If you decide to purchase Intel’s upcoming Arc graphics cards, expect mediocre performance when running older PC games.
On Thursday, Intel admitted that the Arc GPUs will struggle to produce high frame rates for some PC games built with Microsoft’s older DirectX11 and DirectX9 APIs. “On some DX11 titles, we’re going to do great, but on other DX 11 titles, we’re not going to do great,” says Intel Graphics Fellow Tom Petersen in a video posted by the company on Thursday(Opens in a new window).
The reason for this is that the older DirectX11 API relied on Microsoft and the GPU driver to manage the game’s memory. According to Petersen, Intel still needs time to optimize its graphics cards for a variety of older games that were originally designed with Nvidia and AMD GPU hardware in mind.
“We have to do a really good job of exhibiting the behavior that game developers have come to expect when they use Nvidia hardware,” Petersen adds. “Because our card works very differently than Nvidia’s, we now have to start tuning all of our DX11 work to match what older titles have expected.”
On the plus side, Intel claims that the Arc GPUs have been optimized for games that use the newer DirectX12 and Vulcan APIs, both of which debuted around seven years ago. According to Petersen, the programming “layer” to the APIs is “much thinner,” and memory management is offloaded to the game engine itself.
In a video(Opens in a new window), Intel also discussed the DX11 API, which was released last month. In the video, an Intel Arc A770, the company’s most powerful GPU, runs Shadow of the Tomb Raider at around 80 frames per second while using DX12. However, when using DX11 to render the game, the performance drops to 40fps.
“DX12 and Vulkan are modern ‘low-level APIs,’ with closer communication between the game and the GPU,” Intel writes in a blog post(Opens in a new window) on Thursday. DX11, DX9, and other legacy APIs necessitate less developer resource management, implying that we have more work to do in drivers.” (AMD’s own RDNA2 cards have also had similar issues with DX11 games.)
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The API issue definitely reduces the appeal of the Arc desktop GPUs, which are set to be released later this quarter. PC builders looking for a dependable, high-performance graphics card may opt for Nvidia or AMD, especially now that the GPU shortage appears to be over. However, Intel claims that it is constantly working to optimize graphics technology for all games. “It’ll just be a labor of love making DX11 titles better and better and better,” Petersen says.