Intel Media Driver version 22.1.1 has been released to the GitHub repository, as revealed by Phoronix. This driver is used by Linux systems to accelerate video decoding, encoding, and processing on Intel GPUs. The reason this release is particularly newsworthy is that it adds support for the Intel Arc Alchemist GPUs. We are still struggling to pin down a release date for Arc Alchemist on mobile / desktop, so it's good to see this ground work being laid.
Though released this today, the Intel Media Driver 22 is referred to on its GitHub pages as the 2021 Q4 release. As well as enhancements and added hardware support, the driver comes along with some important fixes.
If you head on over to the GitHub release page you can see that Intel Media Driver 22.1.1 supports video acceleration on platforms spanning as far back as Broadwell (5th Gen Intel Core processors). Of course, the most interesting bullet point is the final one in the support list, where Alchemist (DG2) is mentioned specifically. It also makes reference to ATS-M (Arctic Sound Mainstream), a High Performance Computing workstation Xe-HP GPU we last reported on in May last year.
As well as the headlining Intel Arc Alchemist support, this newest driver for Intel/Linux has support for a sub-family of processors that are yet to launch, and which aren't in our lengthy Alder Lake processor family overview. Alder Lake-N, mentioned in this Media Driver 22.1.1 release, is a 12th Gen ULV processor range, sitting beneath the ADL-M family.
Some important quality of life changes also appear in the driver update, which may be rather welcome to current users. These include improved AV1 video decoding robustness for stability with problematic files, better performance with NV12 format files, HEVC sub-features caps reporting, and better compatibility overall. For further reading about the driver features and the latest set of changes, have a peek at the readme file.
The first Intel Arc products were supposed to be with us in Q1 2022, the current quarter, but we noticed a fortnight ago that Intel had scrubbed any such mention of this quarter from its publicity and marketing materials. Instead it now vaguely says "coming 2022." We're told some Arc GPUs will still launch this quarter, but not specifically which ones.
Other Recent Arc Alchemist News
Intel's exciting Arc Alchemist range of GPUs is just the first in a long list of generations already sketched out to 2025. We might see as many as 32 models / variants of Arc Alchemist GPUs, according to PCI-ID strings that have been unearthed.
More recently, we saw leaked benchmark data (add some salt please) that positioned the entry-level Arc A380 as a good rival to the Nvidia GeForce RTX 1650 Super, putting it in the same performance category as AMD's new Radeon RX 6500 XT that launched earlier today. However, probably the best action we have seen from Intel regarding Arc is the 30 second gameplay trailer shared at The Game Awards in December.
We're still waiting to see final hardware and drivers, at which time we'll finally be able to see where Arc lands relative to the incumbent AMD and Nvidia GPUs. Given the apparent mobile-first marketing that's cropped up of late, it's a fairly safe bet that Arc won't be claiming the pole position on our GPU benchmarks hierarchy, but if it's priced right and available, that may not really matter.