Computex is usually where companies get together, talk about their upcoming products, how they’re faster than last year, and just generally have a good time. But every now and again, those announcements veer from hype and excitement to throwing outright shade.
Integrated graphics, for the most part, has been the absolute bare minimum for gaming. It’s simply not been good enough to play anything but the lowest-level indie games, although you can make some ground in games that let you turn down the graphics to hilariously potato-like levels.
But generally, you’ve always needed a discrete GPU to get playable framerates at low resolutions. That’s why it’s exciting that more laptops are coming equipped with the MX150 and MX250 GPUs from Nvidia, and why more laptops with AMD chips–AMD being the company that makes the guts for the Xbox and PlayStation that integrates the CPU and GPU into a single die–is also exciting.
As far as Intel is concerned though, you don’t need any of that. Along with a press release talking up the added power in Intel’s Ice Lake CPUs, and their capacity to “incorporate variable rate shading” to improve performance, Intel released a series of graphs comparing their Ice Lake-U mobile CPUs (running at 25W) against the gaming performance of the Ryzen 7 3700U (which runs at 15W, but Intel are running it at 25W for the purposes of the test).
The graphs, which PC World and some other outlets were supplied with, claim that Ice Lake was marginally better than the Ryzen offering in a handful of games. There’s no frame rates supplied, so it’s difficult to gauge what 1x performance in Rainbow Six: Siege is, and how much better the Ice Lake U’s 1.06x performance is.
Is the 1x performance playable? Does 1.06x performance mean the integrated graphics can run at 60fps now?
More relevant is the performance jump from Intel’s 9th gen integrated graphics. Total War: Kingdoms–a game no-one in their right mind would have been playing on an integrated GPU anyway–runs twice as fast on the Ice Lake compared to the 9th gen. Again, that doesn’t mean it’s playable, although the footnotes of Intel’s release notes that the test was run using Three Kingdoms‘ battle benchmark at 1080p, with 100% resolution scaling and the low quality preset. (If you were actually trying to play on integrated graphics, you’d probably run the game at 720p with a lower resolution scale, but that’s a test we’ll have to run ourselves when Ice Lake becomes available.)
Other games that supposedly favoured Ice Lake over the Ryzen offering–which vendors are already incorporating into laptops–included Overwatch and World of Tanks. But again, better doesn’t mean playable.
But it’s interesting that the performance is good enough that Intel feels confident in throwing some shade at AMD’s integrated offering. Intel has dominated the laptop space for over a decade, and the only advantage of late has been AMD’s skill with APUs.
Only kicker is: AMD has a new generation of CPUs, GPUs and APUs of their own to announce, so Intel’s chest-beating probably won’t last for too long. Still, we are closer and closer to a world where your 1kg or 1.1kg thin-and-light laptop can happily run a AAA shooter or an older game perfectly well at low settings. That’s better for everyone, although you can tell we haven’t quite reached that point with integrated graphics–because if we had, manufacturers would be talking about frame rates, not marginal differences in arbitrary percentages.