Posts Tagged ‘ivy bridge’
A truism of Intel chip announcements: Intel releases a new CPU, and with it a new graphics chip or, since Sandy Bridge, a new graphics core embedded in the CPU silicon. Intel then claims said chip/core will provide at least a baseline PC gaming experience. This claim is never true.
Only now it is.
With its new Ivy Bridge CPUs, Intel has introduced two new graphics cores, the Intel HD 4000 and a lower-end HD 2500 core. you will still have a better gaming experience with a budget graphics card, but for at least the HD 4000, Intel finally has an onboard graphics processor with some 3D processing muscle.
Ivy Bridge gaming on laptops last year, Sandy Bridge’s leap in integrated graphics was a story in itself, and resulted in your average mainstream laptop finally being able to run some off-the-shelf PC games, albeit at lower graphics settings.
The gains in Ivy Bridge’s new graphics are clear, at least across our range of gaming benchmarks. Unreal Tournament III, our oldest gaming benchmark, has been discontinued in favor of Street Fighter IV and Metro 2033. we ran UT3 on the two Ivy Bridge laptops we’ve gotten so far (the Origin EON17-S and Asus N56V) and saw clear, significant improvements over last year’s Sandy Bridge white box. (Read a deeper discussion of Ivy Bridge laptop performance in general here.)
Street Fighter IV at 1,366×768 ran at 33.9 frames per second on the N56V’s Intel HD 4000 versus 18.2fps on the N53S’ HD 3000 graphics. That’s a huge leap. The integrated graphics still fall short of the performance of a GeForce GT 540M GPU (around 44 frames per second on our two quad-core i7 Sandy Bridge laptops), but the result is much closer than it’s ever been before.
Metro 2033 ran surprisingly close: at 1,366×768, it was about a frame per second off our Nvidia GT 540M laptops. That’s not a playable frame rate, of course, but it shows how far integrated graphics have come to even approach such a test in the first place.
For more mainstream gaming matching what you’d probably try to experience, we ran far cry 2 on the Asus N56V using its Intel HD 4000 graphics. it performed the benchmark at 24.1 fps at 1,366×768 resolution, versus 14.4 fps using the Asus N53S’ last-gen Intel HD 3000 graphics. Here, the difference amounts to a much more playable game.
But here’s the real question: can it play Skyrim? we installed and ran Skyrim at 1,920×1,080 and the Asus N56V was able to play it quite well with graphics settings at low. Character motion was fluid, and the landscape scrolled by without a hitch. once set to Medium, frame rate dropped down to a choppy status I’d call unplayable. keep those settings at low, however, and Skyrim at 1,920×1,080 is truly playable, and shockingly so. we also tested Skyrim on the Origin EON17-S, with found similar results.
Battlefield 3, a graphically demanding game, was an even greater success story. Running at 1,920×1,080 at Medium settings, the game wasn’t exactly smooth, but could certainly handle an online match. Dialing down to 1,600×900 or lower graphics settings at 1080p both produced results that many players would consider more than acceptable.
My impressions are that Ivy Bridge could be a great step for gaming on everyday laptops without discrete graphics, but we still don’t know how Intel HD 4000 graphics will fare on laptops with lower-end CPUs. For results in that regard, you’ll have to stay tuned until June.
Ivy Bridge desktop 3D performanceIntel has a similar success story on the desktop side of Ivy Bridge. we tested an Asus Essentio CM6870 with a high-end, 3.4GHz Core i7-3770 chip, 8GB of memory, and a GeForce GT 545 graphics card. you are still better off playing games with even that budget-priced 3D card, but the Intel HD 4000 graphics core at least makes some games playable.
First, some expectations management. far cry 2 is useful test because the game is based on a midrange, DirectX 10-based graphics engine. we tested here with the same settings we use for high-end gaming desktop reviews, with the intention of giving Ivy Bridge a meaty test on a game that discrete budget 3D cards can play well.
With the Intel core driving the 3D rendering on the Asus system, it achieved a playable frame rate at 1,440×900 pixels, but ran into trouble when we bumped the resolution up to 1,920×1,080 pixels. The lesson here is that while you can play games with the Intel chip, you will still need to sacrifice image quality or resolution, even on older titles.
What’s remarkable about the new chip though is that we haven’t found a game yet that it can’t play in some capacity. Metro 2033 with DirectX 11 is one of the most demanding games available, and we normally test using its highest settings. Here, we dialed the image quality down to “low.” While the Intel-based Asus’ 17fps falls short of acceptable for any real gaming computer, the game is still more or less playable.
I conducted the same Skyrim and Battlefield 3 anecdotal testing on the desktops, and found similar results to what Scott found with the laptops. The Intel chip played both games smoothly at 1,920×1,080 on low quality presets. The frame rate on Skyrim hovered around 30fps, and just under 20fps on Battlefield 3, according to the Fraps frame rate capture software. Neither game looked its best, but both were surprisingly playable.
