AMD’s Integrated HD 4290 vs. Intel Integrated HD Graphics

As I mentioned at the start of this article, AMD’s 890GX graphics are identical in every way (other than model number) to the 790GX integrated graphics. Earlier this year, Intel introduced its biggest leap to date in integrated graphics performance with its Intel HD Graphics.

Found only on the physical CPU package of Core i5, i3 and Pentium G-series CPUs, Intel HD Graphics is the first step towards on-die graphics integration. Today, Intel uses graphics performance as a differentiator between various CPU price points. Depending on what CPU you buy, you either get Intel’s HD Graphics clocked at 533MHz, 733MHz or 900MHz. In order to provide the clearest picture, I’ve included results from all Clarkdale CPUs.

AMD’s graphics is still on-motherboard, and thus all 890GX boards run their Radeon HD 4290 core at the same 700MHz clock. To show the influence of CPUs on integrated graphics performance I’ve included results from both a Phenom II X4 965 and an Athlon II X2 255. As I’ve already shown that there’s no difference in performance between a 790GX and 890GX, I’m only using 890GX numbers in these charts.

Many of you have asked for us to compare integrated graphics to low end discrete graphics. For this specific purpose I’ve included results with a Radeon HD 5450.

Batman: Arkham Asylum

Intel technically has the same performance as AMD does, but it requires a $210 CPU to get it. If you look at the more mainstream Core i5s and i3s, they use the slower 733MHz graphics clock and aren’t as fast as the 890GX’s 4290.

Dragon Age Origins

We see a similar story under Dragon Age. If you have a Core i5 661 then you’ve got clearly better than AMD performance, but pick any of the other i3s or i5s and you’re about equal. If you pick a more reasonable AMD CPU, Intel takes a small lead.

Dawn of War II

The Core i5s all post roughly the same numbers as the 890GX. If you opt for a more reasonable AMD processor, the gap widens. Now compared to the Core i3s, it boils down to what CPU you have. If you have a quad-core AMD you’re probably faster on the 890GX. If you have a dual-core AMD, you’re probably faster with Intel.

The fact that picking the winner is this conditional means that Intel has come a long way in integrated graphics performance.

Modern Warfare 2

AMD has the clear victory here. The 890GX’s graphics is a good 35% faster than Intel’s fastest.

BioShock 2

BioShock 2 is a pain to play on either platform, even at the lowest settings. Upgrading to a $50 graphics card makes a huge difference in playability. Intel’s Core i5 661 is technically the fastest followed by the 890GX with a Phenom II X4 965 and then the rest of the i3/i5 lineup and finally the 890GX with an Athlon II.

World of Warcraft

I had to drop the quality settings on my WoW test from Good to Fair in order to get something playable on these IGPs. That doesn’t change the results though, Intel loses out on another key benchmark here. WoW is noticeably faster on the 890GX, regardless of CPU.

HAWX

AMD scores another win in HAWX.

Overall Intel has significantly improved its integrated graphics, but it loses on a couple of key benchmarks (Modern Warfare 2 and World of Warcraft). I’d call Intel HD Graphics in the same league as AMD’s 890GX (something AMD could have avoided by actually increasing performance this generation), but when AMD wins it tends to be by a larger margin.

The 890GX also benefits from much wider compatibility testing and optimization done for AMD’s other GPUs, which make it a safer bet from a being able to run all games standpoint.

I do have to say though, the fact that a $50 video card can offer roughly twice the performance of either integrated graphics solution is telling. Integrated graphics can be useful for playing a small subset of games, but you still need a discrete solution to have fun.

Power Consumption

While we're presenting power consumption data here, it's not a very balanced comparison. Our H55 test motherboard is a micro-ATX board without any fancy features like USB 3.0 and uses scaled down power delivery. Our 890GX board however is a fully equipped ATX board from Gigabyte and thus can easily draw another 10W+ over a reduced micro-ATX design.

With nearly identical motherboards, we would expect x264 playback power consumption to be relatively similar between Intel and AMD integrated platforms. It's also not a far stretch to imagine an AMD system with similar idle power given how close the Athlon II X2 255 is to the H55 setup. The only situation where AMD doesn't stand a chance is under 3D gaming load.

Dual Graphics Support

AMD’s 890GX chipset does support two PCIe x8 slots for running cards in CrossFire mode, but you do have one more option for flexibility. If you have a Radeon HD 5450 and happen to be running one of the following games: Battleforge, BioShock, Company of Heroes, HAWX, World in Conflict or 3DMark Vantage then the 890GX’s IGP will work in tandem with the 5450.

Unfortunately I could not get Dual Graphics mode working on my testbed. AMD is calling this a preview at this point (hence the limited hardware and software support), so we may see a more extensive rollout in the future.

