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Vulkan now works on a bunch of Intel GPUs, and that's great news for everyone

Vulkan now works on a bunch of Intel GPUs, and that's great news for everyone

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Intel Skylake chip shots
Photo by Vlad Savov

Intel just shipped a new Windows driver for its integrated Iris 500 and 600 GPUs which finally supports the Vulkan graphics API. This is wonderful news for a number of people.

If you have a consumer Skylake or Kaby Lake processor and you run Windows 10, you're covered. Most Vulkan-capable apps right now are high-end or experimental games, so this won't make everything instantly wonderful, but it does mean you're now the low bar of Vulkan desktop performance, and the large install base makes you a highly attractive target for developers if they can optimize their titles for you. And Vulkan is great for optimizing!

If you're a developer, you now have a gigantic target market to develop Vulkan-enabled games for. No matter how popular they are, or how necessary they are for most modern gaming experiences, discrete GPUs are still a relative niche. But every computer has a processor, and most have Intel processors, and now there are millions of computer users you can create more performant titles for, free from the overhead of OpenGL and DirectX.

And this is even great for Nvidia and AMD. If Vulkan becomes the standard way to do graphics programming, the better it will be for every level of graphics. Intel's integrated GPUs have never managed to steal much market from the big two GPU makers, but Intel's market presence means more titles can now be made with Vulkan in mind, which means more titles will really scream once boosted by a discrete GPU.

Vulkan isn't a cure-all, and it doesn't make the hard math and heavy load of modern graphics any less hard — in fact, it often requires more work on the part of the developer, at least at the outset — but it does offer a little more headroom for anyone willing to put in the effort, and even a few extra FPS or a few million more polygons is always nice.