Intel kicked off the explosive marketing for its first major discrete GPU launch, Arc Alchemist, last week. Since then, we’ve been consistently treated with plenty of info on the upcoming Xe-HPG graphics cards, like the Xe-SS super-sampling tech and the general rundown of what to expect from next year’s release. Alchemist will mark the company’s first serious foray into the realm of discrete graphics where it’ll compete with Nvidia and AMD.
Intel wants to make sure it steps its foot in the game as firmly as possible. Therefore, we’re expecting a full-suite of extras along with the GPUs themselves. Intel seems very confident so far, showing off its DLSS rival and giving us the breakdown of the GPU architecture. Not only is the hardware side of things looking strong but Intel is going all in on software as well.
Speaking of software, the drivers that come with a graphics card are arguably what make it or break it. We’ve seen countless times in the past that unoptimized drivers can ruin perfectly good GPUs, so it would only make sense for Intel to iron out the chance of this deficiency. Logically, it appears as if Intel follows the same thought process as today’s update gives us a few more details about the drivers and how they’ll bolster the hardware.
Drivers Are The Real Driving Force
Intel’s Vice President and General Manager for Client Graphics Products and Solutions, Roger Chandler took to Medium today to recap all the announcements from the past week. There is barely any new information, but the most notable thing Roger talked about that we haven’t heard so far was how Intel realizes how important it is to get the software—in this case, drivers—right.
Drivers are an important part of the experience. We’ve made big strides recently with our integrated graphics, improving throughput for CPU-bound titles, accelerating load times by enhancing shader compiling, and implementing major changes affecting over 100 games.
Overclocking From Day One
Furthermore, Roger mentioned that Arc Alchemist GPUs will come with overclocking support right from launch. Despite being hidden in one of the body paragraphs, this was the highlight of the post. The overclocking tool will be built into the driver UI and offer users precise control over the graphics cards to squeeze every bit of performance out of that silicone. This is similar to how AMD and Nvidia approach native overclocking as well where they have OC controls inside the driver software itself.
Many gamers are also creators, so we’re developing robust capture capabilities that leverage our powerful encoding hardware. These include a virtual camera with AI assist and recorded game highlights that save your best moments. We’re even integrating overclocking controls into the driver UI to give enthusiasts the tools they need to push the hardware to the limit.
Overclocking can be easily done via third-party applications, such as MSI Afterburner, or even right from the BIOS of your motherboard. But, having the option to overclock from the driver UI gives the user a sense of added assurance that tampering with the card won’t break it as they’re using native overclocking tools. Enthusiasts in the making may be hesitant to trust a third-part utility to handle the most critical part of their system. So, having the OC options present inside the driver UI can make the product come off as more confident and mature.
Furthermore, you can see in the quote above, Roger mentions “powerful encoding hardware“. Nvidia GPUs (16-series and up) come with the NVENC encoder that has been a Godsend for professional creators who want to use their graphics card to stream content or edit high-res videos. The NVENC Encoder is far and away the superior choice over AMD‘s VCE. Intel knows this and, thus, has readied their own hardware encoding solution to go up against the established players. We’ll likely hear more about this as we inch closer to launch. But, as it stands now, Intel is looking to have covered every yard of the ground from hardware to software.
DirectX 12 Ultimate and DXR Support
Lastly, Roger stated that Intel and Microsoft have been hard at work for the past three years to implement DirectX 12 Ultimate support in Arc GPUs. Alchemist will launch with full support for DirectX 12 Ultimate and DirectX Ray-tracing. Not only that, but a slew of other capabilities such as variable rate shading will allow Intel to improve performance in games.
For the past three years, we’ve also been working closely with Microsoft to co-engineer DirectX 12 Ultimate. In addition to supporting ray tracing effects via DXR, Intel ARC graphics products will be capable of boosting performance with variable rate shading tier 2 and unlocking greater geometry details with mesh shading.