The doctor tackles Discrete vs. Haswell IG, PhysX Cards, Upgrading Laptop Screens, and more
New Integrated vs. Old Discrete
I’m an AMD guy who opened his wallet to purchase a Haswell Core i7-4770K to run on an Asus Z87 Deluxe mother-board. I’m not a big gamer and can’t justify yet more money for the latest graphics. Just how fast is the Haswell integrated GPU and how does it rank relative to my current Sapphire 5850 1GB? I also have a second Sapphire 5850 in another system that I could rob for CrossFire. Would that be the best interim course, or should I use the Haswell graphics?
Note: This feature was originally featured in the September 2013 issue of the magazine.
There might not be room enough in Silicon Valley and the rest of the world for both embedded graphics processors and integrated graphics processors (IGP). To wit, Jon Peddie Research claims the full scale production of scalar x86 CPUs with increasingly powerful multi-core, SIMD graphics processing elements is causing traditional IGPs to fade out of existence.
We'd all love to own multiple high-end GPUs configured in a quad-SLI/CrossFireX configuration, but the majority of folk settle on much more pedestrian parts. If you're a discrete graphics chip maker, the real money is in the entry-level, but for how long?
According to Fudzilla, "most analysts predict that by 2012 the entry level discrete graphics [market] will be mostly gone." That's a bold claim, and to back it up, analysts point out the current shift towards integrating graphics onto CPUs. Upcoming parts like Intel's Sandy Bridge architecture, for example, represent the next evolution of integrated graphics. This is especially true in the notebook world, a segment that continues to steal the spotlight from the desktop.
"The first benchmark results are telling us that Sandy Bridge graphics are enough to replace current Nvidia and AMD entry level series graphics. It is still somewhat slower, but competitive nonetheless," Fudzilla says.
Still, will the shift be enough to destroy the entry-level discrete graphics market? We have our doubts. Moving graphics onto the CPU core isn't a ton different than picking up a motherboard with integrated graphics, albeit a CPU/GPU is admittedly more flexible. Still, we see budget discrete graphics getting more powerful rather than falling off the radar.
What do you think? Will Sandy Bridge and upcoming Fusion chips kill the entry-level discrete graphics market, or can the two co-exist? Hit the jump and sound off!
Our necks are still sore from the double-take we did when we saw Fujitsu announcing "external graphics" for its latest laptop, the Lifebook AH530 GFX. Could it be true that our enthusiast voices had finally been heard by a vendor with the balls to release a notebook with a presumably upgradeable external videocard?
Sorry Johnny, this isn't the innovative notebook you were looking for. What Fujitsu calls "external graphics," the rest of the world better recognizes as discrete graphics. In this case, it's an onboard Mobility Radeon HD550v graphics chip with a dedicated 1GB frame buffer. According to Notebookcheck.com, this mobile part comes clocked at 450MHz (core) and 600MHz (memory) with a serviceable (though not spectacular) 128-bit memory bus. Noteook Check says it's basically the same chip as the Mobility Radeon HD 4650, only a slower version.
Other specs include a 15.6-inch glossy LCD screen, optional Core i3, i5, or i7 processor, up to 8GB of RAM, up to 500GB of hard drive space, optional Blu-ray (comes standard with a DVD writer), 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, HDMI, three USB 2.0 ports, and VGA output.
No word yet on price, though Fujitsu says units will start shipping soon.
Intel no longer plans on pursuing discrete graphics, the chip maker announced in a blog post today titled "An Update On Our Graphics-related Programs."
"We will not bring a discrete graphics product to market, at least in the short-term," wrote Bill Kircos, Intel's Director of Product and Technology PR. "As we said in December, we missed som key product milestones."
Putting a positive spin on the announcement, Intel used the opportunity to talk up its mobile graphics strategy, though never really delved into any real detail about the company's future products.
"Our top priority continues to be around delivering an outstanding processor that addresses every day, general purpose computer needs and provides leadership visual computing experiences via processor graphics," Kircos explained. "We are further boosting funding and employee expertise here, and continue to champion the rapid shift to mobile wireless computing and HD video - we are laser-focused on these areas."
As for Larrabee, Kircos said Intel is executing on a business opportunity derived from the Larrabee program, but the project as you know it is dead, at least for the foreseeable future.
The GPU might be hailed as the new heir to the computing throne, but a stroll through any big-box PC retailer doesn’t bear that out—very few PCs under $900 even have discrete graphics cards. Instead, in the vast majority of machines for sale, the lowly, spat-upon integrated graphics rule the roost.
According to John Karabian, a product manager with No. 2 PC maker Acer, for the average consumer, it’s still just about the big three: CPU, RAM, and hard drive: “They know a 3.2GHz Core i7 is going to be slower than a 3.33GHz Core i7, 4GB is better than 2GB, and 1TB is better than 500GB.” The graphics card, Karabian said, is just something most consumers don’t think about, and if they do, it’s in a negative way. “The perception, it seems, in the marketplace, is that discrete graphics are only for gamers,” said Karabian.
Randy Copeland, president of Velocity Micro, agreed that the average consumer couldn’t care less about graphics in today’s market. Although Velocity Micro’s PCs are above the mainstream $900 PC, and all include graphics cards, he said it is difficult to market the benefits of the GPU to consumers.
“They don’t get the value of that graphics card unless there is a blue shirt there walking them through it,” Copeland said. “You don’t have a whole lot of space to sell someone a computer. It’s limited to the four or five bullet points [on the price tag], and that’s your sales pitch.”