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Haswell Graphics Finally Good Enough? We’re going to kick that football to the moon
Intel’s x86 prowess has almost always been the envy of the free world. We can say that without anyone except the most ardent AMD fanboy objecting, because when it comes to x86 performance, Intel has thoroughly cleaned everyone’s clocks. From PowerPC to 68000K and from SPARC to MIPs, Intel’s x86 parts have sent everyone packing.
When it comes to graphics, though, most agree it’s been the exact opposite. Old salts will remember Intel’s disastrous entrance into discrete graphics with the i740 in late 1990. Despite analyst predictions of an Intel-led graphic-card-ageddon, Intel instead withdrew with its video card between its legs two years later. Though a sucktacular non-success, Intel turned lemons into gold-plated lemonade when it embedded i740 into the 810 chipset. Believe it or not, today, Intel’s integrated graphics dominate in market penetration over AMD and Nvidia graphics chips.
But Intel wants more than to merely excel at sucky graphics, and has been on a steady march to gain some respect. Every year, Intel proclaims its integrated graphics much improved, and usually people shrug it off as Lucy trolling that sap Charlie Brown. With Ivy Bridge, though, Intel’s graphics indeed got better, but overall still couldn't compete with even low-end discrete parts. This time, Lucy says, it’s different. But is it? Are Haswell graphics really, finally good enough to replace discrete graphics? We can’t say—yet.
First, to be fair to Intel graphics, our ability to judge its performance is only based on the HD4600 part embedded in the Core i7-4770K chip—a CPU no one is likely to use without a discrete GPU. The HD 5000 and HD 5200 are actually the “real deal,” but we couldn’t get our mitts on them. HD4600 is indeed better than Ivy Bridge, though. To compare, we used the same rigs we used for the other benchmarks in this story, but ripped out the discrete cards. We saw Haswell offering a healthy increase over Ivy Bridge. In fact, in Portal 2, which we considered unplayable with Ivy Bridge at 1080p resolutions, Haswell gave us reasonable (but not fantastic) frame rates with image quality turned down a few notches. Not bad, honestly. Resident Evil 6 at 1360x768 saw Haswell with twice the performance of Ivy Bridge. Other games also gave Haswell a good leg up over its predecessor. Enough to replace discrete graphics? Hell no. At least, not with HD4600.
The Bantha in the room is really Intel’s HD5200 graphics. With its 128MB of eDRAM, we suspect that it’ll give even AMD’s best APUs a sound thrashing and might finally be the football Charlie Brown has been waiting to kick all these years.
Haswell vs. Ivy Bridge Graphics
Click the next page to see how well Haswell compares to Ivy Bridge and Sandy Bridge-E.