Do Intel Arc GPUs Support DirectX?

Most users buy video cards to power their gaming rig. For that reason, it’s crucial for any GPU to support the most popular DirectX versions, which is the issue hounding the Intel Arc GPUs.

Since the Intel Arc video cards are new to the market, they had limited support for DirectX 9 or earlier. But why is this important? And can Intel Arc GPUs run DirectX 9 games now?


What Is DirectX?

Somebody playing a PC game

DirectX is an application programming interface that lets games and other apps make use of your computer’s hardware. Unlike consoles that ship with the same specification across a generation or model line, Windows computers have varied hardware even from the same year.

Since Windows does not allow programs direct access to low-level hardware features due to security, Microsoft created DirectX to serve as the middle link between your computer hardware (like your GPU) and your favorite title.

What DirectX Versions Do Intel Arc GPUs Support?

DirectX logo imposed on a photo of a man coding

The Intel Arc A770 and A750 are Intel’s top GPUs, so both GPUs support Direct X 10 (DX10), DirectX 11 (DX11), and DirectX 12 (DX12). However, according to Intel’s Product Support page, Intel Graphics supports DirectX 9 through a mapping layer.

So, on paper, Intel Arc A770 and A750 GPUs support DirectX 9, 10, 11, and 12. However, there’s more to this than meets the eye. That’s because Intel Arc GPUs do not have native support for DirectX 9 (DX9).

When Intel made its latest GPUs, it focused on support for the latest DirectX version to save on costs, especially as it had to beat NVIDIA and AMD on performance and price to gain a foothold in the tightly competitive GPU space. This is actually a good move on Intel’s part, as gamers needed the Intel Arc GPUs to compete against NVIDIA’s hold on the market.

Why DirectX 9.0 Support Is Crucial for GPUs

If you’re not a gamer or not into technical details, you might ask, “Who cares if Intel Arc GPUs don’t support DirectX 9?” After all, DirectX 9 is an old API—having been launched in 2002 for Windows 98, ME, and XP.

That is true. However, because of its age and stability, many popular games still use it. Here are some examples of popular games that need DirectX 9:

  • Counter-Strike: Global Offensive
  • League of Legends
  • Guild Wars 2
  • Payday 2
  • Starcraft 2
  • Stellaris

So, if you play these games and have an Intel Arc GPU, you might notice that they’re not performing as well. This also does not include other indie titles that you might love, which are constrained to use DX9.

Furthermore, DX10 is far more complicated to program than DX9. Because most computers support DX9 anyway, many developers, especially those from smaller companies, prefer it over DX10 and above. This is crucial in reducing game production budgets, especially as rising production costs are slowly affecting the gaming industry.

Since Intel Arc GPUs do not natively support DX9, these cards must spend additional effort to run these titles. This means that GPUs with lesser or equal performance, like the NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3050 or the AMD Radeon RX 6500 XT, could outperform Intel’s offerings on these titles.

This happens even if the A770 outperforms both of these cards in more demanding games that natively support DX11 or DX12. Because of the reduced FPS (what does FPS mean in gaming?) and general performance in some of the most popular titles, gamers are disadvantaged over their opponents—especially as some of these are first-person shooter games that require quick reflexes.

How Intel Arc GPUs Run DirectX 9.0 Games

a map showing a direct path to the X

So, if Intel Arc does not natively support DX9, how can it run games that require it?

Microsoft and Intel worked together to create a solution to this problem. Instead of using hardware capabilities, Intel collaborated with Microsoft to create an open-source mapping layer to help make DX9 compatible with its GPUs.

This open-source mapping layer, called D3D9on12, takes DX9 commands and translates them into something DX12 can understand. With this, Intel Arc GPUs can run DX9 games without native support for them.

However, this additional translation adds latency to the system, making it a bit slower. That’s why DirectX 9-only games perform markedly worse on Intel Arc GPUs than other video cards with native support.

Intel Is Working on Improving DirectX 9 Performance in Arc GPUs

Nevertheless, Intel has made strides in making DX9 titles perform well on its Intel Arc GPUs. According to this Intel Arc December 2022 update, Intel released a driver update for Intel Arc GPUs that made it perform up two times better.

Ryan Shrout, Senior Director for Gaming, Graphics, and HPC Marketing at Intel, said:

Less than two months since launch, we are providing up to 1.8x better performance in select DX9 titles! As we improve performance, we’re also improving the value you get with Intel Arc graphics. We launched with competitive performance-per-dollar against the RTX 3060 in DX12 and Vulkan, now we’re expanding that storyline.

This update has made the D3D9on12 translation much faster, allowing games to perform better. So, if you have an Intel Arc GPU and have yet to install Intel Arc’s latest driver, you should do so at your earliest convenience. Otherwise, you’re missing out on the performance of Intel Arc GPUs, and you aren’t maximizing its value.

Intel Arc GPUs Support DirectX and More

So, to answer the question, Intel Arc supports DirectX. It’s natively compatible with DirectX 12 and DirectX 11, but it supports DirectX 9 through a translation layer.

Given this, you can expect DirectX 9 titles to get a hit on performance. But as Intel continues working on its GPUs, its video cards will receive updates to make them perform better. With further development, the Intel Arc GPU could finally achieve its potential and be a fitting competitor in the video card space.

After all, beyond Direct X support, Intel Arc GPUs provide more features like XeSS, ray tracing, and hardware AV1 encoding, allowing it to face off with NVIDIA’s popular RTX 3060 GPU.


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