"We’ve got more work to do" - Intel discusses the API Performance of its ARC GPUs

Intel's GPU drivers need more time to mature

Intel expects ARC's DirectX 11 and DirectX 9 performance to improve as their drivers mature

When Intel showcased the performance of its ARC Alchemist A750 graphics card (see here), the company looked primarily at games that used the DirectX 12 graphics API. In these games, Intel's ARC A750 outpaced Nvidia's RTX 3060 graphics card, but the same trend isn't there when comparing games using the older DirectX 11 and DirectX 9 graphical APIs. 

Simply put, Intel's ARC series GPUs run best when using modern graphics APIs, co-called "low-level APIs" that allow games to more closely communicate with GPU hardware. DirectX 12 games can communicate effectively with Intel's Alchemist series discrete GPUs, and games that use legacy APIs rely more heavily on driver-based resource management and software that communicates between games and graphics hardware. As Intel's Zachary Hill puts it in this blog post, Intel's "got more work to do in drivers."

The Good news and the Bad news

The good news for Intel and future ARC graphics card users is that future driver iterations can and will improve the performance of Intel's discrete graphics solutions. We have seen this recently with AMD, who have released optimised drivers for DirectX 11 (Tested Here) and OpenGL (Tested Here) games over the past few months. Improved performance in games that use legacy APIs is a clear priority for Intel's driver teams, so we can expect Intel's ARC A-series GPUs to offer better performance in affected games as drivers mature. 

The bad news for Intel is that many modern games continue to utilise the DirectX 11 API. God of War, Days Gone, and Stray are all recent examples of this. Poor DirectX 11 performance is not something that will not be ignored by discerning customers, and if Intel cannot address their performance issues with legacy APIs in the near-term future, consumers will simply buy graphics cards from their competitors. 

Intel knows that their poor DirectX 11 and DirectX 9 performance is a problem, and they know that the solution to this problem is mature drivers. Given enough time and enough resources, Intel's engineers should be able to address the shortcomings of their current ARC A-series drivers, making their products more broadly competitive with competing graphics cards from AMD and Nvidia. 

Credit where credit is due, Intel is being very transparent with their launch of ARC. Yes, ARC is launching a lot later than most consumers have expected, but Intel is being clear about their current capabilities and their future plans. Over the next few weeks, we expect to hear a lot more about Intel's ARC Alchemist graphics cards and their features. 

You can join the discussion on the API performance of Intel's ARC A-series graphics cards on the OC3D Forums.

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