Can You Game Without a Graphics Card? We Tested 11 Desktop CPUs to Find Out. What is the best intel gpu

The latest integrated graphics processors from Intel provide better performance compared to the previous generation HD Graphics, and are suitable for gamers who want an enjoyable experience at a more affordable price.

Can You Game Without a Graphics Card? We Tested 11 Desktop CPUs to Find Out

Graphics cards are still just too expensive. Can you rely on the integrated graphics solution and stay above 30fps for the games you want to play? Let’s test it!

(Photo: Chris Stobing)

With very few discrete graphics cards available in the second half of 2021, for hardware buyers, the prospect of building or upgrading a classic gaming PC seems more distant than ever. With bots scooping cards for a dozen seconds after they go on sale, Newegg’s attempts to create a lottery system (toppled by an 11-year-old) and the people sleeping at Best Buy, GPU dependent gamers and content creators have likewise shown that they will do whatever it takes to win a new graphics engine for their desktops.

But what if you don’t need a graphics card at all? (Or at least not discreet?) While historically relegated to the realm of budgeters, productive users, and manufacturers of lower-cost desktops, desktop processors with integrated integrated graphics processors (IGPs) are becoming increasingly popular an increasingly attractive option to a wider audience of gamers. This interest will only grow the longer discrete graphics cards remain almost unattainable at anything close to their list prices.

So, with the recent release of Editors’ Choice award-winning AMD Ryzen 5 5600G and Ryzen 7 5700G processors – two rarely updated “G series” AMD processors with good integrated graphics on board – at PC Labs we thought it would be a good time to immerse yourself in the true possibilities of IGP in modern games. A key question in today’s GPU climate: is it possible to replace your graphics card with an integrated graphics solution and keep it above 30 frames per second (fps) all the time in games you really want to play? Let’s see.

What Is an ‘IGP,’ Anyway?

While it has taken many names and forms over the years, when we discuss the idea of ​​an “integrated graphics processor” in the modern sense, we mean graphics processing circuits that are manufactured on the same packaging or matrix as the processor.

Both Intel and AMD produce versions of their desktop and mobile processors that come with or without integrated graphics, and what’s appropriate for desktops comes down to a number of different factors which we’ll cover below. (Also see the story of my colleague Matthew Buzzi, who conducted extensive gaming testing on IGPs used in popular laptops a few weeks before this article.)

AMD Ryzen 5 3400G: previous-generation AMD desktop processor with embedded graphics (Image: Zlata Ivleva)

The history of desktop processors that can reliably operate an external display on their own, without a separate graphics adapter, began around 2010. Since then, these chips have only evolved in terms of refinement and power. It would take an entire article of its own to delve into the development and many iterations of the various integrated graphics platforms from both Intel and AMD that have been released since then. So let’s just fast forward to the state of affairs in mid-2021 instead.

Today, in the latest desktop processors, AMD relies on older Radeon RX “Vega” based graphics platforms to provide good visuals, while Intel uses its UHD graphics cards and newer Iris Xe GPU platforms to do the same. In particular, the Iris Xe is a badge (now under the “Arc” umbrella of the Intel graphics brand) that can be widely scaled across a wide variety of Intel graphics products. This includes chips for desktops and server farms, discrete graphics cards, and pretty much anything you can think of in between. Arc represents a more unified branding structure for Intel on the way forward as it wants to compete with both AMD and Nvidia with planned discrete graphics cards rumored to arrive in early 2022.

Currently, Intel’s newest (and most powerful) graphics chip, Iris Xe, can be found in the 11th Generation “Rocket Lake” desktop processors; at least all those without the letter “F” at the end of the suffix. (In recent years, Intel has started offering slightly cheaper variants of many of its desktop processors ending with the letter “F”; these F chips have IGP turned off and must be used with a separate graphics card.)

Meanwhile, the graphics solutions in the best and brightest AMD processors equipped with IGP still technically function under the Radeon RX Vega brand and build structure, although many improvements have been made since the debut of the RX Vega IGP chips for the first time in 2017. The Ryzen 7 5700G – equipped with IGP Vega 7 and Vega 8 respectively – has earned our recognition for its excellent integrated gaming performance, setting new standards for IGP power that we can expect from desktop processors. However, without being satisfied with it, AMD is expected to turn to its RDNA architecture for another set of integrated graphics solutions, and likely bring RDNA 2 integrated GPUs to the market when Zen 4 hits store shelves next year.

Speaking of RDNA 2, by the way, the new contender this holiday season will enter the “budget PC game” circle, although it is nothing like a classic PC.

However, just days after the announcement of CES 2022, Intel removed all mentions of a Q1 2022 release from its Intel Arc page on its website, suggesting the release could potentially fall later year. For now, we still have our heart set for a Q1 2022 release, but the deletion means we may have to wait a while.

