Intel ARC AI image generation gains performance thanks to optimized drivers
Intel sees an opportunity in promoting Arc A7 GPUs for generative AI.
The Arc Alchemist GPU’s performance may not be up to par with the RTX 40 and RX 7000 GPUs in gaming, there’s still a lot of work to be done in that area, but Intel sees a lot of potential in generative AI powered by their architecture.
Intel Arc GPUs are actually quite cheap right now. The most powerful one, the A770, is usually available for less than $300. The 16GB variant could be of interest to users who are looking for an affordable GPU for Stable Diffusion, one of the free generative AI models available for everyone to use.
The company is working with Microsoft to improve the driver software for Direct ML, a high-performance library for hardware-accelerated machine learning algorithms. This collaboration has resulted in improved performance on Intel Arc discrete and integrated GPUs. The upcoming Meteor Lake mobile CPU series will also take advantage of these improvements, and the GPU tile will also be based on Alchemist.
Intel has been working on improving their drivers for Olive, which is an open-source tool for model optimization developed by Microsoft. This model has recently been updated for newer models like Stability AI’s Stable Diffusion XL text-to-image model and Llama2 from Meta, which is a large language model.
Intel has incorporated the optimizations from Olive into their drivers, which have in turn resulted in doubled increase in image generation performance in Stable Diffusion 1.5 (the older model optimized for 512×512 images). With the latest release (4952), Intel has further optimized the drivers, providing a 2.7x increase over the original ONNX runtime for DirectML.
The company is not settling for SD 1.5, as the driver team is already working on providing Stable Diffusion XL and Llama2 optimized drivers soon. For users looking for some cheap cards for generative AI with lots of memory, the A770 16GB which currently retails at $289, or A750 GPU with 8GB VRAM goes for $199 may be something to consider.
The Intel Graphics team has some great tutorials on how to install and start generating new AI images. You can check this page for more details.