Pre-beta drivers aren't something that's usually newsworthy. This latest set from Intel, however, has set their embedded chips apart from others for the first time. Hardware T&L and hardware vertex processing is one area that discrete graphics cards have always had a huge advantage over embedded graphics, particularly Intel's embedded graphics. While often getting discrete units is a choice, often people do not need the beefier GPUs with higher power draws, whether it be for a laptop or a desktop. However, many of those people still want to at least play some games. Unfortunately for them, most new games simply will not operate on embedded cards.
Intel has promised in the past to begin changing that, by supporting more functions in hardware on their embedded GPUs. Now, as a pre-beta only, Intel is releasing a new driver for their G965 Express series desktop chipsets and their GM965 Express mobile chipsets that will enable latent hardware acceleration. Currently available only for Windows XP, the driver adds support for several popular games:
The following is the list of gaming titles that have been validated with this graphics driver for playability. Individual performance may vary depending on system configuration and game settings. Testing on additional titles or benchmarks is not recommended and is outside the scope of this release.
Battlefield* 2, Battlefield* 2142, Call of Duty* 2, Elder Scrolls* IV: Obliviion, Vanguard*: The Saga of Heroes ,Rainbow Six*: Vegas, Age of Empires* 3, Final Fantasy* XI Bench 3, Unreal Tournament* 2004
While fairly limited, it's rather surprising. I certainly don't expect these to be performance monsters, but it does give more credence to Intel's claim of improvements in their newer GPUs. This year, they announced that better hardware support would be coming. Apparently, it was already there – just not functioning.
Intel warns against using the driver, stating that it is not a beta or production release and as such should be used with caution. If you're adventurous... go for it.