CPUs: Intel and AMD

The processor (short for “central processing unit” and often referred to simply as “processor”) is the brain of everything your computer does. Choosing a processor is the most important factor when considering how fast your computer should be and how much to spend.

Cheaper laptops and desktops

Intel and AMD are the two main companies that make laptop and desktop processors.

You are more likely to find an Intel processor in a laptop than an AMD one, although if you’re looking for a machine around £ 400 or less, you’ll find plenty of AMD options. Here you will find AMD A4, A6, A9 and A10 processors that will compete with Intel Core i3, i5 and i7 laptop chips.

AMD marketing for A-series processors

The good news is that in the lower end of the market, both companies are dealing with similar results. You shouldn’t be shortened, whatever you choose.

For example, an AMD E2 will perform similar to an Intel Celeron or Atom processor. The AMD E1, which can still be found in some laptops, is one of the slowest CPUs you can find on any computer, and is usually best avoided, even if your needs are just for basic office work, email, or web browsing.

Upmarket desktops and laptops

At the higher end of the laptop market, where you start to see Intel Core i3, i5, and i7 chips, the differences may be more pronounced. Intel continues to dominate the market – you’ll see more of its chips in laptops costing over £ 500 – but that doesn’t mean AMD’s weird chip isn’t worth the pop. However, if you’re buying a thin and light laptop, you’ll most likely find an Intel chip in it.

Read our Intel processor naming guide for more information.

In the desktop world, you’ll find a good mix of AMD and Intel processors in all-in-one computers costing under £ 600. These computers are usually great for more complex office tasks, such as running multiple programs simultaneously and opening multiple browser tabs.

Also on the higher tier is a balanced selection from AMD and Intel if you’re looking for a powerful photo or video editing computer. AMD Ryzen 3, 5, and 7 chips are the main competitors of Intel Core processors and can often be better at the toughest tasks you perform on your computer, especially video editing.

The table below helps explain the corresponding AMD and Intel processors.

Where can you find them AMD Intel
Cheap laptops E1 and E2 Celeron, Atom and Pentium
400-600 laptops A4, A6, A9 and A12 “APU’ Core i3, i5, i7
£ 600 + laptops, £ 600 + desktops Ryzen 3, 5 and 7 Core i3, i5 i7

Other manufacturers also make laptop processors, including Rockchip and Qualcomm. Qualcomm processors are becoming more and more popular in ultra-thin and light laptops. Rockchip processors are typically reserved for ultra-cheap Chromebooks.

Graphics: Intel, AMD and Nvidia

The layout controls what you see on your monitor or screen, and every computer has that layout. They are either “integrated” into the processor or a separate, “discrete” or “dedicated” chip that handles the load on its own.

All three of these big companies make graphics chips. If you work with 3D modeling, video editing, or like to play new 3D games, you’ll want to pay more for better graphics performance as that can make a big difference.

Intel is the most popular graphics chip maker simply because its “HD / UHD Graphics” processors are built into virtually every processor it manufactures. This is known as “integrated” graphics and is suitable for basic tasks and basic 3D games, but not much else. There are several Intel chips known as the “G series” that are a bit more powerful and are sold to people who like to play games, but these are relatively rare because they are new.

Dedicated graphics

If you’re working in 3D and video or gaming, you’ll want to buy a laptop or desktop with a “dedicated” graphics card as explained above. This is usually clearly stated on the spec, but if it isn’t, here’s how to tell what you are buying.

Like Intel, AMD produces modest integrated graphics chips for its processors. You can distinguish these elements from more powerful, dedicated graphics as they will often be called:

When it comes to dedicated ones, they come under several different names.

On the 15-inch Apple MacBook Pro you’ll see them named:

In gaming desktops and laptops, they are usually called:

  • Radeon RX 560, 570, 580 and Vega, the latter being the most powerful and the best for gamers.

Finally, there is Nvidia, which is easiest to explain, as the company currently only produces dedicated graphics cards. The current generation models are easy to spot. They’re called “Nvidia GeForce” and start with the 1030 model name and go all the way to 1080 Ti, becoming more efficient with each step. These graphics chips are best suited for gamers.

Based on information we received on Intel’s Architecture Day, the release date of Intel Arc Alchemist is set for the first quarter of 2022 .

Gaming Performance

The performance of Intel integrated graphics processors depends on many factors, including the processor’s clock speed and L3 cache.

However, Intel does provide recommended settings for different titles depending on the CPU you have – and that can give users a good idea of ​​their chip’s capabilities.

We’ve compiled the recommended settings for each integrated graphics chip when playing Valve’s Blizzard and Dota 2 Overwatch using information from the Intel game portal.

