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

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POSTSCRIPT: 05 January 2011
GMA HD 2000 Test Results

While GMA HD 3000 is certainly an impressive integrated graphics chip, most users who get on the Sandy Bridge train will either be using discrete graphics cards or HD 2000, the GPU included with the vast majority of LGA1155 processors. To test its capabilities, we used an US$120 i3-2100, a 3.1 GHz dual core Hyper-Threaded processor with HD 2000 on the same Intel DH67BL motherboard.

The i3-2100 is clocked 200 MHz lower than the i5-2500K, but as a true dual core, used less power than the i5-2500K with two cores manually disabled.

Measurements taken from the AUX12V connector showed similar energy efficiency. On load, HD 2000 seems to add an additional draw more or less equivalent to that of HD 3000 with the i5-2500K running all four cores

CPU usage during video playback was very low, almost as good as the i5-2500K paired with a Radeon HD 5450. Flash performance continued to suffer, though the i3-2100 fared better than the i5-2500K operating with two cores. It seems that Hyper-Threading does make a big difference in this regard.

During video playback, the i3-2300 used about 1W less than the rest of the field, nothing to write home about.

3DMark pegs the HD 2000's 3D performance about midway between GMA HD 3000, and GMA HD. Stand-alone benchmarks for the games Lost Planet 2, and H.A.W.X. 2 disagree with this assessment, with the HD 2000 scoring closer to Intel's first generation HD graphics.

FINAL THOUGHTS

HD 2000 is far less impressive than HD 3000, providing a more incremental 3D upgrade from GMA HD. It's the kind of unexciting baby-step improvement we're used to seeing from new integrated graphics platforms. The bright side is it brings to the table the same quality of video decoding as HD 3000 but in a slightly more energy efficient package. It has the same difficulty with Flash, but we expect that to get ironed eventually and in the meantime, even dual core Sandy Bridge processors can power through high definition Flash content with brute CPU strength alone.

Our HD 2000 test results reinforces our puzzlement at why HD 3000 was paired only with the "K" series processors. If Intel truly wants to a piece of the low-end discrete graphics market, putting HD 3000 on all their new processors would have been the way to go. It seems a waste that many HD 3000s will sit idle in overclocked systems with P67 motherboards and discrete graphics cards.

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