Intel announced two new programs at GDC 2015 this week that are collectively meant to increase development for its own graphics platforms and offer an improved experience for end users. The first, Achievement Unlocked, is described as a developer program to help game developers “be even more successful at creating great games using Intel platforms and technology.”
While the IA program builds on existing resources at Intel rather than inventing them out of whole cloth, the company claims it’ll be providing additional training, resource portals, and specialized software tools for performance evaluation and tuning, plus contests, demos, education, and awards. The chip giant explicitly tied the new program to its larger initiative to encourage women in computing — Intel committed $300M to improving its workplace diversity last year, in response to the misogyny and foaming hatred that poured out of the Gamergate fiasco.
The company also demoed a 65W Broadwell, socketed chip at GDC — and an unlocked core at that. Performance figures weren’t forthcoming, but this is the first time we’ve seen Iris Pro come to the desktop, with its huge L4 cache and enthusiast-pleasing overclockable option.
Finally, there’s Raptr. Intel appears to be taking a page out of AMD’s book and partnering with the company to offer game-specific optimized performance profiles. The goal of both Raptr and GeForce Experience is to offer PC gamers a better out-of-the-box experience. It’s been reported that up to 85% of users never touch the auto-detected settings — and that’s just depressing when you consider how terrible those settings can be. Raptr also supports video recording (accelerated by Intel’s QuickSync), and can stream game sessions to Twitch.
Unlike AMD, Raptr won’t be bundled automatically with Intel’s graphics drivers, but will be available to download or possibly installed by default.
Intel’s GPUs take a long and winding roadFor most of the past 15 years, the phrase “Intel graphics,” was death to any enthusiast’s gaming ambitions. In the early days of onboard video and Intel’s 810 chipset, it meant, “You didn’t really want 32-bit color or legible text on the Windows desktop, did you?” Even once the company had built passable 2D display technology, its 3D graphics were still awful.
Little by little, that’s changed. Sandy Bridge was the first Intel chip to have an integrated solution that could game even reasonably well, and every iteration of the company’s CPUs have improved the value proposition. AMD’s GPUs still have an overall edge — the Iris Pro 5200 may be faster than any AMD chip, but it shipped in a bare handful of systems — but the gap has shrunk steadily over the years. Intel’s priorities have changed, too. While CPU performance has remained king, contrast the company’s support for modern titles and its hardware’s capabilities have both improved over the past five years.
Plenty of people would argue (accurately) that AMD’s integrated GPUs still offer superior performance to Intel’s in a vast number of situations. As it happens, I agree — but there’s no denying Intel has been steadily raising the bar on its own graphics solutions. It used to be easy to buy a discrete GPU in a laptop at the $500 – $700 price point. Now such systems have nearly vanished from the market, as we covered last year.
Initiatives like this aren’t going to magically close the performance gap between Intel and AMD either, but they signal, at minimum, that the company continues to put more emphasis on improving its integrated graphics. That’s a win for Intel’s consumers, but I doubt it’s helping AMD sleep at night.