Blizzard Overwatch

GPU Resolution Graphics settings Lighting quality Texture filtering
Intel HD Graphics 610 Not applicable Not applicable Not applicable Not applicable
Intel HD 615 graphics card Not applicable Not applicable Not applicable Not applicable
Intel HD 620 graphics card 1280 × 720 Short Short Short
Intel HD 630 graphics card 1280 × 720 Short Short Short
Intel Iris Plus 640 graphics card 1280 × 720 Short Short Short
Intel Iris Plus 650 graphics card 1600 x 900 mediocre mediocre mediocre

An advanced graphics processor often costs as much as the rest of a computer’s components put together. If you’re on a tight budget, a dedicated GPU may be beyond your means.

How We Test

Tests are a large part of our verification process and are a central pillar of the best picks found in our top guides. By performing tests on our own, we can in practice determine how well a given component works and compare it with the models of the competition.

During testing, we look for our top performers based on test results, features that readers will like, and any benefits they may have over competitors.

The vast majority of the products we recommend here at WePC have passed this rigorous verification process that includes factors such as quality, performance, design, performance and of course price.

By following this rigorous process, we can create the most accurate product review and determine if it’s worth the money.

Things To Consider

Here’s what to consider when looking at new integrated graphics. They should help you understand what a particular model can offer.

AMD or Intel?

Given that integrated graphics cards are built into the CPUs, the manufacturer’s choice comes down to AMD or Intel. As with processors, there are some differences between them; price is no less important. As always, AMD equivalents tend to be cheaper, while Intel products are clearly more expensive.

Intel’s range of integrated graphics cards are called Intel Graphics, while AMD is called APU, or accelerated processing unit. Accelerated Processing Unit is nothing but a marketing term, so don’t be fooled into thinking it’s anything other than a processor with integrated graphics.

CPU Choice Will Dictate Integrated Graphics

The choice of integrated graphics most often comes down to what kind of processor you want. Clock speed, performance, and budget tend to dictate the quality of integrated graphics, so remember that the more you spend on the CPU, the better your integrated graphics solution.

In the face of favoring processor performance or integrated graphics when purchasing hardware for the new version, we recommend that you focus on the processor. The CPU will have a much greater impact on build performance than the integrated graphics.

In the same vein, it is worth remembering that the choice of processor will limit the options for integrated graphics available.

Gaming or Non-Intensive Tasks?

Only the best integrated graphics are truly capable of running games. Conversely, even the lowest spec integrated graphics will be able to meet the demands of everyday tasks like web browsing, video streaming services like Netflix, and administrative work.

There is no point in buying a much more expensive CPU to secure better integrated graphics if you don’t do relatively intensive tasks on your build. Shop according to your needs and save yourself a nice penny.

Likewise, if you plan on playing the most demanding games, the integrated graphics won’t prove it, and it’s best to focus on securing the dedicated graphics card to avoid disappointment.

Budget?

No matter what you want to get from integrated graphics, the contents of your portfolio will always be the final judge of what you can buy. Fortunately, there are options to suit all budgets, and the difference between the lowest and highest spec integrated graphics CPUs can be quite a bit of a surprise to budding builders.

To give you an idea, the top Intel Core i9 9900KS processor with Intel UHD Graphics 630 integrated graphics costs anywhere north from $ 500, while the relatively docile Intel Core i3-9100 with the same Intel UHD Graphics 630 graphics will have your back on your back just a shy $ 150. While the integrated graphics are identical, the CPU power makes a significant price difference. Therefore, it is important to remember that they are inextricably linked.

Advanced graphics card features such as mesh shading, real-time ray tracing, AI supersampling and 4K video upscaling will be supported by an upcoming lineup of graphics cards, Intel announces on its own website.

Performance

Intel Xe DG1

The December 2021 leak finally shows the actual performance of the Intel Arc Alchemist GPU. We don’t know which SKU was used in this Ashes of the Singularity benchmark, but we do know that these results brought hope.

As you can see in these two screenshots, this unknown Intel Xe GPU produces 126 frames per second at a medium preset.

However, even this leak does not tell us much. If you look at the next image, the AotS comparison chart, you can see that the 3080 Ti scored more than the 6700XT. Even the 5700XT has a better result than the 3080 Ti.

A hardware leak called TUM_APISAK found SiSoftware to benchmark Intel’s flagship Arc GPU, DG-512EU.

This is the first time we see an Arc Alchemist GPU running at its full potential. It is listed at 2.1 GHz with all 512 Xe cores.

For comparison, we will use the result of 3070 Ti in the same test.

The overall result for the Intel GPU is 9017 MPix / s, while the 3070 Ti hit just 8369 MPix / s. This makes the DG-512EU 7 to 8% faster than the Nvidia counterpart.

This may seem unexpected, but it should come as no surprise considering that Intel boasts performance close to the 3080 with Intel Arc.

Please note that this benchmark does not reflect in-game performance. We haven’t seen Intel Arc Alchemist perform in the game yet.

