Intel HD Graphics 4000

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History

Before the introduction of Intel HD Graphics, Intel integrated graphics were built into the motherboard’s northbridge. This included Intel Extreme Graphics and the Intel Graphics Media Accelerator. As part of the Platform Controller Hub (PCH) design, the northbridge was eliminated and graphics processing was moved to the central processing unit (CPU).

In January 2010, the Clarkdale and Arrandale processors were released with HD Graphics, and branded as Celeron, Pentium, or Core.

In January 2011, the Sandy Bridge processors were released, introducing the “second generation” HD Graphics:

  • HD Graphics (6 execution units)
  • HD Graphics 2000 (6 execution units and video decoding offload)
  • HD Graphics 3000 (12 execution units and video decoding offload)

On April 24, 2012, Ivy Bridge was released, introducing the “third generation” HD Graphics:[1]

  • HD Graphics (6 execution units)
  • HD Graphics 2500 (6 execution units and video decoding offload)
  • HD Graphics 4000 (16 execution units and video decoding offload)

On September 12, 2012, Haswell was announced, with 4 models :

  • HD Graphics (GT1, 6 execution units)
  • HD Graphics 4200, 4400, 4600, P4600, P4700 (GT2, 20 execution units)
  • HD Graphics 5000, Iris Graphics 5100 (GT3, 40 execution units, twice the power-performance of HD4xxx for compute-limited workloads)
  • Iris Pro Graphics 5200 (GT3e, Same as previous, but with addition of large embedded DRAM cache to improve performance of bandwidth-limited workloads)

 

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.)

 

Metro 2033 (in fps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)

1,366×768, High, DX11, AAA, 4X AF
1,920×1,080, High, DX11, 4X AA, 16X AF
Origin EON17-S (Ivy Bridge — Intel Core i7-3920XM) — Nvidia GTX 675M

39.8
20.3
Origin EON17-S (Ivy Bridge — Intel Core i7-3920XM) — Intel HD 4000

17.3
8.8
Toshiba Qosmio F755-3D290 (Sandy Bridge – Intel Core i7-2630QM) — Nvidia GT 540M

12.1
7
Sony Vaio VPC-F236FM (Sandy Bridge – Intel Core i7-2670QM) — Nvidia GT 540M

12
6.9
Asus N56V (Ivy Bridge — Intel Core i7-3720QM) — Intel HD 4000

11.3
5.3
Asus N53S (Sandy Bridge – Intel Core i7-2670QM) — Intel HD 3000

10.3
4.3

 

 

Unreal Tournament 3 (in fps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)

1,600×900, 4X AA, 8X AF*
Origin EON17-S (Ivy Bridge — Intel Core i7-3920XM) — Intel HD 4000

112.5
Asus N56V (Ivy Bridge — Intel Core i7-3720QM) — Intel HD 4000

97.2
Intel (Sandy Bridge) whitebox — Intel HD 3000

77.4

 

 

Street Fighter IV (in fps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)

1,366×768, 2X AA, V Sync Off
Origin EON17-S (Ivy Bridge — Intel Core i7-3920XM) — Nvidia GTX 675M

216.6
Asus N56V (Ivy Bridge — Intel Core i7-3720QM) — Nvidia GT 630M

69.1
Sony Vaio VPC-F236FM (Sandy Bridge – Intel Core i7-2670QM) — Nvidia GT 540M

44.7
Toshiba Qosmio F755-3D290 (Sandy Bridge – Intel Core i7-2630QM) — Nvidia GT 540M

44.3
Asus N56V (Ivy Bridge — Intel Core i7-3720QM) — Intel HD 4000

33.9
Origin EON17-S (Ivy Bridge — Intel Core i7-3920XM) — Intel HD 4000

31.7
Asus N53S (Sandy Bridge – Intel Core i7-2670QM) — Intel HD 3000

18.2

 

 

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.

Related stories

  • Intel’s Ivy Bridge arrives: Here’s what you need to know (FAQ)
  • Ivy Bridge PCs: The first wave
  • Our first Ivy Bridge laptops: how do they perform?
  • Intel’s Ivy Bridge waits on Windows 8

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.

(Credit: Rich Brown)

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 performance
Intel 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.

 

Far Cry 2
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

1,920×1,200 (DirectX 10, 4x aa, very high)
1,440 x 900 (DirectX 10, 4x aa, very high)
Origin Chronos (Core i5 2550K, Nvidia GTX 560 Ti, March 2012)

129
176
Alienware x51 (Core i5 2320, Nvidia GTX 555, January 2012)

79
112
Asus Essentio CM6870 (Core i7-3770, Nvidia GT 545, April 2012)

36
54
Asus Essentio CM6870 (Core i7-3770, Intel HD 4000, April 2012)

13
32

 

 

Metro 2033
(Longer bars indicate better performance)

1,920×1,080 (DirectX 11, low, AAA, no DOF, no PhysX)
Origin Chronos (Core i5 2550K, Nvidia GTX 560 Ti, March 2012)

73
Alienware x51 (Core i5 2320, Nvidia GTX 555, January 2012)

58
Asus Essentio CM6870 (Core i7-3770, Nvidia GT 545, April 2012)

29
Asus Essentio CM6870 (Core i7-3770, Intel HD 4000, April 2012)

17

 

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.

 

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