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Desktop integrated graphics shoot-out

The best IGPs from Intel, AMD and Nvidia slug it out

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That was a problem for Intel as its so-called Extreme Graphics couldn’t handle Aero. The chip maker was forced to raise its game, and it launched the G965 chipset, which introduced the GMA X3000 graphics core.

GPU-z: Intel and Nvdia on Intel

Intel and Nvidia on Intel
Click for full-size image

The other significant aspect of Vista is its whole-hearted support for DRM. This meant that Hollywood was prepared to allow its precious high-definition Blu-ray movies to run on Vista. The hefty amount of processing power required by Blu-ray's codecs will flog your CPU to death unless you help it out with a dedicated video decoding unit and the logical place for this is within the graphics chip.

The dedicated video decoding core, usually branded a Universal Video Decoder (UVD), is increasingly important for movie buffs and Media Centre fans as HD movie playback may be the sternest task that the PC faces. So a decent UVD will allow you to specify a processor that's slower, cooler and cheaper.

Digital output is essential and it's increasingly common to find motherboards with one VGA, one DVI, an HDMI and possibly a DisplayPort connector. Most graphics chips are perfectly capable of supporting two digital displays in any permutation, but there are very few motherboards that support more than one DVI connector.

Finally, we have gaming on integrated graphics which isn’t the contradiction in terms that you might think. During our testing, we found that it was surprisingly easy to play Far Cry on quite reasonable settings. Granted the original Far Cry dates back to 2004, but back in the day we found you needed a GeForce 6800 to make the game run properly.

Now that’s progress.

GPU-z: AMD and Nvdia on AMD

Nvidia and AMD on AMD
Click for full-size image

At present, the only chipset that supports the Core i7 is the Intel X58 so you can't use Intel’s new processor with integrated graphics. Motherboards for the Socket 939 Athlon 64 have completely vanished. This neatly divides the current crop of IGPs and chipsets into two groups. In the blue corner, we have the Intel and Nvidia chipsets that support LGA775 Core 2, and in the green corner we have AMD and Nvidia for Socket AM2+ Phenom.

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