Integrated Graphics Performance: It's all in the chips


If you're planning on using your computer as a gaming station as well as a workstation, your best bet is to stay away from integrated graphics. The performance of Intel's i865G Extreme Graphics was nowhere near convincing in a gaming environment, making us wonder what exactly the self-serving "extreme" adjective described. Extremely slow, maybe?

The SIS315/Real256 was slower still. Besides, this chip suffered from driver problems with Serious Sam, even though it has been on the market for a long time. NVIDIA's nForce 2, however, may be a viable option for a game now and then, as long it is of an older vintage. However, new games are off-limits even for the nForce 2, because it's too slow. The same goes for image quality enhancing features, such as FSAA and anisotropic filtering.

So the passionate gamer is left with no choice but to buy an add-in graphics card. At least all of these boards can be upgraded using an AGP card, thanks to the AGP slot. If you're on a budget, that always leaves you the option of upgrading later. Buyers beware: there are also many pre-built PCs sitting in stores that lack an AGP slot. So check the specs before you buy.

However, it's a different story if you're planning to use your integrated motherboard in an office environment exclusively. We didn't detect any major performance drop-off using the integrated chips. As far as the image quality is concerned, only the Gigabytes i865 board offered good results. Once again, let us repeat that signal quality depends entirely on the design implemented by the board's manufacturer.