Intel is adding new features to its GPU drivers that allow it to detect installed games and optimize them for best performance. We’ve seen this kind of service before — Nvidia offers it via their GeForce Experience software — but this is a first for Intel.
Right now, only a few games are supported, but Intel has vowed to keep expanding the list of compatible titles. Currently compatible products include:
Support for this feature is limited to Skylake and above (6th, 7th, 8th generation CPUs), and some games are only compatible with Iris Pro graphics. Kingdom Come: Deliverance, Street Fighter V: Arcade Edition (What, no Super Mega Turbo Crossfit Supreme Arcade Amazeballs Edition?), and Metal Gear Survive are all limited to Iris Pro solutions. If the feature is enabled on your system, there will be an icon on the Graphics Control Panel.
You don’t have to look far to figure out why Intel is prioritizing this kind of feature. With multiple SoCs inbound with Radeon graphics and an Intel CPU core, these automatic configuration capabilities will make it easier for people who buy those systems to play them immediately.
In fact, I think this type of initiative could point to Intel taking graphics more seriously as a whole. When Intel brought Raja Koduri onboard, it stated: “Koduri will expand Intel’s leading position in integrated graphics for the PC market with high-end discrete graphics solutions for a broad range of computing segments.” (Emphasis added)
Now, I know the automatic reaction to that is to scoff. If you’re familiar with the history of Intel’s GPU design efforts, you may scoff harder. From the Intel740 through to Larrabee, Intel’s various efforts in GPUs barely accomplished the goal of running a 2D desktop. The Intel740 failed and Larrabee never even made it to market. But starting in 2011, with Sandy Bridge, Intel’s onboard GPUs actually started to show real improvements, year on year. This was especially true in mobile, which has always gotten the widest and most powerful of Intel’s integrated GPUs with an associated EDRAM cache (128MB or 64MB).
Since Skylake, those improvements have stalled, but there’s no reason whatsoever that Intel can’t bring a custom GPU to market. It has the cash reserves to hire top talent, it can afford to develop expertise in driver development, and it can afford to tweak and modify its design until it’s optimized for the current gaming market.
If Intel is investing in improving its drivers and capabilities, it’s gearing up for a larger, long-term investment in the graphics industry. That’s not going to happen overnight, but we might have a new player in the market before too long.