Intel adds official support for Vulkan, but only for certain GPUs

After months in beta, Intel has announced official Vulkan support for Skylake and Kaby Lake GPUs. Intel’s 15.45.14.4590 driver is the first release to add full Vulkan API support (previous releases were all various flavors of beta). In keeping with Intel’s previous remarks on OS support, the latest driver will only support Windows 10 on Kaby Lake, but sixth-generation GPUs are supported in Windows 7, 8.1, and 10. That alone points to the artificiality of the restriction — as far as their graphics pipelines are concerned, Kaby Lake and Skylake use identical GPUs.

Intel-Skylake-Gen9-GPU

Skylake and Kaby Lake have different multimedia features but the same GPU architecture.

Usually, at this point, I’d link to some benchmarks of Intel’s GPU performance in DX11 versus DX12, since Vulkan and DirectX 12 are conceptually extremely similar and (so far as I’m aware) essentially match one another across major features and capabilities. Unfortunately, few articles appear to have been written comparing Intel GPUs in DX11 with DX12. Most reviewers have focused on DX11, perhaps in the belief that end users who care enough to know what API they’re using probably also care enough to own a discrete graphics card.

Very early tests of DX12 showed gains for Intel in that mode and the company has distributed some tech demos showing significant boosts from the API, but there’s not much in the way of benchmarks or performance comparisons with recent cards or drivers.

Still, even without objective performance data to examine, this kind of support does matter. Intel may not have much in the way of enthusiast GPU market share, but it still ships more CPUs with integrated graphics than AMD or Nvidia ship discrete GPUs per year. Baking in support for DirectX 12 and Vulkan means that game developers that might like to target these APIs specifically can evaluate their performance on Intel hardware, rather than solely looking to Teams Red and Green.

Intel hasn’t said much about where it intends to take its GPU hardware in the future. Kaby Lake and Skylake use the same GPU core, and there’s been talk that Chipzilla might license AMD IP for future graphics cores, though what kind of arrangement this would reflect is open to considerable speculation. But Intel adding Vulkan support is good for the entire GPU ecosystem and could encourage developers to consider that API alongside DirectX 12 in future gaming projects. Intel’s current 128MB of EDRAM isn’t really sufficient for 1080p gaming at reasonable detail levels, but a 256MB EDRAM cache could easily resolve that — though whether Intel would be able to get the pricing it wanted for the chip is an entirely different question.

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ExtremeTechGaming – ExtremeTech

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