Intel HD 4000: Synthetic and Real-World 3D Performance

3D Synthetic Benchmarks

The new processor is quite strong, but what about the integrated graphics component? Intel HD 3000 is adequate for many games, but still far short of what can be offered by a discrete GPU. Intel has chosen to solve this problem by adding additional execution units and increasing the maximum clock speed. What’s the impact? 

Our reference system arrived with Intel HD 4000 and an Nvidia GT 630M discrete graphics card. The GT 630M can be turned on or off using Nvidia’s control panel, giving us an opportunity to directly compare HD 4000 and the GT 630M. The discrete GPU will be in all our results from this point forward.

In 3DMark 06 the new IGP really kicks butt, defeating the old Intel HD 3000 system by a wide margin and also defeating the AMD Fusion powered K53T. The new IGP is just 1300 points behind the Nvidia GT 630M, as well. 

The more modern 3DMark 11 benchmark, on the other hand, still favors Nvidia and AMD heavily. The IGP scores poorly and is significantly behind the GT 630M. This is of course the first time Intel was even eligible for the benchmark, as the company’s previous IGP did not support DirectX 11. While this new part is compatible it appears that Intel still has work to do on its performance in DX11.

Gaming Benchmarks

Synthetic performance is one thing. Actual games are another. Intel insisted that HD 3000 was sufficient for modern gaming, but it was quickly outmatched by the most demanding titles on the market. Battlefield 3, for instance, did not run on any Intel HD 3000 powered systems until we tested the HP dm4t. Even then, we couldn’t take a reading because the game ran so poorly we could not complete our normal testing.

We’ll start with Dawn of War 2: Retribution. This is a game that tends to be CPU-bound, and it’s game that some systems with Intel HD 3000 can handle.

In this game the new Intel HD 4000 IGP doesn’t seem to offer much benefit at 13×7 resolution. It’s more than playable, but most of the systems we’ve tested recently have been able to handle this game without issue. Activating the GT 630M boosts the framerate significantly, but there’s no significant benefit in gaming pleasure. 

Now let’s jump to Just Cause 2, a game that’s proven to be graphically demanding in the past. Intel HD 3000 has rarely been able to handle it – perhaps HD 4000 will do better?

The performance of the new IGP in this game is nothing short of astounding. It’s more than twice as quick as Intel HD 3000 and almost as quick as the GT 630M.  Players even have headroom to turn up a few detail settings without dropping the average framerate below 30.

Finally, let’s throw Intel HD 4000 in to the real meat grinder – Battlefield 3.

These results are both good and bad. They’re good because Battlefield 3 is finally playable on Intel integrated graphics. The framerate of 25.4 doesn’t look great, but so the game is smooth enough to enjoy. However, Intel HD 4000 is still well behind mid-range discrete graphics in this game. The GT 630M is noticeably smoother and the new GT 640M in the Acer Aspire M3 is much better than both, offering hiccup-free gameplay at medium detail or the opportunity to turn up a few detail settings.

1080p Gaming Performance

The ASUS N56VM comes with a 1920x1080p display, which means we have the chance to test the new IGP’s performance at that high resolution. Because few laptops have a 1080p display we don’t have a lot of results to draw from, but with that said, we did just test a laptop with a 1080p display an Nvidia GT525M – the Dell XPS 15z. We will be using that laptop for this set of comparisons.

The results here show that Intel HD 4000 is about on par with Nvidia’s GT525M and behind the GT 630M, though the difference between them is smaller than I expected.  

This victory is a bit irrelevant, however. Only Dawn of War 2: Retribution is playable at this resolution on any graphics solution tested and even that game suffers from occasional framerate hiccups that make the experience less than ideal. 

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