Sandy Bridge, Part 1: Intel GMA HD 3000/2000 Graphics

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Video Playback

Running on only two cores, the i5-2500K uses slightly more CPU cycles when rendering most videos than the i5-661, though the i5-661 does have Hyper-Threading that may help in this area. Flash playback was much more demanding, taking up 40% of the processor's resources, but this is likely a driver/software issue with the new hardware as GMA HD handles the same content with only 15% CPU usage.

While Adobe updates their Flash Player often, upgrades that affect hardware acceleration are few and far between. We typically use the latest version of Media Player Classic - Home Cinema to play x264 video using DXVA, but that wouldn't work properly either. After trying different players we settled on PowerDVD 10, which by no coincidence, was recommended by Intel.

Strangely, despite the high CPU usage in high definition Flash clips, power consumption during Blu-ray playback was improved compared to the i5-661. And while the HD 5450 helped GPU accelerate video a bit better, its idle energy use kept the overall draw higher.

3D Performance

While 3DMark is a completely synthetic benchmark, it does provide a useful "ballpark" assessment of 3D performance. We also threw in a standalone benchmark of Lost Planet 2, a first person shooter, running at 1360 x768 with all details set to low.

BIOS: Performance screen.

The claim that Intel's new graphics chip is comparable to an entry level discrete card is supported by our benchmarks. In our tests, the performance jump over GMA HD was more than 100%, and GMA HD 3000 also just managed to slide past the HD 5450. There wasn't much of a performance penalty when two of the i5-2500K's cores were disabled, but the difference was less noticeable with Intel's integrated chip than the Radeon. Presumably the GPU clocked itself higher with two cores, enough to offset the difference.

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