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Just Not Good Enough?

Are Intel's Integrated Graphics Processors Good Enough for Gaming?
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For some, Intel's lack of graphics focus for game support is unbecoming of the world's largest graphics processor vendor. Intel's integrated graphics GMA 950 core supports DirectX 9 and offers up to 10.6 GB/s memory bandwidth, 667 MHz DDR2 and 1.6 Gpixels/s and 1.6 Gtexels/s fill rates. Despite this, the device still has far to go for acceptable game play, according to Mark Rein, vice president for Epic Games, the developer of the Unreal graphics engine and game series. "Before our release of Unreal 2007, we hope that Intel becomes competitive," Rein said. "But today's very popular games, which are not next-generation games, are virtually unplayable for anybody that cares about gaming. Our fingers are crossed."

Indeed, Rein said that "we have been burned by integrated graphics. It is really a show me situation. They definitely have to improve things if they want to offer a viable solution for applications like [Windows Vista], for example, but they are certainly not shipping one now."

There is also a disparity between Intel's emphasis on CPU power for gaming and how they de-emphasize the graphics component, Rein said. "Intel is out evangelizing multi-core and wanting people to do hyperthreading and multi-threading, and have all these technologies for more powerful games to use more CPU effort," Rein said. "But it is meaningless if you don't have graphics to keep up with the CPU, and the majority of graphics [processors] just don't keep up."

The lack of support is especially apparent with laptops, underscored by how difficult it is to use anything but an Intel integrated graphics processor, Rein noted. "If you change from a desktop to laptop, you are often pretty much out of luck as far as high-end gaming goes," Rein said. "What is the point of shipping multi-core CPUs, if they are only going to have integrated graphics?"

Conclusion

Does Intel intend to change the status quo? As it stands now, Intel has no plans to grow its market share in the graphics processor market, and will continue to leave high-end gaming graphics processor designs up to the NVIDIAs and the ATIs. In the future, you may be able to just get by with a newly-released Intel integrated graphics processor, but intensive game play for new titles should continue to necessitate an investment in a graphics card.

Intel's graphics processor mantra now is less about harnessing the full power of Doom III than it is about enabling home entertainment experiences that will not involve an inordinate amount of FPS gaming. "We will continue to improve upon video and media playback capability, which is where we see the future of the mainstream consumer's [demands] for the accelerated part of the video playback. [This deals with] how the resolution is supported on the screen, and things like that," Silva said. "We will continue to do a lot for the home entertainment applications."

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