Intel just fixed a major issue with its graphics cards

The importance of drivers was re-emphasized when a single line of missing code drastically reduced the performance of Intel GPUs.

A new fix for Intel graphics drivers for Linux reportedly improves ray tracing performance by up to 100x. Can Intel Arc hope for the same kind of improvements?


As reported by Phoronix, the change to the open-source Intel Mesa Vulkan driver was made Thursday by Lionel Landwerlin. Landwerlin is a graphics driver engineer for Intel Linux with years of experience, but this time the solution was relatively small – it only took one line of code to, as Landwerlin put it, “achieve like a 100x (no kidding) improvement.” It all comes down to a memory allocation problem.

Due to something as simple as a missing line of code, the memory allocation task was not set up as it should have been. Normally, the Vulkan driver would cause Vulkan ray tracing tasks to be assigned to the discrete Intel GPU. However, due to surveillance, the Vulkan driver moved data to the slower external system memory and then back. These messy transfers had a huge impact on the ray tracing performance of the graphics card.

Adding the code snippet to Mesa 22.2 should bring tangible improvements. The update will roll out to end-users at the end of August, and while that will take a while, it will likely be long enough for customers to buy the new Intel Arc GPUs in a major capacity.

Linus Tech Tips

Intel Arc seems to struggle with driver optimization in general. While the GPUs, plagued by various delays, are still barely available, they will likely reach the end-market soon. Intel is at the LANfest in Colorado with a gaming bus filled with Arc-based computers, so late September seems like a safe bet, but the launch could happen even before that.

Meanwhile, several Intel graphics cards are spotted in benchmarks, some of which were released by Intel. The company revealed in a recent Linus Tech Tips video that it went all-in on DirectX12 compatibility, which is part of the reason many games just don’t run well on Intel Arc. There are still some software optimizations to be made before the graphics cards are released to a wider audience.

The news about Intel driver fixes is something of a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it’s great that such a huge performance boost is on the way; on the other hand, this was a pretty big mistake with a clear impact on graphics performance. When it comes to Intel Arc GPUs, the hardware definitely has potential, so let’s hope Intel can fix the driver kinks soon enough.

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