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Intel HD Graphics: Clarkdale’s On-Package GPU

Intel Core i5-661: Clarkdale Rings The Death Knell Of Core 2
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In a fairly incredible contrast to the confusion that is its current processor model naming, Intel has done away with the numbering system used to identify past graphics and memory controller hubs by simply calling its integrated GPU Intel HD Graphics.

The company isn’t trying to spin this as a revolutionary update to its GMA X4500-series cores, which represented an improvement to past graphics cores and accelerated Blu-ray movie playback, but still wasn’t an option for gaming enthusiasts. Rather, the message is that the home theater-oriented features have been improved, and the folks who play games like Bejeweled and The Sims should be able to enjoy their mainstream entertainment without a need for discrete graphics.

The 3D Core

The engine driving Intel’s HD Graphics is very similar to what we’ve already seen in the G45’s GMA X4500HD, launched a year and a half ago. Organized as a unified shader architecture, HD Graphics does get a bit more compute horsepower via 12 scalar execution units (versus 10 in the generation prior). Moreover, the clock rate of Intel’s Core i5-661 is uniquely high at 900MHz—100 MHz higher than G45’s GMA X4500HD. The rest of Intel’s launch SKUs sport lower 533 and 733 MHz graphics processors.

Official API support remains fixed at DirectX 10 and OpenGL 2.1 via hardware-accelerated Shader Model 4.0-compliant vertex and pixel shaders. Those are largely check-box specifications, though. In reality, the integrated GPU isn’t fast enough to drive a DirectX 10-class title at sufficient speed.

HD Graphics block diagramHD Graphics block diagram

Of course, the on-package graphics core with its on-die memory controller promises a substantial boost to memory bandwidth—and not only in theory (from two channels of DDR3-1066 serving up to 17 GB/s to two channels of DDR3-1333 pushing up to 21 GBs). The gain should also be palpable in the real world, as lower latencies enable higher utilization of available throughput, which you’ll see in our synthetic memory bandwidth numbers.

Performance is further improved by Hierarchical Z and Fast Z Clear—two components originally featured in ATI’s HyperZ suite, designed to maximize the use of available memory bandwidth and prevent unnecessary overdraw on Radeon GPUs back in 2000. Intel makes up to 1.7GB of system memory available to graphics, as with its previous-generation integrated graphics core, but there’s really no reason to dedicate that much RAM in light of the GPU’s performance characteristics.

Just how significant of an improvement is HD Graphics over the GMA X4500HD? We set both platforms up in World of Warcraft and ran circuits around Dalaran for 60 seconds at a time with the aim of finding out.

World of Warcraft, Dalaran Circuit, 60 Seconds (FRAPS)

1680x1050, Ultra
1280x1024, Ultra
1024x768, Ultra
1024x768, Low
Intel GMA HD Graphics
5.017
6.000
6.550
22.317
Intel GMA X4500HD Graphics
3.550
3.800
3.667
14.700
AMD Radeon HD 4200 (IGP)
3.967
4.583
5.633
39.150


Performance is clearly relative here. Yes, the HD Graphics implementation is significantly better than anything Intel has offered in the past. Yes, you can play World of Warcraft on a Clarkdale-based processor (specifically, the Core i5-661—the only model with a 900 MHz graphics clock). But in order to do so, you’ll need to drop your resolution and detail settings so far as to make the game not enjoyable. 

Intel can put a feather in its cap for besting AMD's 785G-based Radeon HD 4200 graphics core across the board in World of Warcraft with Ultra settings enabled. Drop to Low quality settings, though, and the 785G takes off ahead. And even then, I wouldn't want to play this fairly mainstream game on the Radeon HD 4200, either.

WoW looking good...WoW looking good...

...WoW looking not as good...WoW looking not as good

As a general rule, if you’re working with 3D, this is not the GPU you’ll want to use. If your games of choice are online, in 2D, Intel’s HD Graphics processor will likely suffice.

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Top Comments
  • 14 Hide
    gkay09 , January 4, 2010 3:27 AM
    ^ Many more reasons to buy AMD Phenoms II X4 in the mid-range segment...
    Only drawback with the AMD CPUs is the power consumption, that I feel can be brought down with slight undervolting...
  • 11 Hide
    dtemple , January 4, 2010 3:27 AM
    I'm looking to upgrade from my Athlon X2 @ 2.7GHz because I do more with the computer now than I did before - sometimes I'll play a game while my TV tuner is recording from my cable signal, and having more cores would help these multiple tasks run more smoothly.
    I was waiting until the Clarkdale-based i5 launched, thinking it would be a quad-core that was more competitively priced against the Phenom II X4, but it looks like a Phenom II X4 is my only option to get more cores for less money.
    The only good news coming out of this launch is that LGA1156 is not changing for the Clarkdale chips, so it looks to be the most future-proof platform to upgrade to, if one was so inclined. I'm personally going with a Phenom II since I can get one without changing motherboards. This is one of the more disappointing launches in the last year or so.
  • 10 Hide
    Zoonie , January 4, 2010 3:15 AM
    Well... I think that takes care of the dreaded "But can it play Crysis?" question regarding its GMA :D  :p  :p 
Other Comments
  • 10 Hide
    Zoonie , January 4, 2010 3:15 AM
    Well... I think that takes care of the dreaded "But can it play Crysis?" question regarding its GMA :D  :p  :p 
  • -1 Hide
    xc0mmiex , January 4, 2010 3:20 AM
    Video on page 1 not working ... "This is a private video..."
  • 0 Hide
    eklipz330 , January 4, 2010 3:20 AM
    can i ask why you teased us at the end with the 4.5ghz OC but didn't include them in the benchmarks? =[ i'm guessing most of use at tom's like to OC... it could be the difference that gets us to buy the i5 661 over the phenom II
  • 1 Hide
    cangelini , January 4, 2010 3:21 AM
    xc0mmiexVideo on page 1 not working ... "This is a private video..."


