Intel says Intel and AMD processors can update Arc GPU firmware [Updated]

Enlarge / An Intel Arc graphics processor.


Update, 7:35 p.m. ET: Intel told Ars Technica that it’s possible for both Intel and AMD platforms to update Arc GPU firmware, and that Intel’s management engine isn’t actually required for firmware updates. .

“Intel Arc products do not require the host CSME to update Arc firmware,” an Intel spokesperson told Ars. “Firmware updates will work on both AMD and Intel platforms. Arc products have their own graphical security check for firmware updates and leverage existing Intel technology like the HECI interface protocol to implement the firmware update flow.”

A follow-up to Richard Hughes, the developer who originally discovered the limitation, said another user told him that a “GSC device using HECI shows up in Windows” when an Arc GPU is installed, which should allow updates on x86 devices. We confirmed this ourselves on a Windows PC with an Arc GPU installed and saw Intel’s GSC firmware interface listed in device manager, which should work the same on both Intel and AMD since it is part of the GPU itself. (How and if it will work on x86 Linux is something we can’t confirm at this point.)

The GSC interface indicated by Intel will allow firmware updates, at least on Windows x86 PCs.
Enlarge / The GSC interface indicated by Intel will allow firmware updates, at least on Windows x86 PCs.

Non-x86 platforms, including those based on IBM’s Arm processors and Power architecture, may still not be able to update Arc GPU firmware. But the vast majority of consumer-facing gaming GPUs won’t end up in these systems, which makes this firmware update issue something that will hardly affect anyone.

Original story: In our review of Intel’s Arc GPUs, we were generally impressed with their performance for the price, especially as a first-gen product. But buyers have plenty of potential caveats to consider, including unstable drivers, inconsistent performance, and a few weird issues that you need to dig into your computer’s BIOS settings to fix.

Linux devs working on Arc support seem to have discovered another oddity regarding maps. According developer Richard Hughes (as reported by Phoronix), firmware updating on Arc GPUs seems to be handled by the Intel Management Engine, a small microcontroller that is only included in PCs with Intel processors. Hughes encountered the issue specifically in the context of IBM’s POWER CPU architecture, but it appears to make firmware updates impossible on any non-Intel platform, including those based on AMD or Arm processors.

Fortunately, these types of GPU firmware updates don’t happen very often, and when they do do happens, it’s usually to fix a specific obscure problem or add minor features – using a GPU with outdated firmware isn’t the end of the world. On the other hand, if ever a GPU were to need significant firmware updates somewhere down the line would be this first generation of Arc cards, which are Intel’s first widely released dedicated GPUs and have already proven exceptionally rough around the edges in many other ways.

We’ve contacted Intel to ask if they plan to change the way Arc firmware updates are installed, and we’ll update this article if we receive a response.

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