Performance per Watt and Final Thoughts

Our performance results for these integrated graphics solutions turned out to be quite interesting.  First, the AMD A10-6800K Richland APU results are obviously the best but we have to take them out of the most direct comparison as this was a desktop part that we tested.  With a TDP of 100 watts, compared to a TDP of 37 watts for the Core i7-4702MQ used in the MSI GE40 notebook, we expected AMD’s Richland to be able to best the other options here and it did.  And to be completely fair to Intel, I think that it was able to hold its own in terms of performance per watt of TDP. 

This graphic compares estimated performance per watt as measured by the TDPs and the average frame rates of our five tested games.  What stands out of course is the extreme efficiency of the Core i5-4250U + HD 5000 combination.  With a 15 watt TDP, its performance is often better than that of the Core i7-4702MQ + HD 4600 processor that is sold with a 37 watt TDP and as a result, the performance per watt is much higher.  Obviously the improved compute performance of the HD 5000 makes a huge impact. 

The Haswell processor using the HD 4600 graphics is actually less power efficient than the mobility Trinity APU, the A10-4600M (35 watt TDP).  AMD’s edge in GPU performance is creating this advantage and allows the Trinity architecture to stand against Haswell in these configurations even a year after its release

Even though the desktop Richland APU we tested had the best performance, with its 100 watt TDP the efficiency result is much less impressive.  Clearly we need to get in a Richland based notebook to see where it stands for the mobile market.

My testing today taught me two crucial points: AMD’s APU design still has some legs with technology like Trinity can hold ground against a much new processor design from Intel when it comes to mobile gaming.  And that’s good, because it was the only real primary selling point for AMD in the mobile space to begin with.  If Richland can improve on what Trinity has shown us here then even Intel’s Iris graphics options may not be able to pull ahead in raw performance or performance per watt.

The second thing I learned is that the Core i5-4250U + HD 5000 combination is a damn impressive part.  With a minuscule 15 watt TDP, the GT3-based graphics of the HD 5000 are not only competitive with the A10-4600M Trinity APU but is also faster than the Core i7-4702MQ + HD 4600 throughout our testing.  There are a couple of instances where the slower dual-core processor created some issues with game frame rate smoothness (Bioshock Infinite for example) but most of the time it was minor. 


Closing Thoughts

Intel has obviously done some very good things with the updated graphics in the Haswell architecture and I am eager to see more notebooks released with the GT3 and GT3e implementations.  It seems more and more likely that Intel is likely going to catch AMD on the integrated graphics performance roadmap.  That would be bad news for AMD’s APU division.  What Intel still has to prove to us and the gaming community is that it can stay focused on gamers – that means frequent driver updates and more work with developers to provide day-of-release updates for the best possible game support.  Without that, having all the GPU horsepower in the world won’t save them. 

The MacBook Air that we tested is by no means a gaming powerhouse for mobile users but it proved to be just as capable as any other Haswell notebook on the market that isn’t using discrete graphics.  Considering its small size, its impressive battery life and overall design, you should definitely check out our review of the 11-in model to see if it makes senses as the best current Ultrabook. 

There is a lot more mobility GPU testing coming up soon at PC Perspective including a full review of the MSI GE40 notebook.  We also found some interesting issues with the GTX 760M discrete GPU and Optimus technology that will be posted soon as well.

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