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It would be hard not to give Intel’s new generation graphics a super high rating. Intel HD Graphics 2000 and Intel HD Graphics 3000 graphics accelerators built into Sandy Bridge processors are in fact a new standard of integrated graphics. By combining processor cores with the graphics core within the same processor die, using a high-speed ring bus to connect them and implementing special optimization into the execution units of the new Intel GPU, they turned the new graphics cores not just the fastest solutions in their category. Moreover, now we can compare them against contemporary discrete graphics accelerators. This is primarily true for the top Sandy bridge graphics core called Intel HD Graphics 3000. It is considerably faster than AMD Radeon HD 5450, for instance.

In other words, Intel HD Graphics 3000 may become a serious threat to $50-$60 graphics cards. In this case, discrete graphics cards have only one important advantage over the integrated Intel graphics core: they support DirectX 11, which is missing in Intel HD Graphics. However, this functionality is hardly necessary for the level of performance provided by these solutions, anyway.

The junior modification, Intel HD Graphics 2000, is considerably slower. However, it still looks very nice against the background of other integrated solutions. I doubt that anything could threaten the leadership of Intel HD Graphics 2000 and Intel HD Graphics 3000 in their segment, at last not until AMD Llano processors come out.

Intel’s Quick Sync technology that appeared in the new Intel cores has also proven extremely successful. Intel offers a principally new approach to HD video encoding and decoding acceleration by introducing special hardware units for that purpose. By making the processor die a little bit bigger Intel managed to achieve impressively high performance and exceptional HD video encoding and decoding quality. And looks like Intel Quick Sync technology transcodes video way better than Nvidia CUDA and AMD Stream/APP.

Unfortunately, Intel’s strategy in respect to the marketing of the new graphics cores has slightly spoilt the great impression left by their features and performance. The top graphics core modification will only be available to the owners of mobile computers, and if you want to have it in your desktop, you will have to go for an expensive overclocker CPU. So, in fact, it would be fair to say that Intel HD Graphics 3000 is targeted for mobile applications, while the desktop users will have a slower Intel HD Graphics 2000 modification only.

On the one hand, it means that notebooks based on second-generation Core processors receive a very fast graphics core by default. So the new mobile computers that do not have any discrete AMD or Nvidia graphics cards will now be also deliver acceptable performance in the majority of 3D apps.

On the other hand, things are a little different in the desktop segment. Intel HD Graphics graphics cores cannot oust the discrete cards from this segment yet. The integrated graphics core in most desktop Sandy bridge processors may be a good choice for a multimedia PC, especially due to superb Quick Sync technology, but its 3D performance will still be insufficient to satisfy even the most undemanding users.

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