How do you optimize games to run best on integrated Intel graphics? Easy! Just turn all the detail settings to low. Ba-dum-bum.
That old axiom isn’t accurate anymore, though. And a deep, newly announced partnership between Intel and Raptr aims to help gamers with modest PCs squeeze every possible ounce of power out of Intel's better-than-you-think graphics, using Raptr's tried-and-tested optimization technology. The hookup also brings additional headache-relieving, game-enhancing features to the hundreds of millions of people using PCs with Intel integrated graphics.
More performance from the gear you already own? This Raptr-Intel partnership is already singing my tune. Let's dig in.
Intel Graphics rising
Sure, AMD’s Radeon-infused APUs tend to receive the most attention when it comes to integrated graphics, but Intel’s been quietly powering-up the visuals in its processors for several years now.
Intel has been devoting more and more space in its Core chips to graphics processors in recent years—especially in high-end models with beefier Iris and Iris Pro graphics capabilities. The net result: It’s often possible to play many modern games on Intel integrated graphics these days, from less-beefy titles like DOTA 2 and League of Legends all the way to somewhat heftier games like Skyrim and Deus Ex: Human Revolution.
But doing so requires carefully managing game settings to ensure that your game session doesn’t suck, brought low by poor performance or low-res graphics.
“When it comes to things like optimizations and trying to squeeze every bit of performance out of a PC, it’s the people who actually have the mid- to low-end systems that actually need the most help,” Raptr CEO Dennis Fong told me in a phone interview—but those people are actually less likely to go in and tinker with settings than enthusiasts with more potent firepower available, he says.
That's where Intel's new partnership with Raptr comes in.
Raptr <3 Intel
As of today, Raptr’s hardware support is expanding beyond AMD and Nvidia to embrace Intel’s technology, as well, letting gamers with integrated graphics automatically optimize game performance with a mere mouse click.
But this is more than gaming software simply enabled with new hardware support: It's a true partnership. Starting today, Intel will start heavily promoting Raptr, even launching a Raptr section on the main Intel website. What’s more, Raptr software should start to appear bundled on all new Intel-powered PCs in the coming months, according to Fong—with the caveat that individual hardware makers (like Dell and Lenovo) will have final say on whether or not Raptr winds up preinstalled on PCs.
Raptr’s optimization engine leans on data gleaned from Intel and AMD’s internal labs and massive performance databases. (Raptr also powers AMD’s Gaming Evolved client.) It then augments that data with machine learning and crowdsourced hardware info from its 40 million-plus users to offer more precise—and timely—settings recommendations.
“We use the crowdsourcing and machine learning to make [optimizations] way, way better,” says Fong. “As we know from talking to AMD and Intel, they do a lot of work up front with the developers to optimize games for their hardware, but once they move on from that game they never revisit it. So after a length of time, the optimized recommended settings [from Intel and AMD’s data] aren’t really optimal anymore. We employ crowd sourcing and machine learning to evolve with the times.”
Raptr sent an example of what Intel gamers can expect to gain by using its software. On a HP Envy X360 laptop with Intel’s Core i5 chipset (presumably packing Intel’s integrated HD Graphics 4400), Counter-Strike: Global Offensive averaged 69 frames per second with the default game settings—albeit with some pretty low-res textures and an abysmally low resolution.
Using Raptr’s frame-rate focused Performance setting upped the frame rate to 75fps. Utilizing the Quality setting, which maximizes visual fidelity while keeping frame rates above 30fps, gave the game a far smoother look (compare the wood boards of the building with the default setting’s jagged edges) at 38fps. Raptr’s Balanced setting, well, balanced between fidelity and raw performance, settling in at 53fps while offering fewer jaggies and more defined textures than the default.
Note that the Quality and Balanced settings also use higher resolutions than the default and Performance settings, as well.
But wait, there’s more
Beyond optimizations, the software will also help gamers keep their Intel graphics drivers up-to-date. Raptr’s also adding support for Intel’s Quick Sync technology to help Intel-based gamers record and stream gameplay footage with a minuscule 3 percent average performance hit.
“You’re not going to get a better performing experience with video capture and streaming on an Intel platform than with Raptr,” Fong says. The hardware-accelerated video encoding will work with all Ivy Bridge or newer chips.
All of this should sound familiar to existing Raptr users, or to people who use AMD’s self-branded, but Raptr-powered Gaming Evolved client. What does AMD think about Raptr joining forces with Intel, anyway?
“AMD... isn’t unhappy with this relationship, because they see the trickle down effect this could have on the industry and how it could impact AMD,” says Fong. “Anything that’s good for PC gaming and makes the experience better helps everybody.” The idea is that people will catch the hard-to-shake gaming fever after dipping their toes in using Raptr optimization on Intel systems, then eventually invest in additional gaming hardware in the future.
Unlike the Gaming Evolved client bundled with AMD hardware, the Intel partnership lets Raptr stand alone as its own brand.
Want to start using Raptr’s software to power-up your Intel-based rig? Head over to Raptr’s website and grab the client for free today. The newfound Intel support should already be enabled by the time you read this.