Intel warns that older games may suffer from great performance with Arc GPUs

Intel warns that older games may suffer from great performance with Arc GPUs

If you decide to buy Intel’s upcoming Arc graphics cards, prepare for some mediocre performance when it comes to playing old PC games.

On Thursday, Intel admitted that Arc GPUs will struggle to produce high frame rates for some PC titles built using Microsoft’s older DirectX11 and DirectX9 APIs. “In some DX11 titles, we’re going to do a great job, but other DX11 titles won’t do great,” says Tom Petersen, a graphics associate at Intel Graphics, in a video released by the company Thursday.

The reason is due to Microsoft’s reliance on the older DirectX11 API and GPU driver to handle game memory management. According to Petersen, Intel still needs time to improve its graphics cards with a variety of legacy games that were originally built with Nvidia and AMD GPUs in mind.

“We have to do a really good job at the behavior that game developers have expected when they use Nvidia hardware,” Petersen adds. “The reality is that our card works very differently from Nvidia, so now we kind of have to start tuning all of our DX11 to match what older titles expected.”

On the plus side, Intel says that Arc GPUs are optimized for games running on the latest DirectX12 and Vulcan APIs, both of which originally arrived about seven years ago. According to Petersen, the programming “layer” of APIs is “a lot thinner” and offloads memory management to the game engine itself.

Intel also discussed the DX11 API released last month in a video with Linus Tech Tips. In the clip, the Intel Arc A770, the company’s most powerful GPU, runs Shadow of the Tomb Raider at 80fps while using DX12. However, performance drops to 40 fps when rendering the game with DX11.

In Thursday’s blog, Intel adds: “DX12 and Vulkan are “modern low-level APIs”, with a closer connection between the game and the GPU. DX11, DX9, and other legacy APIs require less developer resource management which means we have more of work to be done in the drivers”. (AMD’s RDNA2 cards also had similar issues with DX11 games, too.)

The API issue certainly dampens the appeal of the Arc desktop GPUs, which are due to launch later this quarter. PC builders looking for a reliable, high-performance graphics card may end up sticking with Nvidia and AMD, especially with the seemingly lack of a GPU. But Intel says it is steadily improving graphics technology for all games. “It’s just going to be a forever passion making DX11 titles better, better, and better,” Petersen says.

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