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Integrated Graphics for Gaming or HTPC?

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September 24, 2007 4:28:34 PM

http://www.tomshardware.com/us/2007/09/24/integrated_graphics_for_gaming_or_htpc/index.html

Does it make any sense to game with an integrated graphics chipset? How does it do with DVD and HD DVD playback? We look at a few chipsets and see what they have to offer.
September 24, 2007 4:41:20 PM

Integrated graphics would be good for the monitor alone. A low end graphics would be useful for HTPC and mid to high for gaming. By the way the link does not work.
a c 143 U Graphics card
September 24, 2007 4:56:07 PM

Some games work fine with integrated graphics - Simcity 4000 for example. Others will not even let you install them. If you're into FPS then you need a graphics card.

Playing DVDs is OK with integrated graphics. My Dad does that all the time.

I don't know about HD DVD. I suspect those would work too if you've got a fast CPU, for example E6600 or better. There's a lot of decoding to be done, and some single core CPUs can't handle it in real time without hardware support from the video card.
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September 24, 2007 5:07:56 PM

I'm not through the whole article (pg 2). What I think is that integrated graphics should be able to run every game (DX 9.0c, currently most games are made for it) on 1024x768, no need of the eye-candy such FSAA etc. (otherwise nobody would buy the discrete ones).

The reason behind this is the abhorrent power consumption of discrete graphics cards. The reason I'm sticking with my GeForce 256! Where I live electricity is VERY expensive and since my PC runs Folding@home 24x7, I don't want to spend 40W/hr when a 7600GT is IDLING. (Or the 19W for 7300GT). Well nobody minds if it's consuming a lot when playing a game or rendering 3D, but 40 watts at idle! I play only like 4-5 hours a week.

In my next build, I'll go integrated, just for the sake of power consumption.

By the way people, is there some way we can force ATI/nVIDIA to lower their idle power usage? Can we have a petition or something? Do you people know of any card that uses mobile GPU on it (so we can compare any possible power saving that could be made that way).
a c 143 U Graphics card
September 24, 2007 5:45:01 PM

Hmmm.... Look, I admire your generosity in running Folding@home, but I have to ask: wouldn't your money be better spent if you made a cash donation to some charity or research organization instead?

Look at it this way: $20 a month to a charity is usually $17 actually reaching the people who need it, and soon.
$20 a month paid to a utility bill (which sells VERY expensive stuff, as you said) means polluting the planet, giving a big profit to the company, and your results may take years to actually help somebody. Also, if your CPU is from the same year as the 7600 GT, it probably produces fewer results per watt compared to, say, an E6750 or Q6600.

September 24, 2007 6:44:50 PM

If you were to get a lower power card, something based on 65nm process that is mid-range, and underclock it to the minimum levels, you should save a meaningful chunk of the power. You could also make your next build use that and a mobile CPU -- Athlon X2 EE or a Pentium Core Duo.

I have a Cyberpower 1350VA UPS and it measures my consumption. Basically, I have an old Celeron 733 that acts as a router, so 40W. Then my 19" CRT (I love how it works at every resolution as if it were native) draws 80W. Also attached is my main rig - 2.93GHz E4300 w/ an 8800GTS, 4 HDs which must draw the remainder. Total usage is 300W, so the main rig draws 180W idle. Under load, the total usage I've seen hit about 360W or so, so at load, the main rig draws about 240-250W at the plug. Figure 80% efficiency, the rig actually uses 200W of power and generates 50W of heat in the PSU.

To leave this whole setup on for a month, would cost around $22/month. I don't leave it on constantly, though, and the monitor goes into idle mode whenever I'm not around.