Generally, after a certain point it doesn’t make sense to use the integrated graphics core to boost performance. With 40 SPs the integrated Radeon HD 4290 can add 50% to the core count of a 5450. But go up to a 5670 and the 890GX can offer only 10%, and even less if you take into account clock frequencies.

The 890GX + 5450 (or similar class hardware) would seem to be the only combination that makes sense.

Index Better Suited for USB 3.0?
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  • semo - Tuesday, March 02, 2010 - link

    I'm not aware if the motherboard header pin configurations for USB 3.0 have been standardized yet. I'm sure there will be a period when every maker will come up with their own design until we settle on a single one Reply
  • glockjs - Tuesday, March 02, 2010 - link

    i don't feel so bad in being impatient and buying one of the gigabyte 333's...790xta to be exact. looks like i didnt miss much :D Reply
  • semilobster - Tuesday, March 02, 2010 - link

    Great review Anand! When can we expect a review of the new Hybrid-Crossfire with the 5450? How did they make this work? So far Hybrid-Crossfire has only worked with other RV610 based GPUs (the RV620 was just a slightly modified RV610) Reply
  • Spoelie - Tuesday, March 02, 2010 - link

    Extremely disappointed. Still the uncompetitive SATA performance, no USB3, no ACC and the same integrated graphics performance we had back in 2007, 2 and a half years ago.

    For a company that's behind on cpu performance and tries (tried?) to push the platform "advantage", this is one lackluster platform. It's like they've given up altogether.

    I've had AMD systems for the past years, but 2010 seems to be time to switch, and it pains me :(
    Reply
  • Alouette Radeon - Wednesday, March 10, 2010 - link

    Let me see if I understand this correctly. You're going to switch to the criminal organization known as Intel because AMD hasn't upgraded their SATA? You're kidding right? No spinning hard drive today can keep up with the SATA speeds as they are except for SSDs and you're whining about that? Don't even get me started on the fact that the Radeon HD 4290 is still the top performing IGP with DX10.1 added. Do you really think you'd prefer an Intel GMA??? My god, what rock do you live under? Just for ideological purposes alone, I won't touch Intel or nVidia until they clean themselves up. Dishonesty in a corporation pisses me off more than anything and if you've seen the way Intel has conducted itself in the last 10 years you wouldn't be so quick to switch. Sure, switch to Intel, increase their market share, let AMD die and then we'll all be happy with Intel having a monopoly and dictating to us what we get as they slow technological advancement down and raise prices on everything all because you felt inadequate without SATA performance numbers that are meaningless because there's no hard drives that can take advantage of them! With knuckleheads like you in the world, it's no wonder we're where we are today! Reply
  • AznBoi36 - Tuesday, March 02, 2010 - link

    I don't really see a problem with AMD's platform. Sure their SATA performance isn't as great as Intels; but like Anand said - as long as you aren't running the latest SSDs then the SATA performance difference between AMD/Intel is negligible.

    And yeah, these guys are sitting on their asses as far as chipsets go. How long has ICH/r10 been out? A long time now. I'm still waiting for 8 SATA ports with RAID6. That's probably a long time coming though.

    If you want ACC, then you can still pick up an older 790/785 board. Even my old Gigabyte MA785GM-US2H has it. The only benefit I see with the new 890GX is if you need native SATA3 RAID and more than 2 ports (all other boards use the marvel controller and have only 2 SATA3 ports with RAID 0/1/0+1)
    Reply
  • Mr Perfect - Wednesday, March 03, 2010 - link

    The problem is that native SATA 6gbps for SSDs is exactly why I was interested in the 8 series. It's back to 3rd party controllers now, which gives AMD no advantage. Reply
  • leexgx - Wednesday, March 03, 2010 - link

    but it does support ACC and core unlocker they had an page Just for it (did any one read all of this pre-review before posting)

    all that amd have done is hid the option now but it still can be done
    Reply
  • Griswold - Tuesday, March 02, 2010 - link

    Oh yea switch to where the grass has the same color because there are no more significant upgrades between platforms either...

    They have now all been equally lazy. And lets not talk about nvidia with their endless nfarce rebadging of chipsets from a decade gone by...

    Its clear that there is no pressure in the platform business anymore. Nvidia is a joke and AMD / Intel just throw old bones at us. Get used to it. Also because "platform" is becoming more and more meaningless, except for southbridges...
    Reply
  • Spoelie - Tuesday, March 02, 2010 - link

    I'm not saying Intel has a better platform feature wise, but it has more performance (SATA, CPU) and lower power consumption. AMD used to have a platform advantage, but the last year that was erased. There is absolutely no reason anymore, except for price, to pick AMD at this moment. And you do not want to be in that position in this industry. Reply

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