s hardly a deal-breaker for Arc buyers, but it’s another caveat for a GPU lineup that already has plenty of them.

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