That's based on the local 10c/KWhr ($US) rate. I don't think $22/mo is ridiculous for something like that. In practice, I'd be amazed if it actually costs more than $10/month. I know in the US, CT has the highest power costs, and its 14c/KWhr. So if you think it costs too much to run a discrete graphics card, even the 20W 7300GT, you have to have a power cost over 25c/KWhr. Are you in Antarctica or something?
September 24, 2007 6:47:24 PM

at the OP:
I run my media center with integrated graphics (6150) and it plays games at low settings and fine FPS, and it runs all my normal computing without issues.
September 24, 2007 6:47:28 PM

I do agree with aevm, though. Power plants are a notoriously horrible pollution generation industry. The reliance on coal is really just backwards. If you look at alternatives, you could try to equip your house with solar panels, try to get wind energy plants built, or try to get nuclear plants built. Of the three, the one with the best chance of actually turning a profit is wind. The one with the most energy produced is nuclear, and is the one that produces any emissions, though relatively safe. Nuclear rods may not be the safest thing, but atleast the byproduct is water and not CO2 and NOx.
September 24, 2007 6:56:19 PM

When you live in Asia, you have a problem indulging in things like E6750. Mine's a Sempron 2800+. It's getting quite old, I'll replace my machine in Dec (after my exams). (I had the option of Athlon on S754, but I didn't buy it b/c of its high consumption). What I need is lightning fast response, (not raw speed), and fast I/O (now some retailer I know has started importing Raptors, I'll go for it).

The total power bill increment since when I started folding (obviously w/ Team 40051) is $2 per month. That will maybe mean nothing to you, but we don't earn in dollars. I remember reading in some newspaper that we pay more for power than New Yorkers.

Anyhow charity won't fulfil my purpose. I'm the type of person which acts according to some theories, one of which is that I don't buy anything if I can't use it to death (minimization of waste). Like my year-old cellphone has all its counters in thousands. To increase the value of my car, I always carpool (if it can seat 4, it should). Likewise, my CPU will go obsolete, so I always run it at 100% load, just to get the best ROI. (Maybe I do all this b/c I've a Mensa brain?)

I've no problem paying anything as long as my machine is actually doing something. But paying for 40W an hour when the GPU is doing nothing except displaying the desktop (and the monitor is off b/c I do it whenever I'm not in front of it) is obscene. For the sake of comparison, most modern processors by Intel and AMD consume like 4-10W at idle.
September 24, 2007 7:08:09 PM

You can downclock your video card for which I do on my 8800gts. I set mine near 100/150mhz unless I play a game that needs more.

And are you telling me that you wouldn't buy a Hummer H3 that sits 7 people for highway commutes seating just yourself? Seems common over here.
September 24, 2007 7:11:33 PM

Hey, wait just a minute! I'm A+ certified!
a c 143 U Graphics card
September 24, 2007 7:11:35 PM

Yeah, $2/month is a lot in some countries, unfortunately. And you still being a student doesn't help either, of course. When you finish university in your country, do you have a huge debt to pay off, like people in North America?

You probably know this already, but what the heck: an LCD consumes less than a CRT. I don't know exact numbers right now, but I think my CRT 19" used to consume over 100W and my current 20" LCD needs only 35W.
September 24, 2007 7:12:58 PM

If you TRULY care about saving electricity, invest in a laptop (assuming the funds are available) It also doubles as a battery backup if you're not getting consistent power from your utility company.
September 24, 2007 7:26:10 PM

Enough with this pointless electricity discussion. Now the question I have is: Isn't something missing in that article? Why yes there is, where the hell is the NVIDIA nForce 630a or 630i chipset with GeForce 7025 or 7050 integrated graphics?

This article is useless in comparing integrated videocards unless they have all the major chipset manufacturers compared.
September 24, 2007 7:27:01 PM

@aevm,

We don't have any debt at all. Studying in a government (maybe you ppl call it public) university, I have to spend a around US$ 1,000 for four years of education (that's only the tuition fee). Had I managed to get myself to work hard and secure an A-grade in the first year, I'd have continued a scholarship which would pay it all. Anyhow the fees isn't much, I earn more than $250 in two months (by private tuitions to higher secondary kids).