    Fixed! Had to keep it private pre-launch :) 
  • -1 Hide
    Anonymous , January 4, 2010 3:26 AM
    I really like the improvements Larrabee brought about....not! I do like the fact they are making progress but they really need to skip ahead a few generations or buy out some other company to design a GPU for themselves.
  • 14 Hide
    gkay09 , January 4, 2010 3:27 AM
    ^ Many more reasons to buy AMD Phenoms II X4 in the mid-range segment...
    Only drawback with the AMD CPUs is the power consumption, that I feel can be brought down with slight undervolting...
  • 11 Hide
    dtemple , January 4, 2010 3:27 AM
    I'm looking to upgrade from my Athlon X2 @ 2.7GHz because I do more with the computer now than I did before - sometimes I'll play a game while my TV tuner is recording from my cable signal, and having more cores would help these multiple tasks run more smoothly.
    I was waiting until the Clarkdale-based i5 launched, thinking it would be a quad-core that was more competitively priced against the Phenom II X4, but it looks like a Phenom II X4 is my only option to get more cores for less money.
    The only good news coming out of this launch is that LGA1156 is not changing for the Clarkdale chips, so it looks to be the most future-proof platform to upgrade to, if one was so inclined. I'm personally going with a Phenom II since I can get one without changing motherboards. This is one of the more disappointing launches in the last year or so.
  • 4 Hide
    cangelini , January 4, 2010 3:27 AM
    eklipz330can i ask why you teased us at the end with the 4.5ghz OC but didn't include them in the benchmarks? =[ i'm guessing most of use at tom's like to OC... it could be the difference that gets us to buy the i5 661 over the phenom II


    We have another overclocking piece planned--I wanted to get a Core i3, at least, to include :) 
  • 3 Hide
    Anonymous , January 4, 2010 3:30 AM
    I would love to see what GTA IV would do do the dual cores in gaming! I do know that its a bear of a game on the CPU and it would truly show off if hyperthreading could actually make a major difference.
  • 0 Hide
    maximus20895 , January 4, 2010 4:26 AM
    Great video once again! Thanks for this and the review itself. Very informative. I really liked the graph on the first page too :) 
  • 0 Hide
    WINTERLORD , January 4, 2010 5:03 AM
    good touch on the world of warcraft fraps. although not very playable on high settings is good to know what speeds it actualy gets
  • 2 Hide
    noob2222 , January 4, 2010 5:11 AM
    Would be nice to know if this thing can handle blue ray playback, as some of these would probably be sold as a HTPC. Ya, they put features for it, but does it play or not?

    Last preview I read showed it doing fine in windowed mode, but blowing chunks at full screen playback, dropping to 15fps and lower.
  • 3 Hide
    dupaman , January 4, 2010 5:25 AM
    Idle power in the 70s for an IGP-based system is a huge failure not a win, though using an 1100W PSU probably deserves a lot of the blame. Systems built on the 780G, 730i, G4x, etc. (similar to this test platform, but use a more appropriate PSU) idle in the 40s.
  • 1 Hide
    shubham1401 , January 4, 2010 6:22 AM
    Nice dual....
    E8500 was beaten badly...

    Wud really like to see what these chips can do once overclocked.
  • 6 Hide
    thejerk , January 4, 2010 7:08 AM
    Where are the H55 and H57 motherboards priced? So what if the processor is $200 if the motherboard is going to be another $200 on top of it, like P55. I'm not an AMD fanboi, but for less than $300, you can get excellent computing power. Platform cost is where AMD rules, currently.
  • 0 Hide
    Stardude82 , January 4, 2010 7:17 AM
    Very meh at their price points with disappointing idle consumption. Intel is just biding time until AMD's 32 nm process is ready. No reason why they couldn't have a 4 GHz stock chip, load power proves it.

    If you use a E8600 with integrated G45 graphics, I bet you that power consumption will be lower that the 661 (integrated). This GPU-on-package is all just a marketing ploy.

    I really wish you had benchmarks for the low end chips though I doubt IT managers will be running out to replace their fleets of E7500's.
  • -6 Hide
    liquidsnake718 , January 4, 2010 7:22 AM
    same as the p55 but less room for Gpu's.... and newer h55,h57 onboard gpu.... well I guess if you really want to get over all the unneeded jargon and you dont really have a budget just skip this and go X58..... regardless.... even if you have a little extra money to spare and you ARE on a budget, save on the 2nd GPU,monitor, or RAM and get an X58 now!

  • 1 Hide
    mau1wurf1977 , January 4, 2010 8:12 AM
    I think there is a big mistake in the gaming benchmarks...

    Wolfdale is a awesome gaming chip. Its a first to me that the Core 2 Quad is faster in Crysis and all the other games vs. Wolfdale...

    Are you sure it was running at full speed?
  • -6 Hide
    mau1wurf1977 , January 4, 2010 8:12 AM
    I think there is a big mistake in the gaming benchmarks...

    Wolfdale is a awesome gaming chip. Its a first to me that the Core 2 Quad is faster in Crysis and all the other games vs. Wolfdale...

    Are you sure it was running at full speed?
  • -6 Hide
    mau1wurf1977 , January 4, 2010 8:20 AM
    That Yorkfield is 2.66 GHz! No chance in hell it beats the E8500 in gaming...

    I hope this is just a mistake...

    E.g. in Crysis 1920 x 1200 with (breace yourself) 8x AA! No way in hell are these scores correct.

    Did you test the E8500 with a slower video card?
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