Intel Command Center lays foundation for next year’s ‘Arctic Sound’ GPU

Intel came to GDC 2019 with Command Center, a sleek and modern new interface for its aging graphics software. Available now from the Microsoft Store, Command Center revises the look, feel, and feature set available to anyone using Intel graphics hardware.

It might seem a tepid announcement at first. Graphics driver software isn’t exactly a hot-button topic, and gamers are most eager to hear more about the company’s upcoming “Arctic Sound” discrete graphics. But a discrete graphics card won’t be great if it’s not supported by solid drivers and good software for controlling the GPU’s features. Intel’s Command Center lays that foundation.

Nailing the balancing act

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The redesign starts with, well, the design. Command Center offers a sleek, simple, flat look that coordinates well with Windows 10. Chris Hook, Intel’s Graphics and Visual Technologies Marketing Chief, says the design was a balancing act.

“This is a control panel the corporate user has to be comfortable with, but […] you don’t want to turn the gamer off. And the gamer is going to care the most about things like, where is my V-Sync.” Offering all things for all people is never easy, but the Command Center seems to pull it off well, and it looks distinct from the competition.

While the new software will include the features you’d expect from past Intel graphics software, it’ll also add new options that are tailored for gamers. One-click optimization is the headliner. It does what it says on the tin, automatically changing PC and in-game settings to improve performance. When asked, Chris Hook said the software will target a 30 FPS experience at 720p or 1080p resolution, depending on the game and the performance offered by the hardware you have. One-click optimization will support 30 games at launch, including titles like World of Tanks and Civilization VI.

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Though the competition debuted this feature first, it may prove more important to Intel than Nvidia or AMD. Why? Because Intel’s integrated graphics make do with minimal performance. Optimization is difficult when you don’t have much to work with. Software that points gamers in the right direction should be a boon. Players will be able to adjust settings manually in Command Center if desired and save custom profiles for each game.

Intel’s ‘Arctic Sound’ discrete graphics are coming

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Intel talked up the company’s commitment to quality graphics drivers. Chris Hook boasted that “[Intel] supports about one billion graphics processors in the market.” He also said the company launched 14 day-of graphics drivers through 2018, optimizing for 55 games on day one and 91 new games total. At the same time, Hook reminisced about the bad-old-days of AMD drivers, which gained a dubious reputation for poor reliability and optimization about a decade ago. Some gamers still remember those issues and refuse to buy AMD video cards because of them (we still receive comments about it on Digital Trends, despite the fact AMD drivers have been solid for years).

Launching Intel Command Center now is clearly an attempt to get gamers familiar with the new look of Intel software and work out any bugs well before the company launches discrete graphics next year.

“We know sometime in 2020 we’re going to become a discrete graphics company,” said Hook. “So, what we’re trying to rationalize is, what are the right controls for the audience today, and how does that evolve so we can have a singular control panel?” Hook stressed that Intel wants to get the software “really, really right,” even if it takes time and multiple iterations. The messaging seems built to counter any concern that Intel’s latest attempt at competition might, like past efforts, fall to the wayside if it fails to immediately bear fruit.

Community outreach is also a part of the effort. Intel says it’s amping up efforts to collect feedback from Twitter and Reddit, and the company’s looking into ways to collect feedback directly from the Command Center software. “There really isn’t a playbook for this,” Chris Hook said on this point. “There’s a playbook for high-end only. There isn’t really a playbook for how you make the right experience for a million processors, many of which have entry-level graphics horsepower, and then roll that up.”

Intel Command Center is available now from the Microsoft Store. It supports Intel Core processors from the 6th-generation or newer.

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