Intel continues to impress with its efforts to improve the performance of its graphics drivers. Last October, the company focused on its DirectX 12 (DX12) drivers to accommodate demand for modern DX12 game titles. Earlier this year, the company pivoted to focus heavily on improving its DirectX 9 (DX9) drivers, rearchitecting the drivers to perform better in more legacy games running DX9. Now that it seems most games are sticking with DirectX 11 (DX11) for the foreseeable future, Intel has also focused on improving DX11 driver performance.
On top of this, Intel is also introducing new tools and metrics to help users detect whenever they are graphics-limited or CPU-limited in their games. Intel has released 30 driver updates since launch in October of last year, with support for 57 games through its Game On drivers for new game releases and support for more than 70 titles with its XeSS AI super sampling feature.
DX9 performance uplift
For Q3, Intel also provided an update on DX9 performance in its latest drivers, using the A750 launch Arc graphics drivers compared to the most recent Arc drivers. Performance uplift in games ranged from 10% for Guild Wars 2 all the way up to 77% for games like Skyrim and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS: GO). For me, CS: GO is the standard for performance, and with nearly a million players a day on Steam, it is still an extremely popular and relevant title. I can’t wait to see how Intel’s Arc A750 and A770 GPUs perform in Counter-Strike 2, which is due out sometime this summer (whenever that might be in Valve time).
Intel has also talked about balanced builds, in which it tries to carefully match Intel Core CPUs with Arc GPUs at a bundled price. It began offering them earlier this year, with CPU/GPU bundles starting at $420 and full systems starting at $799. To get the program ramped up, Intel has partnered with leading boutique builders like Maingear. From what I’ve heard and seen, this program has been very successful; it is definitely an interesting way for Intel to target the mainstream gamers who want to get the most from their spending. Personally, if I were 11 years old again and building my first PC, one of these balanced build bundles would probably be where I started so I could maximize my budget.
DX11 performance uplift
As shown in the chart below, some of the most popular games have seen huge performance uplifts in DX11 thanks to the new driver update. Notably, Overwatch 2 saw the biggest increase with a 33% uplift, while Grand Theft Auto (GTA) Online and GTA V both saw a 27% increase in performance. Dota 2 saw a considerable 20% uplift, while Valorant and Counter-Strike 2 both saw increases of 18%. When you consider how many millions of concurrent gamers play these games daily, these improvements are nothing to scoff at, especially since this is precisely the kind of free performance improvements that Intel promised gamers when it first launched the Arc line last October.
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Some of these performance increases in DX11 are less noticeable for Arc users with faster Core i9 CPUs like the 13900K. Honestly, though, I wouldn’t expect many people to spend almost 2x more for a CPU than a GPU, which would be the case in that scenario. It’s much more likely that a user would have a somewhat slower i5 13400F to go along with an A750; in that case, the improvements to the DX11 will make a real difference in performance. That said, Intel did make a good point that most reviewers will likely be testing with faster CPUs, which were less impacted by how Intel’s graphics driver handled DX11 performance. This is why Intel has redesigned its graphics drivers to allow GPU and CPU workloads to match each other better to ensure a better balance between the timing of the workloads so that frame times are improved as well.
Intel PresentMon Beta
Intel has also invested in updating its PresentMon performance capture and monitoring tool, which is the basis of many of its competitors’ tools as well. Intel has added a configurable performance overlay with real-time graphing that also offers PC balance metrics, which may come in handy to understand why certain games might not be performing up to expectations. This is great for the company because it will probably help Intel sell more CPUs and GPUs once gamers use the tool and realize that one or the other component is limiting their performance for certain titles.
Additionally, PresentMon is an open source tool with multi-vendor support, which means that it should work on Nvidia and AMD graphics cards as well. Nvidia’s FrameView application is based on PresentMon; Nvidia has added features to meet its specific needs where PresentMon didn’t offer them. It will be interesting to see which other features Nvidia and AMD implement, if they decide to.
Intel’s Arc series isn’t even a year old, and we’re already seeing the company’s investment in this family of GPUs yield sustained results for gamers. Now that Intel has addressed both DX9 and DX11 titles with these performance improvements, it’s in a great position where it can focus more on new titles to enable the best performance at launch, regardless of which engine a specific game runs on. These Game On drivers will be more refined and deliver a better experience for gamers from the outset, and that will be extremely exciting.
Inside of a year since launching the Alchemist (Arc) program, I believe that Intel has turned the corner on graphics drivers. That is no small task, especially considering the challenging climate inside Intel during that time. It’s also extremely timely for Intel, because I think that it—along with AMD—will continue to put pressure on Nvidia, which is great for gamers and the health of the industry. Now we just need more good games to drive demand.