Intel Addresses Questions About Its GPU Drivers, DX11 Support
As the launch of Intel’s Arc GPUs draws closer, the company is trying to get out in front of some bad press it’s received lately. Although the only GPU currently available is the low-end A380, several reviews of it in the US media have panned the card’s GPU drivers, issues with the recommended use of resizable BAR, and its lack of DX11 support. Intel’s Lisa Pearce, Vice President and General Manager for the Visual Compute Group, tackles these problems and more in a new blog post. In the post, she admits the company has had a “bumpy” ride thus far, but she says Intel is working hard to ensure a smooth launch.
She begins by explaining why Intel doesn’t support DirectX 11 for Arc. Linus Tech Tips explored this issue with two Intel PR reps a little while ago. A video shows Shadow of the Tomb Raider running in both DX12 and DX11 side-by-side. Surprisingly, the DX12 version ran twice as fast at 79fps compared with 39fps. The PR reps explain that Intel is simply looking ahead with Arc, so it won’t support “legacy APIs” like DX11. Instead, Arc is optimized for games using DX12 and Vulkan APIs.
In her post, Pearce echoes this claim and says DX11 is a “thick layer of software” that requires constant refinement to reduce inefficiencies. That stands in contrast to DX12, which gives developers more control over low-level GPU hardware. This allows for better performance in general, which is why Intel is optimizing for it. She says it’s also paying attention to DX9 by using a “mapping layer” that translates commands to DX12. Overall, she promises DX11 performance will improve over time. Though DX11 is obviously an older API, several of the most popular games on Steam still use it. This will be a sticking point for Intel heading into the future.
YouTube channel Gamer’s Nexus famously tore Intel a new one recently by showcasing how broken Intel’s GPU drivers are. In her post, Pearce thanks the video host for highlighting so many issues. She notes her team filed 43 tickets with the engineers in the wake of the video being posted. Though it’s laudable they are responding, why is a YouTuber doing QA in the first place? It lends credence to the theory that Intel wants its customer to debug its software. Regardless, Pearce says Intel appreciates the feedback and has “taken it to heart.”
She notes that since the video was posted, it’s corrected 25 of the highlighted issues. She blames the company’s installer for many of the problems. It was designed to require a small initial download, and would then download “unique components” it needed afterward. She said Intel is changing course, and that the installer will include all necessary software. She summarized Intel’s position: “We are continuing to learn what it will take for us to be successful.”
The only other notable discussion is about resizable BAR. This PCI Express feature lets you adjust how much GPU memory is available to the CPU. To use it, you need a compatible motherboard, CPU, and GPU; it’s a relatively new feature as far as PC gaming is concerned. Though it’s seen as “optional” for Nvidia and AMD GPUs, Intel is saying it’s essential for its Arc GPUs. That’s because Arc was designed for large memory transfers between the CPU and GPU. One large transfer is better than numerous small transfers. Intel says it’s working with motherboard partners to make sure this feature is enabled by default going forward. Overall, this isn’t exactly a huge deal as resizable BAR is a good feature.
We’re glad Intel is stepping up to address these issues. It clearly has a lot of work to do to calm peoples’ nerves ahead of the Arc launch. The press it’s gotten so far has not been positive, mostly because its software isn’t stable and it released its low-end card first. Typically AMD and Nvidia take the opposite approach and launch their flagship first, then the lower-end cards later. This lets them put their best foot forward, and establish dominance so to speak. Why Intel is going in the other direction is a mystery for the ages.
However, it’s clearly listening to the “frank feedback” it’s receiving. That’s obviously a good thing, but whether it’ll be enough to convince skeptical GPU upgraders is another question. Intel clearly has a lot of work to do, and time is running out. We’re still unsure when Arc will launch, as summer is almost over. It previously stated it would release Arc “later this summer,” which is basically right now. We’re as curious as you are as to what the launch will look like. Hopefully, Intel will have ironed out the myriad driver issues before that happens.