Ahead of the release of the Core i5 14600K, i7 14700K, and i9 14900K, Intel has already demonstrated Application Optimization benchmarks, a new feature that should lead to significant performance gains in games. The manufacturer was not able to prepare the necessary drivers in time for release, but now you can start using the function. Is APO really a game changer?
For those who haven’t made it to page two of our Raptor Lake Refresh review, first a little summary. Application optimization is a new software policy that will help allocate software threads to the best types of cores suitable for 14th Gen Core CPUs. Intel already has a hardware thread manager for this purpose, which works with the scheduler in Windows 11, but in some programs it doesn’t get the most out of it.
Application Optimization only works with software that has been vetted by Intel and whose underlying distribution has been determined to be not optimal by default. So far there are only two games: Rainbow Six Siege and Metro Exodus. The new feature works via the Intel Dynamic Tuning Technology driver, which until now has been primarily used by major PC manufacturers to adapt processor performance to the cooling and power capabilities of the system. DTT is turned off by default on many desktop motherboards.
You need two things to get started with APO. To get started, you need a BIOS in which you can activate Intel Dynamic Tuning Technology; Updating to the latest version is often enough. You also need a DTT driver, which strangely can’t be found anywhere on Intel’s website, and there’s no list of supported games for that matter. We have picked it up from the download section of It ASUS motherboard, but we were then also able to use the drivers on our Gigabyte test board without any problems. However, it appears that the setup executable does not install all the drivers; Manually browsing through folders to install all .inf files provides convenience. After a successful installation and reboot, you should be able to see “Intel Innovation Platform Manager and Processor Participant” in Device Manager, under System Devices.
Essentially, APO is turned on by default after that, but has no effect on software not included in Intel’s list of supported games. If you want to be able to turn the function on and off without having to boot the BIOS every time, or even enable it in every game, you can Intel APO Application Download from Microsoft Store. However, you don’t need it just to do its job.
All this setup later works: Are Intel’s performance claims more or less accurate? In Metro Exodus on medium settings, the frame rate rises faster than promised by the manufacturer itself. We measured a 19.2 percent performance increase over the score in our original review, which is more than enough to surpass AMD’s Ryzen 7 7800X3D. The 14900K with APO also stands above the rest of the test field in terms of frame times.
At Ultra settings, the differences become somewhat smaller, but with APO the 14900K still scored about 12 percent higher than without it. This makes it 7 percent faster than the 7800X3D instead of 4 percent slower.
Rainbow Six Siege dates back to 2015, so it’s no longer part of our standard test suite, but since that’s the only other game with APO running, we tested the game with an AMD 14900K and 7800X3D. At medium settings, the 14900K gains about 13 percent of performance thanks to APO, but that’s still only 1 percent slower than the 7800X3D.
Even at Ultra settings, the performance gain is still up to 12 percent. In this scenario, that’s enough to outperform the 7800X3D, both in fps and at 99p framerates.
The performance gains we measure with the new App Optimization feature are impressive, both relative and absolute. In our testing results, this ratio reaches 19 percent in Metro Exodus and 80 fps in Rainbow Six Siege, respectively. This is about scenarios where you achieved excellent performance even without APO, but no one will ever say no to free additional performance. On the other hand, the fact that this performance was apparently in the processor could also mean that something has gone wrong with the basic scheduling of these games so far.
The fact that Intel didn’t finalize this feature in time to include it in release reviews is of course a problem. Until now, there is still uncertainty about how this function will be used. Can’t find information on Intel’s website, nor can I find the drivers themselves. The setup distributed by the motherboard manufacturer installs only half of the drivers initially. Although Intel hinted before the release that more games could benefit from APO in the future, the number is still limited to two supported games at the moment.
At the moment, APO appears to be only supported on the 14th Gen Core i7 and i9 models, and not on the Core i5 14600K. “Apparently,” because Intel doesn’t make that clear anywhere. What’s worse, in my opinion, is that owners of 12th or 13th generation processors are also being excluded at the moment, even though those chips are technically almost identical to those in the 14th generation. If much better performance can be achieved using the software scheduling trick, Intel should not be using it for a nice marketing slide about 14th Gen, but rather to improve the performance of every Intel CPU with a mix of P and E cores.
Naturally, we asked Intel if it plans to make APO more readily available, and add support for more processors and games. The processor designer was unable to respond before the weekend, but if we receive a response we will update this article.
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