@joex444,

I don't want to get something specifically imported. It will be way too expensive. If anybody of you has a working Turion, I'll try to pay for the shipping.
September 24, 2007 7:47:04 PM

Saving electricity is not a pointless discussion.
September 24, 2007 7:51:27 PM

I don't get it... the article is called "Integrated Graphics for Gaming or HTPC?" so you'd think it'd be at least somewhat comprehensive. It should have been called something like "X3100 and 690G for gaming or HTPC" The graphics core from the G33 should have been tested especially since a lot of people probably miss the fact that it is GMA 3100 not GMA X3100. This would also give at least a ballpark figure for GMA 950 since its similar to the GMA 3100. Also, why exclude the Nvidia 6150? Just because Nvidia is releasing the 7050 soon doesn't change the fact that a lot of people already have the 6150 and there are still many boards available that utilize it.

My $0.02
-mcg
a c 196 U Graphics card
September 24, 2007 8:46:42 PM

Well, my wife's PC had GMA950 graphics. It could sometimes reach 30 FPS max on Guild Wars at 1440x900, but was not really playable, so I gave her my old 7600GT. Much better!
a c 359 U Graphics card
September 24, 2007 11:36:31 PM

joex444 said:
I know in the US, CT has the highest power costs, and its 14c/KWhr.


Give me a break, I wish I was only paying $0.14.KWh. NYC ranges from $0.19/KWh - $0.21/KWh.


a c 359 U Graphics card
September 24, 2007 11:46:09 PM

rupert86 said:

I've no problem paying anything as long as my machine is actually doing something. But paying for 40W an hour when the GPU is doing nothing except displaying the desktop (and the monitor is off b/c I do it whenever I'm not in front of it) is obscene. For the sake of comparison, most modern processors by Intel and AMD consume like 4-10W at idle.


1. The 7600GT does not consume 40W while idling. At stock speed the 7600GT consumes 35W max and 15w when idling.

http://www.xbitlabs.com/articles/video/display/power-noise_5.html#sect0



2. Desktop CPU do not draw that little power when idling (close, but not that low):

http://www.xbitlabs.com/articles/cpu/display/amd-energy-efficient_6.html#sect0



Edit: Corrected the link to the second image.
a b U Graphics card
September 25, 2007 12:38:54 AM

And look at the GF7300GS and you start seeing 3D power useage results in that level, let alone 2D and idle;

http://www.xbitlabs.com/articles/video/display/power-noise_7.html#sect1

Of course you lose out on HD video features that way.
So if you want to start getting some HD features then the GF7600GT is the min starting point with a GF8600 being a better option still.
a c 359 U Graphics card
September 25, 2007 12:45:54 AM

If people are really serious about building a power efficient PC then you need to choose the right components. The most important component is the power supply (PSU). The efficiency of the PSU ultimately determines how much power the PC will draw from the A/C outlet. The more efficient, the less power. I recommend Seasonic or Corsiar (made by Seasonic) PSU because they are both efficient (up to 85%) and very quiet. An efficient PSU also wastes less electricity as heat so the inside of the PC will be cooler.

The next thing to consider is the CPU. Generally speaking, some AMD Athlon X2 CPUs uses less power than Intel C2D CPUs. However, under load the Athlon X2 CPU uses more power than the C2D CPU. Therefore to get the best power efficiency, you need to determine what your PC will be doing most of the time when it is on. Folding@Home requires CPU cycles, therefore if you want to pursue this noble cause then the C2D will use less power, thus saving money. However, if you want to setup a Torrent PC, then you will want a low power AMD Athlon X2 since it uses less power than the C2D when it is idling.

See my previous for power consumption while idling. Below is a link to a different of the same article from above:

http://www.xbitlabs.com/articles/cpu/display/amd-energy-efficient_8.html



Note that different tests can give slightly different results. Also note that the Athlon X2 3800+ EE is being compared against the more powerful C2D E6300.

Next up is the motherboard. Unfortunately, no one really checks for mobo power conumption probably because it would be too difficult to exactly measure it since you need the eliminate power consumption of all the other components. Therefore, I can only provide general recommendations.

1. Buy an m-ATX mobo. There will be less circuitry and slots compared to full size ATX mobo which means less power is wasted.
2. Skip the "premium" options if you don't need them like RAID, WiFi, etc.
3. Get a mobo with a passive chipset cooling solution, meaning just a heatsink with no fan. If you have a power efficient PSU, then there should be a little less heat inside the PC.