As with the laptop testing, we don’t know the extent to which our testing will apply to shipping systems. How often, for example, will you find a Core i7-3770 chip in a desktop that doesn’t also have a discrete graphics card? we also can’t say how the HD 4000 processor will hold up when it’s paired with a slower CPU, nor have we seen performance from the lower-end HD 2500 graphics core.
If nothing else, our testing shows that we can finally take Intel seriously as a graphics chip manufacturer. It’s achieved some impressive low-end performance with these Ivy Bridge graphics chips, and it demonstrated real improvement over the previous generation’s graphics horsepower. it hasn’t killed the low-end 3D market yet, but after years of futility Intel finally has a worthwhile chip for PC gaming.
With Intel’s next-gen CPUs arriving late spring/early summer, and Windows 8 coming to new PCs sometime around October, it’s easy to recommend that laptop shoppers hold off on any new purchases until one or both of those are available.
Or, is it? We’ve opened up the question for point/counterpoint debate, with Scott taking the position that you should definitely not buy a laptop right now, and Dan saying we shouldn’t be slaves to a release calendar, and just buy what you want, when you want it.
Scott:Of course you should wait for a laptop. Isn’t it clear? Intel’s Ivy Bridge processors are just around the corner. Nvidia has a new graphics platform for laptops. Windows 8 may still be a ways off, but the underlying hardware is set for a significant CPU upgrade in a matter of mere months, which will affect future Apple laptops as much as Windows ones.
Sure, you can buy a perfectly good laptop right now…but why would you, when the benefits of Ivy Bridge seem significant, especially for integrated graphics? I wouldn’t have recommended you buy aniPad in February, and for the same reason I wouldn’t recommend you buy a laptop now, unless you don’t mind owning a product that feels outdated by May.
If you wait, you’ll get more computer for the same money. Plus, there’s a good chance that some significant redesigns will emerge, with thin ultrabooks on the rise and Windows 8 emphasizing touch screens and larger touch pads.
Dan:The first thing you learn in this industry is that there’s always going to be something newer and better (and possibly more expensive) — and it’ll usually be released just as you’re pulling the shrink wrap off the gadget you just bought.
Case in point: on the very day last fall that Apple announced a series of modest MacBook Pro updates, a reader wrote in to ask if he should get the new model, or if an even newer one was right around the corner. my longtime rule of thumb has been: if you want or need something like a new laptop, just go out and get it. Otherwise, you’ll spend your entire life worrying about whether something newer or shinier is about to come out.
Besides, the next-gen Intel Core i-series processors don’t look like they’re going to be as revolutionary as the last leap. Integrated graphics will be better for casual gaming, but they’ve said that about every Intel update for years — and gaming still isn’t great on systems without a dedicated GPU. and, Windows 8 has some fun widgets and different views, but how many people do you know still rocking Windows XP (hint, a lot)? It turns out that an OS update is one of the things a lot of people find they can live just fine without.
Scott:When you’re this close to a new product release — as we are with Ivy Bridge, which should hit somewhere between late April and May — you’d kick yourself if you bought a last-gen model with less impressive specs for the same price. You get more each year, and not just in terms of processor: sometimes, that means more RAM or more hard-drive space for your money, too.
You can’t chase new technology forever, but don’t be stubborn and ignore an upgrade that’s literally around the corner. I guess if you’re desperate for a computer now and your laptop is just plain dead, go ahead. What’s the hurry, can’t wait a month or two? Newer operating systems and software have a way of eating up resources, and using them on new hardware, rather than installing them on your current system, can always help stave off the Spinning Wheel of Death just a bit longer.
Dan:Yeah, Ivy Bridge is reportedly coming in April/May, but only for the high-end quad-core versions. the everyday computers are coming even later than that, and who knows when your favorite laptop is actually going to get an upgrade; some PC makers take six months or more to roll out new models.
Finally, here’s the unpleasant truth about most people’s laptop habits. Today’s laptops are more than enough for what you need. Last year’s laptops are also fine. You can probably even go back another year or two before that.
Why? because you’re not doing genome sequencing or running a CGI render farm. You’re on Twitter. You’re sending a few e-mails. You’re watching Netflix. maybe you’re playing the latest farm simulator on Facebook.
For years, people have bought too much laptop, and it’s time we all stop worrying about specs, and start worrying about finding a laptop that works for your lifestyle, whether it’s one that’s easy to type on, light enough to throw in your bag, or one that just looks cool.
What do you think? Should someone in the market for a new laptop buy now? Or wait for next-gen CPUs or Windows 8? Vote in our poll, or let us know what you think in the comments section below.