In short: Nvidia’s and AMD’s graphics drivers must support legacy software and hardware from almost two decades ago, so it’s understandable that they’ve bloated a bit. However, Intel has the largest driver load despite being the newest player in dedicated GPUs.
Intel’s entry into the discrete graphics market reveals some surprising observations regarding the size of GPU drivers. Compared to the competition, Intel’s software is overweight.
Nvidia’s GeForce Graphics 528.02 driver, released on January 5, is 788MB in size. Even smaller is AMD Adrenalin 22.11.2 dated December 8 at 546 MB and version 23.1.1 dated January 11 (for the Radeon RX 7000 series) at 590 MB. Surprisingly, the Intel Arc Graphics driver version 184.108.40.20634, released on January 13th, is 1.2 GB in size to download. In addition, the range of hardware and software supported by each driver version does not quite match their comparable sizes.
Unsurprisingly, Nvidia’s drivers will be significantly larger than AMD’s, as Team Green adds their GeForce Experience app to every boot. It has useful features such as a streaming feature, Ansel screenshot tool, and additional methods for optimizing gaming performance. However, users often complain about having to sign in to an account to update drivers.
The large size of the AMD Radeon 7000 drivers compared to the drivers for all previously supported GPUs is interesting in itself. On the download page, TechSpot 23.1.1 is marked as hotfix, so it might not be the most efficient package.
The difference with Intel drivers remains a mystery for several reasons. Arc Alchemist is the first generation of Intel dedicated GPUs and only requires support for one Arc 220.127.116.1134 driver. Conversely, Team Red drivers are compatible with all cards since the HD 7700 series. Similarly, Nvidia goes back to the GeForce GTX 600 series.
In addition, the two older competitors support DirectX versions 9 through 12, as well as Vulkan, OpenGL, and other graphics APIs. Meanwhile, Intel Arc has relatively limited support for DirectX versions up to 12, which is arguably its biggest weakness. So it’s weird why it should be almost twice the upload size. Perhaps Intel’s workarounds for older APIs result in more code, not less.
Another explanation could be that Intel includes drivers for Intel Xe integrated graphics for Tiger Lake and Raptor Lake processors. Of course, we could find holes in this theory since AMD’s boot also supports its integrated GPUs and APUs.
The simplest explanation could be that Intel didn’t have enough time to optimize their drivers in terms of performance and boot size. Since this is new in this area, this issue may be fixed over time. Let’s see how the release of Intel Arc Battlemage will affect the company’s drivers.