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Are Intel's Integrated Graphics Processors Good Enough for Gaming?

Intel's Philosophy As The Graphics King

When it comes to graphics processors, most think of ATI and NVIDIA as the leading vendors. And when it comes to high-performance graphics, these two vendors are indeed the hands down leaders in this sector. However, Intel is the largest, and hence the leading, graphics processor supplier, as measured by volume shipments. This has in fact been true for several years.

Graphics Processor Shipments Share (Out Of 64.1 Million Units Shipped In Q2 2005)

VIA Technologies8.1%
Silicon Integrated Systems (SiS)5.0%
Matrox Graphics0.3%

Source: Jon Peddie Research

Wouldn't you think that engineers from the leading graphics processor maker would consider games first and foremost during their chip development efforts? After all, Intel's graphics processors continue to find their was into far more PCs and laptops than do models from NVIDIA and ATI. Games are on their minds, Intel says, but as it stands now, gamers just represent a minority application for Intel's graphics processors.

"Do you want to burden 90% of the market with 10% of the market's needs?" Katen Shah, a platform architect for Intel asked. "In general, we are not going after the discrete and high end where thermal [heat values], power and cost become real issues. Our per-unit [graphics processor] prices, for example, are now only $7."

Instead, Intel says it designs its graphics processors with what it calls the "mainstream user" in mind, creating a low-cost part that does not consume an inordinate amount of power. The equation is not so much about letting you enjoy playing Unreal Tournament on your laptop. Rather, it is about getting the job done for Internet access, email, home office applications and maybe a few games that are albeit not so graphically-intensive.

"Our goal is not just focused on 3D, but graphics applications such as video, which are up and coming and represent something that most people want to do," Chris Silva, an Intel chipset marketing manager, said. "Microsoft Media Center uses video, 3D, etc., so in [the future] you are going to see us more focused on those kinds of capabilities. Microsoft's Vista also represents another up and coming graphics application," he said, referring to the new, graphically-intensive operating system.