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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:

NameIntegrated3D ChipGenerationChip ClockMemory ClockNo. TransistorsMemory Bandwidth
NVIDIA GeForce 2 GTSDX7DX 7200 MHz333 MHz (DDR)25 Mio5.3 GB/s
ATI Radeon 256DX7DX 7200 MHz400 MHz (DDR)30 Mio6.4 GB/s
NVIDIA GeForce 3DX8DX 8200 MHz460 MHz (DDR)57 Mio7.4 GB/s
NVIDIA GeForce 4 Ti (4600)DX8DX 8.1300 MHz650 MHz (DDR)63 Mio10.4 GB/s
ATI Radeon 8500DX8DX 8.1275 MHz550 MHz (DDR)60 Mio8.8 GB/s
NVIDIA GeForce FX 5950 UltraDX9DX 9475 MHz950 MHz (DDR)130 Mio27.2 GB/s
ATI Radeon 9800 XTDX9DX 9412 MHz730 MHz (DDR)107 Mio23.4 GB/s
Integrated Graphics
ATI Radeon 9100 IGPRadeon 9200DX 8.1300 MHzMax. 400 MHz (DDR)*36 Mio6.4 GB/s*
Intel i865GExtreme Graphics IIDX 7266 MHzMax. 400 MHz (DDR)*>20 Mio (?)6.4 GB/s*
NVIDIA nForce 2GeForce 4 MXDX 7200 MHzMax. 400 MHz (DDR)*27 Mio6.4 GB/s*
SIS 661FXSIS 741GXReal 256EDX 7200 MHzMax. 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.