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New GPUs from Intel Xe and Arc will not support DirectX 9

Intel engineers said that the company's new graphics accelerators, namely the Xe chips integrated into the 12th generation processors and discrete cards of the Arc family, will no longer support the DirectX 9 API in hardware. Instead, the company's GPUs will work with DirectX 12, and backward compatibility with projects on DirectX 9 will be provided using an emulator.

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Intel will no longer provide hardware support for the DirectX 9 graphics API on Xe-based solutions on 12th Gen Core processors and on Arc A-series discrete graphics cards based on the Arc Alchemist architecture.

The decision will affect the 12th generation Intel Core processors (and, apparently, the company's upcoming innovations expected in early 2023), as well as the company's new product - Arc budget graphics accelerators.

Since a complete rejection of DirectX 9 is impossible, backward compatibility with it will be provided using the Microsoft D3D9on12 open source library. At Microsoft itself, engineers assure that the library is effective and the rejection of DirectX 9 API support in most cases will not affect application performance in any way.

The abandonment of DirectX 9 primarily hits older games that can't work with newer versions of DirectX. In the absence of the DirectX 9 API, users may experience bugs, crashes, and other performance issues in older applications. And since the integrated processor graphics and cards of the Arc family are a budget solution that is not capable of delivering high results in modern titles, the decision to refuse support for the DirectX 9 API looks doubtful.

It is also worth understanding that the D3D9on12 backward compatibility library is a software solution that increases the load on the CPU. That is, not the fastest CPUs of the middle and lower segments, which usually work in "office" or "economy" mode with integrated graphics instead of a full-fledged video card, will receive an additional load. This can also lead to crashes and errors.

One of the reasons for Intel's refusal to support the DirectX 9 API and the transition to direct support for DirectX 12 with emulation of an earlier version is the lack of experience of the company's engineers in this area. The release of DirectX 9 took place 20 years ago, back in 2002, a year after the first version of Windows XP hit the market. DirectX 9 was actively used in its time on such operating systems as Windows 98 and Windows Me. DirectX 11 came out only in 2009, and the current DirectX 12 came out in 2015.

Unlike Nvidia and AMD, which have been supporting DirectX 9 for their graphics cards since its release, Intel engineers can boast of such extensive experience. And since Arc video cards have already begun to go on sale around the world, and a pro-line of A-series accelerators, such as the A40, A50 and A30M, is being prepared for launch, the rejection of ancient software in favor of working with current solutions looks logical.

At the same time, Intel has plans to conquer the most stable sector of the GPU market - gaming. Their new A750 GPU in tests shows performance at the level of not the weakest RTX 3060 by current standards, which shows the company's ambitions.

However, even at the slide presentation stage above, experts noticed that Intel did not provide test results for DirectX 11, that is, the refusal to work with older versions of DirectX is a systematic policy that simply was not announced ahead of time.

At the same time, it should be understood that the gaming segment is a very specific market. A variety of configurations requires a GPU manufacturer to be reverent about drivers and ensure backward compatibility with everything you can imagine, because driver problems are an argument that can turn the public away from a new product in favor of more stable competitor solutions. We have seen this for many years in the case of AMD and Nvidia, when the latter dominated the market not only due to powerful solutions, but also due to the stable operation of drivers, constant software updates for new titles and other extensive work with drivers.

About the problems of AMD video cards with drivers and the willful nature of Catalyst, many knew too well that they did not add points to the “red” cards. It is quite possible that Intel will now become such a "problem" vendor if the company's engineers do not pay enough attention to such an important aspect as backward compatibility and support for various graphics APIs and libraries.

Intel drops DirectX API hardware support in favor of DirectX 12 emulator

The company will support DirectX 9 using a DirectX 12 emulator.

Emulation is implemented through the Microsoft D3D9On12 open source library. DirectX 9 graphics commands will be routed to D3D9On12, whereas they were previously sent to the Intel graphics driver. The D3D9On12 conversion layer will translate the D3D9 graphics commands into queries that are understandable for the D3D12 API algorithms.

Microsoft claims that the performance level of the emulation is close to that of the actual implementation of the DirectX 9 API.

Now Intel will focus on optimizing its drivers for the DirectX 11 API. However, the loss of support for the DirectX 9 API means that the CPU will experience increased load, since D3D9On12 works at the software level. There may also be side effects in DirectX 9 games.

Previously, developers from Intel warned that the performance of older games on API DirectX 9 and DirectX 11 on Arc GPUs may be reduced compared to Nvidia and AMD. They stated that the reason was the poor optimization of older games for the new Intel chips, as their "legacy APIs" were originally designed with GPU hardware from Nvidia and AMD in mind.

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