Mobile Sandy Bridge Gaming Performance

Sandy Bridge is clearly a faster CPU than the preceding Arrandale and Clarksfield offerings—that’s no surprise. The integrated graphics are also faster, but being faster than old Intel’s HD Graphics isn’t saying a whole lot. Then again, AMD’s old HD 4250 IGP isn’t much better and is long overdue for a replacement. We’ll talk about that in a second, but first here are the standard gaming performance results at our “Low” defaults. “Medium” detail will be on the next page.

Battlefield: Bad Company 2

DiRT 2

Left 4 Dead 2

Mass Effect 2

Stalker: Call of Pripyat

StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty

Average Gaming Performance

Let’s start by talking about compatibility problems with the Intel IGP: there were none! I know it’s been fashionable over the years to bash on Intel for horrible drivers that can’t run games, and the previous IGPs certainly still fall into that “too slow” category, but of our standard six test titles both Sandy Bridge and Arrandale IGPs loaded and ran every single title. That makes talk of performance meaningful, and that’s the bigger story by far.

Again, Sandy Bridge delivers playable performance in every single title at 768p and “Low” detail settings. What’s more, it actually surpasses the GeForce 320M in Apple’s MacBook Pro 13 in five out of six games (the exception being STALKER). Similarly, it beats the entry-level Radeon Mobility 5470 in four out of six games (STALKER and StarCraft II being the exceptions) and the G 310M in five out of six (SC2 came out ahead on the 310M).

All told, Intel’s HD Graphics 3000 checks in an average of 6% faster than HD 5470, 8% faster than GeForce 320M, 25% faster than G 310M, and a whopping 130% faster than both the previous generation HD Graphics and AMD’s HD 4250 (which are essentially tied in overall performance across the selected titles). Which is not to say it wins everywhere; even with a much slower Turion II P520 Processor, the HD 5650 still leads HD 3000 by 44%; shift the same GPU to an i7-640M to remove the CPU bottleneck and the 5650 beats HD 3000 by 130%. NVIDIA’s GeForce GT 425M also leads the 3000 by 46% on average, so discrete GPUs are by no means in danger of being replaced.

We didn't have time to do serious image quality comparisons, but subjectively there did appear to be a few games where the Intel IGP wasn't rendering at the same level of detail, but it's hard to say when you're not running at the native LCD resolution; we'll get into problems in a moment, but other than those mentioned we didn't have any serious complaints. After all, being able to run a game at all is the first consideration; making it look good is merely the icing on the cake.

Mobile Sandy Bridge QuickSync and 3DMarks Mobile Sandy Bridge Medium Gaming Performance
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  • JarredWalton - Monday, January 03, 2011 - link

    True, it's been around a while, but I found it interesting that while performance dropped, it wasn't the "slideshow effect". If the system sat idle, the CPU would start to cool down, so when I fired up a benchmark it would run fast for a little bit. It was very perplexing until I figured out what was happening. First run on MediaEspresso gave me 11s with Quick Sync. Then I ran it again and it was 17s. The next time it was suddenly down to 33s. Reply
  • QChronoD - Monday, January 03, 2011 - link

    I'm hoping that someone will annouce something like ASUS's new U36JC that has an i5-2410 at CES. I'd love to be able to go a full day at school without needing to recharge in almost every class (and actaully be able to play minecraft between classes) Reply
  • PlasmaBomb - Monday, January 03, 2011 - link

    GTX 260M comes in next at 17 seconds (174FPS)


    That should read the GTX465 comes next...
    Reply
  • PlasmaBomb - Monday, January 03, 2011 - link

    To correct the correction (I was going by the graphs), the graphs for the G73J should read GTX460M (I noticed the reference to the GTX460M in the text later and checked the G73J article).

    God help us all when it comes to talking/writing about the Sandy Bridge chips themselves, "the i7-2539"...
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Monday, January 03, 2011 - link

    Fixed, thanks. I had some good ones in those graphs... G73Jw with 260M and 456M, but no 460M! LOL Reply
  • iwodo - Monday, January 03, 2011 - link

    now all that is left are Gfx drivers, i hope intel put 10x more resources at their current Gfx Drivers team.

    Other then that, i am waiting for Ivy Bridge........
    Reply
  • ET - Monday, January 03, 2011 - link

    I imagine that a single resolution is the best way to compare different machines, but it would have been nice to see some gaming benchmarks at the native res. 1600x900 is not a whole lot higher than 1366x768 (37% more pixels), so I imagine it's possible to game with low details at that resolution. Many Anandtech articles add such figures into the benchmark tables, and I was really missing them here. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Monday, January 03, 2011 - link

    I ran out of time, but I did test 1600x900 at our "High" defaults. Umm... not really what you'd want, as everything is completely unplayable. Perhaps post-CES I'll get a chance to do additional testing, but my feeling is most actual notebooks using SNB will likely ship with a 768p display. Some might do 1080p as well, but they'll be more likely to include Optimus GPUs for gaming. Reply
  • therealnickdanger - Tuesday, January 04, 2011 - link

    Good idea testing at 1366x768. Not only does it fall in line with most notebook screen resolutions, but it also give good indication of 720p performance. Given that many, many gamers play PS3 and 360 (most games being 720p@30fps), it's very good to see that most games are completely playable from low-medium settings. Some games could probably even get away with higher settings and still stay around 30fps.

    It's awesome that Intel is putting the "HD 3000" GPU in all its mobile chips, but I'm very curious how the different clock speeds of the GPU and CPUs will affect performance.

    ULV Sandy Bridge numbers soon?
    Reply
  • therealnickdanger - Tuesday, January 04, 2011 - link

    Oh yeah, I forgot to add:

    What's with Dark Athena? Is it really that stressful to run or is there a driver issue?
    Reply

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