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Intel Haswell

As opposed to AMD, Intel has paid far more attention to improving its integrated graphics core for the new generation of processors. However, apart from certain graphics pipeline optimizations that are meant to move some load from the driver to the hardware and improve performance of fixed-function subunits, the new graphics core is very much alike to the one we saw in the previous generation of processors but with added DirectX 11.1 support. The key advantage of the new design is the availability of more all-purpose execution devices. In its full configuration the Ivy Bridge's version of the integrated graphics core had 16 execution devices (with 4 ALUs in each) whereas the Haswell's core may have as many as 40. The texture sampling speed has also improved manifold in the Haswell.

Using the same graphics core design, Intel implements it in several versions for better segmentation: GT1, GT2, GT3 and GT3e. The basic version is the GT2 with 20 execution devices. It is known under the marketing name of HD Graphics 4600. This graphics core version is implemented in the majority of desktop Haswell-based CPUs although it has only 4 execution devices more than the senior version of the Ivy Bridge's graphics core. The GT3 and GT3e versions deliver higher 3D performance as they have 40 execution devices. They are known under the unique names of Iris 5100 and Iris Pro 5200 but will not be implemented in standard desktop CPUs. So far, we only know of one desktop CPU with Iris Pro 5200. It is the Core i7-4770R model which is only available in BGA packaging and distributed via OEM channels. The CPU is supposed to be soldered to mainboards right at the factory.

So if we’re talking about desktop CPUs, we can focus on only one graphics core version implemented in Haswell-based CPUs. It is the HD Graphics 4600. By the way, we can see Intel adjusting its approach to the graphics capabilities of its processors. The desktop processors of the Ivy Bridge generation used to have two completely different graphics core versions, the senior version being only available in just a few models. Now we have some unification. The GT2 core is available in every processor for the LGA1150 socket. This refers to the already released Core i5 models as well as to the upcoming Core i3 series.

The clock rate of the HD Graphics 4600 core varies between different CPU models, though.

Besides improving the internals of the graphics core’s 3D part, Intel’s engineers optimized its multimedia capabilities as well. In fact, Intel's integrated graphics has been adapted specifically for media centers and HTPCs as it has acquired a number of hardware features for video playback improvements: noise reduction, deinterlacing, adaptive contrast ratio adjustment, image stabilization, frame rate conversion (from 24/30 to 60 fps), etc.

The Quick Sync technology for hardware video transcoding has also been improved considerably. It now supports more formats and very high resolutions, up to 4K. The quality and speed of the hardware encoder have improved over the previous version of Quick Sync. Intel has added several new high-quality profiles into the Quick Sync settings, so this technology should produce much better transcoding results than before. On the other hand, Quick Sync still cannot really match the most advanced of software conversion algorithms.

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