Update, 7:35 PM ET: Intel told Ars Technica that it is possible to update the Arc GPU firmware for both Intel- and AMD-based platforms, and that Intel Control Engine firmware updates are not actually required.
“Intel Arc products do not require the host CSME to update the Arc firmware,” an Intel spokesperson told Ars. “Firmware updates will work on both AMD and Intel platforms. Arc products have their own Graphical Security Control for firmware updates and use existing Intel technology such as the HECI interface protocol to implement the firmware update flow.”
A follow up from Richard Hughes, the developer who first discovered the limitation said that another user told him that a “GSC device using HECI appeared in Windows” when an Arc GPU was installed, which should have allowed 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 the device manager, which should work the same on both Intel and AMD platforms since it’s part of the GPU. (How it will and won’t work on x86 Linux is something we can’t confirm yet.)
Non-x86 platforms, including Arm CPUs and those based on IBM’s Power architecture, will still not be able to update the Arc GPU firmware. But the vast majority of consumer-oriented gaming GPUs won’t end up in these systems, making the issue of firmware updates something that almost no one will be affected by.
Original story: Ours Intel’s Arc GPU reviews, we were generally impressed with their performance for the price, especially as a first-generation product. But there are plenty of potential caveats for buyers to consider, including unstable drivers, inconsistent performance, and a few odd problems. examine your computer’s BIOS settings solve.
Linux developers working on Arc support seem to have uncovered another oddity with the cards. according to developer Richard Hughes (as reported by Phoronix), firmware update on Arc GPUs appears to be controlled by Intel Control Engine, a small microcontroller included only in computers with Intel processors. Hughes encountered the problem 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 CPUs.
Fortunately, these kinds of GPU firmware updates don’t happen that often, and when they do do if it happens, it’s usually to fix some obscure problem or add minor features – using a GPU with outdated software isn’t the end of the world. On the other hand, if no GPU would go need important firmware updates, it would be these first-generation Arc cards, which were Intel’s first widespread dedicated GPUs and proved to be quite rough around the edges in many other ways.
We’ve reached out to Intel to ask if it plans to change the way it installs Arc firmware updates, and we’ll update this article if we hear back.