However, this is some kind of benchmark that we can use, unlike most of the previous leaks that you’ll find below.

Older Leaks

The August 2021 leak showed SKU DG2 on the Geekbench benchmark. Although it is a 128 EU GPU (1024 cores) making it the second weakest GPU in the Intel XE DG2 family.

Still, it’s something to get excited about as it’s the first time an XE GPU has broken the 2.0GHz threshold.

However, despite this SKU clocking at 2,200MHz, it’s still relatively slow considering it scored 13710 in the OpenCL test. By comparison, the GTX 1050 card can easily exceed 18,000.

Intel Xe Geekbench Score

Of course, there could be several reasons for this low score. For example, it could be due to a lack of good graphics drivers or because Geekbench is not optimized for Intel XE.

Strangely, even though the Xe DG1 was intended for laptops or other mobile solutions, it began to appear in a variety of off-the-shelf systems. For example, we saw one in the CyberPowerPC system at BestBuy.

BenchLeaks on Twitter recently revealed the benchmark of the flagship Intel Alchemist GPU from 512 EU.

However, the results are not what we expected. The GPU barely outperforms the RTX 2060. This is nowhere near the performance that it will have to compete with AMD or Nvidia.

Intel DG512 graphics processor matrix

This tells us that Intel has a similar number of on-die transistors as Nvidia’s 3070 Ti. Of course, there are tons of other factors that affect GPU performance, but that gives you a rough idea of ​​the Intel DG2-512 GPU.

The Intel Iris Pro Graphics P580 doesn’t quite reach the top of the Radeon RX Vega 11 graphics card, but it represents Intel’s best attempt to date to equip its processors with integrated gaming-capable graphics.

Which One Is Right For You?

Dedicated vs integrated graphics processor

There are advantages and disadvantages to choosing any type of GPU. While it is your choice, there are some advice we feel we should convey. The first thing you should consider before even looking at your new graphics card is your individual needs.

If you want to play intensively, purchasing a dedicated GPU is a no-brainer. If gaming is not a priority when using a computer, an integrated graphics card is the better option due to the huge price difference.

If you want to play less graphically intensive games, such as many of the simulation genres or 4X, purchasing a PC or laptop with an integrated graphics processor may be a better option.

However, it is almost certain that Intel will have to price its GPUs lower than AMD and NVIDIA to be competitive. Despite Intel’s good standing in the world of technology, they are still unknown in the graphics card market.

How much will the Intel Arc graphics card cost?

It is almost impossible to predict at the moment; Not only is it the first Intel Arc GPU to be released, so there are no upfront prices, but the graphics card industry is also in a state of chaos. The continual shortage of components used by graphics card manufacturers means that inventory is limited and overpriced compared to the manufacturer’s suggested retail price.

Take the AMD Radeon RX 6700 XT graphics processor as an example; while its suggested retail price is £ 419 / $ 479, the graphics card is likely to set you back around £ 700 / $ 800 if you want to buy it now – and sellers’ auctions can be even more hefty.

But what about laptops? This will likely depend on the power available, but since Acer teases with comparable performance to the RTX 3070 or 3080 in the upcoming Acer Swift X 16 with Intel Arc support, we can look at mid-to-high-end laptop prices.

If Intel can somehow circumvent the shortages and prepare enough stock for launch, it may be in a good position to take advantage of an affordable graphics card at an affordable price – but for now, we’ll have to wait and see.

What to expect from the Intel Arc graphics card

While Intel has acknowledged the existence of the Intel Arc brand, and has even confirmed that it is working on several GPUs under different codenames, we don’t know much about what the first in the series will offer, due to be released in early 2022 already.

One small bite of information that has been provided is that it will be based on the Intel XE-HPG (high powered gaming) microarchitecture, which the company says should help the card more efficiently calculate advanced graphics features such as AI-based supersampling.

The company released a second update at the InnovatiON event in late October, confirming that the upcoming graphics card will feature 32 Xe cores, each containing 16 vector engines and 16 matrix engines, for a total of 512 executive units (EU.

As mentioned earlier, the graphics card will support top-notch features including raytracing, AI supersampling (called XeSS), mesh shading, and 4K video scaling, suggesting it will be a direct competitor to Nvidia and AMD, two companies that have dominated the graphics card scene over the years.

The first look at Intel XeSS – the company’s answer to DLSS and FSR – at InnovatiON, where the company showcases the technology behind the survival game The Riftbreaker. While there was no frame rate counter in the short demo, the AI-based upscaled 4K image certainly had more detail than the standard upscaled image.

Intel also teased in March that the first Xe HPG – now confirmed as an Intel Arc GPU – will be “20 times” faster than the original Crystal Well Integrated Graphics, but we still don’t see anything in terms of specs or benchmarks popping up on the internet.

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