The sound card - While on-board sound has improved over the years, it is still inferior to a dedicate sound card, but should use less power.

Hard drive - If possible try and buy a hard drive that uses only one platter. That may be difficult depending on the capacity you are looking for. The fewer the platters the less power it will uses, the less heat will be generated and the less noise it will produce. I think at the moment the most a single platter can hold is 200GB. But Seagate recently announced that they will be releasing hard drives (late October) that uses platters capable of storing 334GB. I plan on getting the 1TB version.

CPU heatsink - If you build your PC correctly and you do not intend on overclocking, then you can opt to install just a heatsink to cool your CPU. Eliminating the fan saves power and reduces noise. Which passive heatsink you plan on using will depend on how hot the CPU gets and the side of the PC case. If it is really wide or tall, then you can install a massive heatsink like the Scythe Ninja.

The Video Card - As I stated before, the 7600GT does not use a lot of power when idling. Many mainstream and value GPUs use little power when idling. Choosing the right one will optimize both your needs and power consumption. Over at least the past 4 generations of GPUs, nVidia's cards have generally used less power than their ATI counterparts.

Any video card can handle DVD movies. However, HD-DVD or Blu-Ray is a different matter. Below is a link to an Anandtech article about HD video decoding and is worth a read:

http://www.anandtech.com/video/showdoc.aspx?i=3047

Like I said before, nVidia GPUs generally uses less power than ATI cards. However, ATI card are marginally better than nVidia cards at offloading HD decoding from the CPU. Given this I would still choose a nVidia card. But (to the best of my knowledge) current nVidia drivers doesn't allow the GeForce cards to do HD video decoding under Windows XP.

Another thing to consider for HD-DVD or Blu-Ray is that both GPU and monitor must have HDCP to see HD video in all it's glory.

If I had to choose a card right now and I do not intend on playing games, then I would get a nVidia 8400 with HDCP. It uses very little power, therefore you can easily find one with a passive cooling solution. Thus, saving some power on the fan and also have less noise.
September 25, 2007 3:59:01 AM

My experience with onboard graphics has been a little chaotic. My Geforce 6100 integrated was working nice, but it wasn't enough for today's games. So I overclocked the little thing, and played much better... until it detonated. That motherboard lasted 11 months, and still haven't been able to replace it, that's why I have a Duron 1200 with a dreadful Geforce2 MX now. I agree that 75 dollars for a low-mid range video card is a good price... but if you are outside the US, 75 dollars can be a real fortune.
September 25, 2007 7:00:53 AM

did it strike anybody except the likely biased reviewers as odd that the 690g/x1250 is apparently performing less then the g965 but (slightly) better in the synthetic 3dmark2005? almost all other sites reviewing the 690g against the 6150/g965 had another conclusion...
a b U Graphics card
September 25, 2007 7:14:58 AM

ethaniel said:
My experience with onboard graphics has been a little chaotic... So I overclocked the little thing, and played much better... until it detonated.

Um, duh? You overclocked a chip that already nearly burns up under stress because of inadequate cooling (like most integrated graphics chips, you don't see it with a huge copper HS with a fan blowing out the back do you?.
September 25, 2007 10:37:35 AM

@jaguarskx,

I do regularly read Xbitlabs, but the wattage figures I quote from THG. Around 3 weeks ago they published an article on efficient computing, and they had a HUGE graph showing idle and load power for many cards. Oh maybe it also depends upon the type of memory and power circuitry etc.

Also, my PSU costs equal to US$10. You'll be LOLing but Seasonic, Enermax etc. aren't options. Asus and Cooler Master are though, but I can't get myself to buy a PSU which costs the sum of my mobo and RAM.

Also, I turn off all the unused features: Parallel ports, COM ports, those USBs I don't use, the HDD controllers I don't use etc.

The other thing is: I still use a 80GB HDD. I don't need more than this. Most people I know don't. But what we want is lightning fast data transfers. Anyone else sharing my craving?
a b U Graphics card
September 25, 2007 11:17:28 AM

I need more than 80Gb, but my 160Gb has never filled up (got close once though)
September 25, 2007 4:17:37 PM

I liked the article - mostly because it is really relevant to my decisions as I try to figure out what I want in a HTPC. I'm not looking for a game box (last FPS I played was years ago) and this being a tertiary PC I'm looking to save money where it makes sense.

