Intel Arc Alchemist and obsolete APIs, everything you need to know

A few weeks ago we discovered that the chip giant differentiated three levels of performance within its Intel Arc Alchemist. These levels depended directly on the API used by each game, and in general terms they were grouped as follows:

  • Level 3: it is the lowest, and it is where the games based on DirectX 11, an outdated API which is characterized by its limitations at a technical level, by its low use of multithreaded CPUs, which contributes to generating bottlenecks, and also because it requires specific optimizations at the driver level (they do not depend so much on the graphics engine).
  • Level 2: is an intermediate step where games based on DirectX 12 and Vulkan that have a high degree of optimization and that, therefore, will allow us to enjoy a good user experience.
  • Level 1: this is where DirectX 12-based games are perfectly optimized, and therefore offer excellent performance with Intel Arc Alchemist graphics cards.

The difference between one level and another can be enormous. Intel demonstrated this with Shadow of the Tomb Raider, a game that in DirectX 11 only registered 39 FPS on average with an Intel Arc Alchemist A770, and that in DirectX reached 80 FPS without any problem. It is impressive, since we’re talking twice the performance. It is not the first time that we have seen such a huge jump, years ago we already had the opportunity to talk about this topic in this article.

For resolve doubts that has been able to generate that division of performance in levels, Intel has shared a video where it touches on this topic by answering an important question that the community has posed to it. Ryan Shrout and Tom Petersen are the hosts of the video, and we are going to tell you the most important keys of it.

“Legacy APIs vs. New APIs, why is there such a big difference in performance?”

The answer that Petersen leaves us is very interesting, since he affirms that in some games based on DirectX 11 the performance of the Intel Arc Alchemist is going to be good, although he admits that in others not so much. He also makes it clear that in the end this is going to be a race to the bottomand explains that everything is due to the way DirectX 11 works.

This API is structured to make things easy for developers. As we have already said when talking about level 1 performance, developers who use DirectX 11 are freed from an important workload, including resource management, memory allocation and other important keys at the optimization level. All of this is done in the API and at the driver level, but it has an important counterpart, and they are the limitations that it introduces at the level of optimization and use of powerful and advanced hardware.

At the hardware level, Intel Arc Alchemist graphics cards are very different from NVIDIA and AMD solutions, and for this reason Petersen acknowledges that they have to continue working on their drivers to improve performance under DirectX 11. That is why we have said that it will to be a long-distance race, because the improvements have to be specific and at the driver level. It’s hard work, but Intel is fully committed, so the performance of Inter Arc Alchemist in DirectX 11 will improve over time.

With DirectX 12 and Vulkan everything we have said changes completely, optimization is more in the hands of developers, and thanks to this it is possible to make much better use of not only the most advanced hardware of the moment, but also the most cutting-edge technologies. DirectX 12 and Vulkan are the way to go, that’s out of the question.

Before concluding, I would like to remind you that at the time DirectX 11 also negatively affected the performance of AMD’s Radeon HD 7000 graphics cardsand that in fact until recently it continued to harm even its most current graphics cards, the Radeon RX 6000. It had to do a lot of work at the driver level to improve performance under DirectX 11 by 10%.

With all of the above in mind, is this poor performance in DirectX 11 the fault of the graphics solutions or is this an outdated API that should no longer have a place? I think the question answers itself.

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