Why are Intel Arc graphics drivers 1.2GB?

Daniel Sims

Posts: 753   +28
Staff
In brief: Nvidia and AMD's graphics drivers have to support legacy software and hardware going back almost two decades, so it's understandable if they become somewhat bloated. However, Intel has the heaviest driver download despite being the newest player in dedicated GPUs.

Intel's entrance into the arena of dedicated graphics cards reveals some surprising observations regarding the size of GPU drivers. Compared with its competitors, Intel's software is way overweight.

The GeForce Graphics Driver 528.02 from Nvidia, released January 5, is 788MB. Even smaller are AMD's Adrenalin 22.11.2 from December 8 at 546MB and version 23.1.1 from January 11 (for the Radeon RX 7000 series), which is 590MB. Surprisingly, Intel's Arc Graphics driver version 31.0.101.4034, released on January 13, is a 1.2GB download. Additionally, the range of hardware and software each driver version supports doesn't quite add up to their comparative sizes.

It's not unexpected that Nvidia's drivers would be significantly larger than AMD's, as team green packs its GeForce Experience app into every download. It has useful features like streaming functionality, the company's Ansel screenshot tool, and additional methods for optimizing gameplay performance. However, users often bemoan needing to log into an account to update drivers.

The larger size of AMD's Radeon 7000 drivers compared to its drivers for all earlier supported GPUs is itself curious. TechSpot's download page labels 23.1.1 as a hotfix, so it might not be the most efficient package.

The difference with Intel's drivers is a mystery for multiple reasons. Arc Alchemist is Intel's first generation of dedicated GPUs, and thus the only one Arc driver 31.0.101.4034 needs to support. Conversely, Team Red's drivers list compatibility with all cards since the HD 7700 series. Nvidia's similarly stretch back to the GeForce GTX 600 series.

Furthermore, the two old rivals maintain support for DirectX versions 9 through 12 along with Vulkan, OpenGL, and other graphics APIs. Meanwhile, Intel Arc has relatively limited support for DirectX versions earlier than 12, arguably its biggest weakness. So why it needs to be almost twice the download size is strange. Perhaps Intel's workarounds for older APIs result in more code instead of less.

Another explanation could be that Intel includes drivers for Intel's Xe integrated graphics for Tiger Lake and Raptor Lake processors. Of course, we could poke holes in that theory since AMD's download also supports its integrated GPUs and APUs.

The simplest explanation could be that Intel hasn't had as much time to optimize its drivers in terms of performance and download size. Since it is new to the field, this issue could rectify itself in time. We'll have to see what the release of Intel Arc Battlemage does for the company's drivers.

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RudyBob

Posts: 889   +911
Close to the correct question. Question is Why are driver files so large anyhow? A bazillion games to worry about?
A bazillion everything they gotta do? I'm surprised all drivers work as well as they do
 

bviktor

Posts: 1,152   +1,684
The bigges question is, why are Intel HD drivers this big? And why do they take like 15 minutes to install on low ned machines? It's getting ridiculous.
 

Gastec

Posts: 295   +155
Maybe the included spyware got more bloated than desired when left for too long in the kandy shop.
 
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Theinsanegamer

Posts: 3,949   +6,951
Close to the correct question. Question is Why are driver files so large anyhow? A bazillion games to worry about?
A bazillion everything they gotta do? I'm surprised all drivers work as well as they do
It's not the drivers themselves, it's the heavy GUI and mod tools that come with them. AMD's 22.11 drivers are 1.48GB unzipped, but the actual driver package is only 100mb, and that includes uninstall and diag apps.
 

Watzupken

Posts: 759   +642
I guess it boils down to the more you have, the less work for developers to optimize. So you have more storage now, so less need for developers to help you save space. You have more powerful hardware, sure, less work again for developers.
 

Plutoisaplanet

Posts: 887   +1,417
It's not the drivers themselves, it's the heavy GUI and mod tools that come with them. AMD's 22.11 drivers are 1.48GB unzipped, but the actual driver package is only 100mb, and that includes uninstall and diag apps.
I bet this is part of the issue with Intel’s as well. As a programmer, if you need to rush to finish something then one strategy is to use libraries that contain prewritten code to do it for you (and probably 100-1000x more unused code). With enough unnecessary libraries, it quickly adds up. So basically, bloat from unrelated software.

For people who write code for drivers, their area of specialty is going to be low-level code and they’d probably highly reliant on libraries for GUIs and other tools, which are the complete opposite of it. I would think they’d have separate teams for this stuff, but maybe not.
 

hahahanoobs

Posts: 4,714   +2,682
I wouldn't freak out about driver size this soon. Intel is a new player. Never forget that.

On a side note, Arc A770 has incredibly good customer reviews on sites like Newegg and Canada Computers. I was genuinely shocked.
 

OortCloud

Posts: 863   +871
As you said in the article, this is almost certainly an optimisation thing. The drivers were clearly hurried out as they barely functioned on release. I suspect there is an awful lot of libraries and dependencies in there that are either not being used at all, or that tiny parts are used and so could be refactored out. Hopefully the size will start to reduce as the team get more time to focus on this rather than just making them work and at a reasonable speed!
 

neeyik

Posts: 2,415   +2,946
Staff member
Why lead the artical with a question that the artical does not give an investigated anwser to? where is the journalism?
Unpacking the exe file gives no clue as to why the installation package is over 1GB in size and without a DG2/Gen12 GPU installed in one's PC, the software won't attempt to install anything. That greatly limits what level of inspection can be done, unfortunately.
 

JordLevy

Posts: 64   +31
I mean, the established manufacturers have mature codebases that support a common architecture. Intel is getting into discrete GPUs and needs time to mature the architecture they're writing drivers for. Once they're down the road a bit with their roadmap we'll see driver packages shrink as they optimise.

It's funny how everyone was hailing Intel as competition for the market. Something to help drop GPU prices. Intel has a rocky start and now everyone is nitpicking at every little thing that Intel does in this space.

These things take time, anyone would be mad to think otherwise. That or you should definitely go out there and release your own GPU series that's perfect in every way on your first release and make a couple billion or so.
 

Kam7r

Posts: 167   +336
Close to the correct question. Question is Why are driver files so large anyhow? A bazillion games to worry about?
A bazillion everything they gotta do? I'm surprised all drivers work as well as they do

in the old time, game-developpers were doing the optimisations of their games... now they don't even care anymore and transfered this job to the Hardware constructors...
 

Puiu

Posts: 5,953   +4,994
TechSpot Elite
in the old time, game-developpers were doing the optimisations of their games... now they don't even care anymore and transfered this job to the Hardware constructors...
in the old times a developer would write a few lines of code per project. now they are expected to write hundreds or thousands per day. let's not compare programming in the past with today.

there is no developer who wants a bloated project, but to save time they are forced to use libraries/frameworks which are generally pretty big. otherwise 1 day's of work is extended to weeks or months.
 
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