Integrated VGA & How Good Is ATi's Radeon 9100 IGP?

The Status Of Integrated Graphics Today

The following comparison of former high-end chips and their features should help give an impression of a chip's 3D performance:

Name Integrated
3D Chip
Generation Chip Clock Memory Clock No. Transistors Memory Bandwidth
NVIDIA GeForce 2 GTS DX7 DX 7 200 MHz 333 MHz (DDR) 25 Mio 5.3 GB/s
ATI Radeon 256 DX7 DX 7 200 MHz 400 MHz (DDR) 30 Mio 6.4 GB/s
NVIDIA GeForce 3 DX8 DX 8 200 MHz 460 MHz (DDR) 57 Mio 7.4 GB/s
NVIDIA GeForce 4 Ti (4600) DX8 DX 8.1 300 MHz 650 MHz (DDR) 63 Mio 10.4 GB/s
ATI Radeon 8500 DX8 DX 8.1 275 MHz 550 MHz (DDR) 60 Mio 8.8 GB/s
NVIDIA GeForce FX 5950 Ultra DX9 DX 9 475 MHz 950 MHz (DDR) 130 Mio 27.2 GB/s
ATI Radeon 9800 XT DX9 DX 9 412 MHz 730 MHz (DDR) 107 Mio 23.4 GB/s
Integrated Graphics
ATI Radeon 9100 IGP Radeon 9200 DX 8.1 300 MHz Max. 400 MHz (DDR)* 36 Mio 6.4 GB/s*
Intel i865G Extreme Graphics II DX 7 266 MHz Max. 400 MHz (DDR)* >20 Mio (?) 6.4 GB/s*
NVIDIA nForce 2 GeForce 4 MX DX 7 200 MHz Max. 400 MHz (DDR)* 27 Mio 6.4 GB/s*
Real 256E DX 7 200 MHz Max. 400 MHz (DDR)* >20 Mio (?) 6.4 GB/s*
*Note: Depending on the system Memory. The bandwidth is also shared with the whole system.

Even a quick glance at this table shows that integrated graphics simply don't play in the same league as typical graphics cards. Enabling FSAA or anisotropic filtering, let alone both, is unthinkable on this kind of hardware.

Of course there is a multitude of factors that also influences a graphics card's performance, but listing them all would go beyond the scope of this article. For one thing, though, integrated graphics chips don't have their own dedicated memory. Instead, they utilize the system's RAM. Therefore, their memory bandwidth and memory clock speed are completely dependent on the memory type used in the system. Lastly, the graphics chip has to share this memory with the rest of the system, which means that in practice, they have only about half of the maximum theoretical bandwidth at their disposal. Also, the memory the graphics chip needs is no longer available to the system.

State of the Art: Along with NVIDIA's GeForce FX 5950 Ultra, ATi's Radeon 9800 XT is the fastest graphics card available in the market right now.
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