Intel has released a new graphics driver package that promises to boost 4K video playback and playing videos using Chrome. It also is the first driver to support the 5th-generation Intel Core chips, known as Broadwell.
Version 18.104.22.16880 is important for just about everyone, because it impacts both the 4th-gen Core chips, known as Haswell, and the new 5th-gen Core chips, including the new Core M. (You can download the 32-bit version from Intel’s site, as well as the 64-bit version.) Windows 7, Windows 8.0, and Windows 8.1 are all supported.
According to Intel, the benefits of updating to this driver include the addition of partial hardware acceleration of the VP9 video format, used in Chrome video playback and Google Hangouts; GPU-accelerated decoding of the HEVC video format (for 4K Ultra HD video playback); as well as expanded Open CL and Open GL extension support.
The driver is also the first to support the Intel HD Graphics 5500, HD Graphics 6000, and Iris Graphics 6100 graphics cores, which will roll out as part of the Broadwell generation. Intel previously said that Broadwell notebooks should enjoy about 90 extra minutes of battery life compared to a similar 4th-gen Haswell Core chip, with 22-percent faster integrated graphics and 50-percent faster video conversion—although it’s not quite clear whether that was supposed to come about before the driver release, or after it.
Intel has also said that a new Core i7-5600U Broadwell chip with an Intel Graphics 5500 GPU would be 22 percent faster than a Haswell-based Core i7-4600U with an Intel HD Graphics 4400 GPU, running the 3DMark IceStorm 1.2 benchmark. Business travelers should benefit from an additional 90 minutes of HD video playback, from about 7.2 to 8.7 hours, Intel said. (For a complete breakdown of the new Broadwell chips, see our previous story.)
The release notes for the new driver package also note that the updated software fixes issues in several popular games, as well as a bug where the screen occasionally froze while using Skype.
Why this matters: New graphics drivers generally add performance and features at no penalty—especially if they’re part of the driver's 'stable' (tested, rather than beta) release, as these are. Millions of PCs have a Haswell chip inside, too. Your PC will probably eventually download the drivers by itself, but if you want an early jump on things, hit the download links above.