Skip to main content

How much Graphics Power Does a PC Really Need?

Intel, The Graphics Market Leader

The two technology leaders in the graphics segment, ATI and NVIDIA, have a long history of competing for market share by speeding up their cards and enhancing them with improved 3D features. However, the company that is the market leader when it comes to the sheer volume of graphics solutions, has chosen a different approach.

Market share, Graphics Supplier Q4/2004 (by Jon Peddie Research)

Intel does not sell graphics cards, but instead integrates graphics processors into its motherboard chipsets. This tactic proved very successful in the case of the so-called Intel Extreme Graphics II solution, which was found in the i865 chipset, among others. Its success came despite the 3D performance of this DirectX 7.1 solution being underwhelming, to put it mildly. Intel improved the 3D performance and feature set of its successor, the Graphics Media Accelerator 900, which is integrated in the new i915G chipset. Thanks to this part’s DirectX 9 support - albeit without vertex shader units, which have to be emulated by the CPU - this solution is already suitable for Longhorn. Of course, this still doesn’t make the GMA 900 a good choice for gaming, but users who only require decent 2D output for office tasks, surfing the Internet and watching videos will get all they need - and at an unbeatable price, to boot ! After all, the graphics solution is already on the motherboard, integrated in the chipset, and so the buyer practically gets it for free.

Free ? How so ? Consider that motherboard manufacturers pay $41 for the Intel 915 chipset with an integrated GMA 900 graphics core, which is only $4 more than the i915 P version without graphics. At retail, an i915G motherboard will cost only $8 more than the P version. The following table shows the difference in price between a system built on a motherboard using Intel’s GMA 900 graphics and systems using the cheapest DirectX 9 PCI Express cards that ATI and NVIDIA currently offer :

MotherboardGraphics SolutionOverall Price
i915G - Abit IG80Best Price* : $87Integrated - GMA 900-$87
i915P - ECS 915P-ABest Price* : $79NVIDIA GF 6200 TC 16Best Price* : $67$146
i915P - ECS 915P-ABest Price* : $79ATI X300 SEBest Price* : $64$143

If you find yourself asking how Intel came to be the market leader in the graphics market, you’ll find the answer in the table above : a price advantage of $60 compared to a discrete graphics solution. Intel offers an ideal solution for customers who have little interest in gaming and only want a work PC that costs as little as possible. And thanks to the x16 PCI Express slot, the system can easily be brought into the gaming world at any time simply by plugging in a faster graphics card.

Currently, NVIDIA doesn’t offer any motherboard chipsets featuring integrated graphics. ATI, on the other hand, seems to have discovered the market for integrated graphics and is trying to steal market share from Intel with the new Radeon XPRESS 200 chipset, which features a DirectX 9 graphics core based on X300. The same goes for VIA, as the company offers several chipset with integrated graphics. However, at present VIA only has a market share of 7.1%.