Intel driver tweak adds vertex shaders to old IGPs
Vertex Shader 3.0 support in hardware
Intel has quietly rolled out support for hardware acceleration of Vertex Shader 3.0 calculations in a range of its integrated graphics chipsets, including the Q963, G965, 945G and the mobile GM965.
The release of the new Intel Graphics Media Accelerator (GMA) driver, version 14.31, came earlier this month and was prompted by the launch of the G35 chipset. The driver was previously updated in April.
The update allows a range of titles - including Battlefield 2, Battlefield 2142, CoD 2, Elder Scrolls: Oblivion and Ghost Recon to be played on the G965 at "acceptable frame rates", according to Mike Abel, an Intel Product Marketing Engineer. Abel didn't say what his definition of acceptable is, but the results look reasonably smooth:
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Up until now, these games could not be played on the chipsets like the G965 because they require hardware-accelerated vertex shader processing, and the G965 and earlier integrated chipsets didn't support it.
Intel said this feature could be added through a driver update because of its GMA architecture: it uses unified shader-style "execution engines", so it's just a matter of programming some of these to handle vertex processing rather than pixel texturing. Intel claimed this approach allows it to boost graphics performance by simply upping the number of execution units and/or increasing the graphics core's clock frequency.
Other games benefit too: Far Cry, for example, will see a 1.5-2x increase in frame rates, to the "low 20s", Abel said.
Not a score to impress hardcore PC gamers, perhaps, but Intel said it's a good result for casual gamers who want to play modern titles but don't necessarily want to spend money on top-of-the-line hardware.
Initially targetting Windows XP and Windows 2000, the driver will be updated for Windows Vista in due course, Intel told us this weekend.
The 14.31 driver release is available from Intel's website here.
Graphics Media Accelerator
These latest drivers appear to remove support for the Intel Graphics Media Accelerator (GMA). This product was discontinued at the end of January 2007 but the GMA drivers were pillaged of their support for the 900 series in this same month.
It's nearly as bad as Microsoft and Intel's pact to disable Aero graphics under Windows Vista for no valid reason!
Hear, hear. After having gone through the frustrating process of coaxing the Linux Intel driver to even get my screen resolution right, I'm going to be paying attention to the state of that driver if and when I upgrade to a new laptop, and avoid Intel video if the issues with that driver haven't been fixed.
Will we see it in Linux
When will these driver changes be made available in the (now open source) Linux driver for intel? If at all.
This is a far more important question than what it can do on windows. Linux needs this stuff daily in the world of compiz-fusion.
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Gah. I hate Lenovo. They are still suck on the 14.10 version of the driver. Considering 14.29 has been available for some time, I can't see me getting this nice update for quite some time. Why can't Intel just release it to everyone???