A few years ago, when the first generation Intel Core processor was introduced, Intel has been touting the new integrated GPU on their chip as good enough to replace entry-level dedicated GPUs. Well it was only good enough for basic graphic tasks and having a dedicated GPU still has a significant advantage over it.
Integrated GPUs improved with the second generation and I was at the launch when Intel showed how the 2nd gen Core i5 (Sandy Bridge) can handle a war game without the aid of a discrete graphics card. However, over time, casual gamers still find 2nd gen integrated graphics lacking as the game progress.
Take for example this comparison below of a 2nd gen iGPU vs a GeForce GT 630 graphics card on the game League of Legends.
With integrated graphics, some of the details were not rendered by the game.
Then came 3rd gen Intel Core processor (Ivy Bridge) but games got more intense and requires more processing power.
What about the latest Haswell chip? The 4th generation Intel Core processor with its improved GT2 integrated graphics also known as the Intel HD Graphics 4600 having a 400 ““ 1350MHz shader speed. Is it enough to play top titles of last year out of the box, as if you’re playing with a discrete graphics?
NVIDIA has been claiming the same thing with regards to integrated graphics. Every year, with new iGPUs coming out, it’s still not enough to keep up with the pace of how games are being developed.
Check out this video comparing Street Fighter IV on a Core i5/i7 Haswell iGPU and a GeForce GT 630 card.
Although the graphics rendering is almost the same, the iGPU performs unbearably slow for the game. The GeForce GT 630 shows up to 2.6x better performance compared to the iGPU.
40% of the top 30 games of the previous year are unplayable with the latest integrated graphics for that year. NVIDIA started the test since Sandy Bridge, and it has been the same with Ivy Bridge and now Haswell.
So what makes a game unplayable in this context? Well for starters, there’s the 1366 x 768 resolution which is what casual gamers would typically have. NVIDIA drew the line at 30 fps which is understandable as anything will be show significant stuttering. The test concluded that iGPU failed to give gamers that “œgaming console experience” on their desktop.
Here’s another test on how the Haswell GT2 perform compared to an NVIDIA GT 600 series graphics card on the DX11 game Lost Planet 2 with low settings.
Lost Planet DX11 (low settings)
The chart above shows that a 4th gen Intel Core’s integrated GPU will output 100% to play Lost Planet in low settings whereas a GeForce GT 600 series card can do so much more with the same settings.
Now take a look at the benchmark for Resident Evil 6 on an integrated graphics vs. a dedicated one.
Resident Evil 6 ““ 1366 x 768 | Low quality | Motion Blur ““ Off | No Anti-aliasing
This resource-intensive game shows that on a dedicated graphics, you can play it in low-settings and still manage an above 30 frames per second for smooth gameplay. Whereas with an integrated graphics, it’s going to be irritating to play with that low 15 FPS.
If you want to go visual, here’s a comparison on how gameplay on Borderlands 2 is like on an Intel HD 4600 integrated graphics compared to an NVIDIA GT 640 graphics card:
You can see from the comparison above that integrated graphics still can’t provide you the realistic details an NVIDIA card can with its Physx technology.
Here’s another visual comparison for the Bioshock Infinite game using the same system.
The Intel HD Graphics 4600 only manage to play the game in low settings thus you’ll miss out on some details in the visuals.
Aside from gaming, having a dedicated GPU will also increase your productivity by processing things faster especially in the multimedia department such as photo and video editing.
Check out how the GeForce GT 630 finish quicker in performing a set of photo actions in Musemage compared to a Intel Core i5/i7 Haswell chip.
How about when rendering videos? Check it out:
Using the video editing software, vReveal 3, the GeForce GT 630 GPU finished a minute ahead of the Haswell integrated GPU when rendering a video.
So what can you take out of this? Well if you’re into games, you don’t need to spend so much for a new generation CPU because an older generation CPU along with a decent dedicated GPU such as the GeForce GT 630 or GeForce GT 640 can give you more power for your money. Not only do you get a better gaming experience but you also get more media productivity by finishing any photo and video processing faster so you’ll have more time for other things.