Intel Readies New Integrated Graphics Core With four times the horsepower

@ 2004/03/29
As a rule, we're not big fans of integrated graphics. Performance invariably gives way to economics, and a unified memory architecture (UMA), where the GPU and CPU's fight for limited memory bandwidth leads to disappointing performance. Integrated systems are a good fit for corporate users, though, who don't need 3D performance and are only interested in system stability and low cost. In its next generation platform, codenamed Grantsdale, Intel is also bringing out a new integrated graphics core, which on paper appears to be a significant step up from the previous Intel Extreme Graphics 2.

Here are its vital statistics:



333MHz core clock
4 pixel pipes
1.3Gpixels/sec pixel fill rate
0.13-micron equivalent manufacturing process
DX9 PS2.0 support
MPEG-2 decode assist: color-space conversion and motion compensation (IDCT still done on CPU)
Support for HD resolutions (720p, 1080i)
400MHz integrated RAMDAC
External TMDS
DVMT (Dynamic Video Memory Technology), allocates frame-buffer up to 224MB (on a system w/512+MB of system memory)
Dual monitor support and TV output
What's remarkable right off the bat is the fact that this new integrated core's pixel fill rate is more than four times greater than the fill rate of the Intel Extreme Graphics 2 core, which only had about 266Mpixels/sec of pixel fill rate. However, before you get too excited, you should realize that for this core to actually achieve that rate, it would need over 5GB/sec of memory bandwidth (ignoring caching efficiency). Grantsdale systems will only have 3.2GB/sec of total system bandwidth, and the CPU will need a good chunk of it to tend to its own processing chores.

Also noteworthy is the fact that this new integrated GPU supports DX9's PS2.0 standard, with vertex shader 2.0 support provided by the CPU. Intel's new graphics core will be the first DX9-capable motherboard-down solution, and Intel officials were confident that it would have sufficient horsepower to run Longhorn's 3D-based Desktop Compositing Engine whenever that OS arrives.

Intel had several systems on the GDC show floor running Unreal Tournament 2004, Call of Duty, and Splinter Cell. Most were running at 1024x768, hitting about 30fps, which would make for a decent though not stellar gaming experience. What this new platform will do, however, is improve considerably the baseline run-time system that game developers will be able to target.

This new integrated GPU will not be called Intel Extreme Graphics 3, though the name was still being finalized at press time. Despite the large performance improvement this integrated core appears poised to deliver, the Half-Life 2, Doom 3, and Serious Sam 2 engines are just around the corner. We're left to wonder if this new integrated core will enjoy only a brief moment of adequate performance, then fall behind once these newer engines arrive on the scene. Of course, we won't know that until we have the new hardware and these upcoming games in-house. As soon as we get testable hardware in our hot little hands, we'll put it through its paces and let you know how it fares.


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