Intel has quietly rolled out support for hardware acceleration of Vertex Shader 3.0 calculations in a range of its integrated graphics chipsets, including the Q963, G965, 945G and the mobile GM965.
The release of the new Intel Graphics Media Accelerator (GMA) driver, version 14.31, came earlier this month and was prompted by the launch of the G35 chipset. The driver was previously updated in April.
The update allows a range of titles - including Battlefield 2, Battlefield 2142, CoD 2, Elder Scrolls: Oblivion and Ghost Recon to be played on the G965 at "acceptable frame rates", according to Mike Abel, an Intel Product Marketing Engineer. Abel didn't say what his definition of acceptable is, but the results look reasonably smooth:
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Up until now, these games could not be played on the chipsets like the G965 because they require hardware-accelerated vertex shader processing, and the G965 and earlier integrated chipsets didn't support it.
Intel said this feature could be added through a driver update because of its GMA architecture: it uses unified shader-style "execution engines", so it's just a matter of programming some of these to handle vertex processing rather than pixel texturing. Intel claimed this approach allows it to boost graphics performance by simply upping the number of execution units and/or increasing the graphics core's clock frequency.
Other games benefit too: Far Cry, for example, will see a 1.5-2x increase in frame rates, to the "low 20s", Abel said.
Not a score to impress hardcore PC gamers, perhaps, but Intel said it's a good result for casual gamers who want to play modern titles but don't necessarily want to spend money on top-of-the-line hardware.
Initially targetting Windows XP and Windows 2000, the driver will be updated for Windows Vista in due course, Intel told us this weekend.
The 14.31 driver release is available from Intel's website here.