Performance – Synthetic 3D, Game Benchmarks

Performance – Synthetic 3D

As mentioned previous, the Intel HD 4000 IGP that is a part of the Core i5-3427U is not exactly the same as the one that is in other higher voltage parts like the Core i7-3720QM. In order to fit in a lower TDP the clock speed maximum has been reduced to 1150 MHz from 1350 MHz.

This seems a small difference on paper, but let’s not forget this is the maximum clock speed. The IGP may not operate at that speed all of the time depending on the thermal constraints of the system. We can only gain a true glimpse of how the IGP will perform by throwing it into benchmarks.

We’ll begin with the synthetics, 3DMark 06 and 3DMark 11

As you can see, the constraints of low-voltage put serious limitations on graphics performance. The new Intel HD 4000 IGP in the 3427U is behind the same IGP in the 3720QM by a large margin – about 25% in both benchmarks. Trinity’s Radeon HD 7660G creams it as a result and the discrete GT 630M is clearly the best of the bunch. 

On the other hand, the Intel HD 4000 makes some major gains over Intel HD 3000. Low-voltage Sandy Bridge processors with Intel HD 3000 graphics were usually returning scores between 3500 and 4000 in 3DMark 06 (they were unable to complete 3DMark 11 due to the lack of DirectX 11 support). Bumping the score up to just over 5500 represents an improvement of 20% to 30%.

Performance – Real World Gaming

The synthetic benchmarks clearly suggest that the IGP in an Intel ultrabook will be slower than one in a larger laptop, but what does that mean for real world gaming? Let’s have a look starting with Dawn of War 2: Retribution.

Our first benchmark is a tough one for the Ivy Bridge Ultrabook reference platform. This game, despite its age, can heavily task modern processors in its benchmark. Large games of Dawn of War 2 has many AI and physics calculations which requires a beefy processor. It also is a bit more graphically demanding than you might guess once the action heats up.

These factors conspire to give Intel’s reference system trouble. It chokes out a playable 27.85 frames per second, which is nearly 20 FPS slower than Intel HD 4000 paired with a Core i7-3720QM. The discrete GT 630 creams them all, offering an additional 20 FPS over the Core i7 system and more than twice the performance of the ultrabook.

Next up we have the new kid on the block, Diablo 3. Most gamers probably expect a title like this to be relatively easy to play, and if you turn down all the detail settings and use Low FX, that’s generally true. But what if you want to run the game at high detail and enjoy the beautiful art?

Ouch! The Intel HD 4000 systems really struggle in this new game, which an issue for Intel and shows that the company is still a bit out of touch with the gaming community. Playing the game is not remotely enjoyable on any HD 4000 powered system. 

Next up we have The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim. This game is not as hard to play on a laptop as you might guess, but it still poses a challenge for IGPs and discrete GPUs even when played at just medium detail and a low resolution.

Once again we see that the Intel HD 4000 systems struggle and the variant found in the low-voltage Ivy Bridge part struggles slightly more than that found in the Core i7-3720QM. Neither offers a playable experience. You’d be better off with a Trinity APU or, better still, an Ivy Bridge processor paired with a discrete graphics solution.

Now we’ll wrap things up with Battlefield 3.

This game was one of the big surprises when we reviewed the Core i7-3720QM and its IGP. Battlefield 3 is a demanding and beautiful title that actually is playable on a quad-core Ivy Bridge system with integrated graphics. The experience isn’t the best, but it’s smooth enough to be enjoyable. This has less to do with the average framerate and more to do with the fact that dips into the teens are rare.

The ultrabook reference platform unfortunately could not live up to the standard set by its big brother. While the maximum framerate was similar the laptop spent most of its time in the teens, resulting in an average of 17 FPS. This is not playable.

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