One can really see where Intel is headed when they look at the chip giants graphics roadmap for its upcoming 4th generation Core I series of processors that launch next month during Computex 2013. On June 2nd, 2013 Intel will be releasing dozens of processors based on the new highly anticipated ‘Haswell’ microarchitecture. These processors use the brand new 22nm 3D Tri-Gate production process and have some pretty interesting features, but we are going to be talking about the graphics aspect of the new processors today.
It is fairly safe to assume that most people would say that the modern CPUs are ‘good enough’ on PCs these days. Most people are keeping their desktops longer than before than before because they don’t see a reason or killer app that is forcing them to update. The fairly drastic changes and missing start button in Microsoft’s Windows 8 OS has also kept a number of people from buying/building a new system. One of the biggest gripes of people that are on the fence on if they should update or not is the power of their graphics processor. Most people will say that their GPU could use more power or that they have driver issues in the games they are playing. The good news is that Intel is aware of this and has really stepped up the graphics power inside each of the upcoming Haswell processors. Rumor has it that Intel will be releasing not one, but four different Intel HD Graphics options for Haswell.
The flagship Intel HD Graphics options are codenamed GT3 and GT3e and look excellent on paper. Systems shipping with GT3 graphics will end up branded as having Intel HD Graphics 5000 series GPUs and we are seeing speculation that there will be Intel HD Graphics 5200, 5100 and 5000. All of these graphics solutions will have 40 Execution Units (EUs) and some will have up to 128MB of embedded DRAM. Intel’s current 3rd generation Core I ‘Ivy Bridge’ processors have just 16 Execution Units, so it shouldn’t come as a shock that the new GT3 graphics will have around twice the power of the Intel HD Graphics 4000 in Ivy Bridge processors!
One would expect that Intel would be putting this glorious new GPU technology into socketed desktop processors, but we have learned that is not the case. Only certain BGA versions will receive GT3 (Intel HD 5xxx) integrated graphics. Intel will have some R-series desktop processors that feature Intel HD 5200 graphics (GT3e), like the Core i7-4770R, but they are all BGA solutions. All of the traditional desktop processors look like they will get GT2 (Intel HD 4xxx) integrated graphics (The Intel Core i7-4770K is getting Intel HD Graphics 4600 for example). This news will likely disappoint desktop PC users, but it will bring joy to Intel Ultrabook users and will also help usher in the era of BGA platforms that we have been told is coming.
Traditional desktop PC sales are plummeting right now, so it looks like Intel is backing off on high-end graphics for these types of systems. Most gamers use discrete graphics cards anyway, so it shouldn’t be that big of a deal. It would have been nice to see a 2x increase in graphics performance on the Intel Core i7-4770K versus the Intel Core i7-3770K, but not everything happens like you want it to. This news should be considered good news for discrete video card makers like AMD and NVIDIA as most enthusiasts and gamers will want more powerful Radeon or GeForce GPUs inside. Then again, it could also mean bad news for them as GT3 might mean that discrete graphics are no longer needed for some mobile devices.
For those looking to build a socketed system all has not been lost. The Intel HD Graphics 4600 (GT2) will offer a nice performance bump over what is on the market today from Intel since it is expected to have 20 EUs. Since this means it has a 20% increase in EUs it is fairly safe to assume that there will be around a 20% performance improvement from Intel HD 4000 graphics used on Ivy Bridge processors. The exact features of the GT2 graphics unit are still unknown, but Intel has confirmed that it supports full DirectX 11.1, OpenCL 1.2 and OpenGL 4.0. Intel is also beefed up the video decoder for 4K videos and improved the fast Quick Sync encoder. We expect that Intel will have several versions of GT2. You’ll have Intel HD Graphics 4600 on the top, Intel HD Graphics 4400 for the mainstream and Intel HD Graphics 4200 for the entry level system.
Intel Haswell processors are just over a month away from being announced and we are learning more about them each and every day. When it comes to graphics it looks like BGA processors are going to get the biggest increase in performance. This is a fairly significant shift in focus as for years the most powerful integrated graphics solution has always gone to a desktop processor. Intel has the ability to put GT3 on desktop processors, but they chose not to. This could have been done due to a number of reasons. We know GT3 is fairly larger and takes up plenty of die space, so it could have been for that reason. It also consumes a fair bit of power, so by the time you take a quad-core processor with hyper-threading and add in GT3 it is safe to assume that the TDP would increase by a pretty decent amount. Most of the rumors we have seen on GT3 is that it will be on dual-core BGA processors, so all of that makes sense.
Time will tell shortly as we have just a month until Haswell arrives! Be sure to take a look at this Wikipedia page on Haswell processors if you are curious about the Intel Haswell lineup!