HOWEVER - what I would really like to know is not only how well does a DVD or HDDVD play, but how well do they do handle MPEG4 compressed video (the type you might have after ripping a DVD for hard-drive storage). I would also like to know how well the various solutions do for off-loading the CPU.

So, while it was a good start, on the HTPC side I would like to see some CPU utilization numbers while playing a DVD or HDDVD. And then add some quality and CPU utilization numbers for playing MPEG4 data.

Anyone have any suggestions as to which if any integrated video solution will work ok playing MPEG4 - and if so, will it work well with a lower-end CPU? Does it make a difference if I use Windows with their media solution or Linux/MythTV ?

September 28, 2007 1:13:55 PM

It's a pity the tester didn't have access to a Geforce 6100/410 together with some slighter older titles. I run this DX9-capable chipset on a Socket 939 board and A64 3200+. Initially I was cautious about using it for games, but had to because my previous hardware fried and I needed something fast.

Why not test these chipsets with slightly older games? Mine runs Flight Sim 20004 fine at 1024 x 768, as long as you avoid fog data. I think the expectations are a little too high in running the likes of F.E.A.R. and even Doom 3, which aren't really designed to use anything less than good, discrete graphics.

My point is that for slightly older games (Far Cry, GTA San Andreas, FS 2004) and emulation as well as video playback, I think integrated may suffice. I have little to complain about with the one I am using, considering it's a freebie and it makes no noise whatsoever.

If you want to play the latest titles there really is no solution but to get a discrete card and not something that isn't going to deliver like the 8500 range.
September 28, 2007 1:17:19 PM

You can also get AM2-based motherboards that boast the nVidia 6100/430 chipset.
September 28, 2007 1:45:08 PM

Great article! Hardware sites focus too much on the high-end.

I second that less demanding games would have been nice. FEAR is a real graphics-card killer, but I played UT2004 on an S3 Unichrome IGP recently and it wasn't too bad. Sims 2 might have been better aimed at the integrated graphics crowd, too.
September 28, 2007 2:53:15 PM

This article certainly makes sens in todays computer market. Even if it's not exhaustive, it gives a good idea of the state of the IGP and what can be expected. At the office, 98 % of the computer we have used IGP. Also, I was thinking about using an IGP for an up coming built for someone who doesn't game after reading this, I am not sure what I'll do. Even if it's not necessary, I think that spending 100.00 $ on a discreet GPU, if budget allows, still a good investment.
September 28, 2007 11:48:39 PM

I'm waiting for the Intel G35 chipset with the X3500 graphics accelerator. This one is supposed to be a big jump over the X3000, especially for HD DVD. Isn't this coming out next month?
September 29, 2007 3:30:53 AM

cvladan said:
Great article! Hardware sites focus too much on the high-end.

I second that less demanding games would have been nice. FEAR is a real graphics-card killer, but I played UT2004 on an S3 Unichrome IGP recently and it wasn't too bad. Sims 2 might have been better aimed at the integrated graphics crowd, too.



Do you mean to say that the people in your office don't attempt to buy the most expensive graphics card possible because that is the "best" and they "can" ???

We get people buying Quarto cards 2kx and up in Dell systems because then they will have a fast computer, only to learn the domain we have is the slow part and a 4k system doesn't help.

Now, if they would stop doing that and pool together to upgrade the network... now that would be wise... but what do I know, im only the IT guy.
October 1, 2007 8:54:19 PM

So what about performance of integrated graphics motherboards vs those without?
I know there is a performance decrease when the onboard graphics are activated (because it shares the ram).
But when it is turned off, and a discrete card is added, is there any difference between a mATX board and a regular ATX board with no integrated graphics?
October 2, 2007 8:14:42 PM

No. Once the integrated graphics has been turned off, there is no difference between mATX, ATX, BTX, or... AT (joking). The biggest difference is what they support and their specs, I.E. 1333fsb...
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