Final Words

For the past few years Intel has been threatening to make discrete GPUs obsolete with its march towards higher performing integrated GPUs. Given what we know about Iris Pro today, I'd say NVIDIA is fairly safe. The highest performing implementation of NVIDIA's GeForce GT 650M remains appreciably quicker than Iris Pro 5200 on average. Intel does catch up in some areas, but that's by no means the norm. NVIDIA's recently announced GT 750M should increase the margin a bit as well. Haswell doesn't pose any imminent threat to NVIDIA's position in traditional gaming notebooks. OpenCL performance is excellent, which is surprising given how little public attention Intel has given to the standard from a GPU perspective.

Where Iris Pro is dangerous is when you take into account form factor and power consumption. The GT 650M is a 45W TDP part, pair that with a 35 - 47W CPU and an OEM either has to accept throttling or design a cooling system that can deal with both. Iris Pro on the other hand has its TDP shared by the rest of the 47W Haswell part. From speaking with OEMs, Iris Pro seems to offer substantial power savings in light usage (read: non-gaming) scenarios. In our 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display review we found that simply having the discrete GPU enabled could reduce web browsing battery life by ~25%. Presumably that delta would disappear with the use of Iris Pro instead.

Lower thermal requirements can also enabler smaller cooling solutions, leading to lighter notebooks. While Iris Pro isn't the fastest GPU on the block, it is significantly faster than any other integrated solution and does get within striking distance of the GT 650M in many cases. Combine that with the fact that you get all of this in a thermal package that a mainstream discrete GPU can't fit into and this all of the sudden becomes a more difficult decision for an OEM to make.

Without a doubt, gaming focused notebooks will have to stick with discrete GPUs - but what about notebooks like the 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display? I have a dedicated PC for gaming, I use the rMBP for work and just need a GPU that's good enough to drive everything else in OS X. Intel's HD 4000 comes close, and I suspect Iris Pro will completely negate the need for a discrete GPU for non-gaming use in OS X. Iris Pro should also be competent enough to make modern gaming possible on the platform as well. Just because it's not as fast as a discrete GPU doesn't mean that it's not a very good integrated graphics solution. And all of this should come at a much lower power/thermal profile compared to the current IVB + GT 650M combination.

Intel clearly has some architectural (and perhaps driver) work to do with its Gen7 graphics. It needs more texture hardware per sub-slice to remain competitive with NVIDIA. It's also possible that greater pixel throughput would be useful as well but that's a bit more difficult to say at this point. I would also like to see an increase in bandwidth to Crystalwell. While the 50GB/s bi-directional link is clearly enough in many situations, that's not always the case.

Intel did the right thing with making Crystalwell an L4 cache. This is absolutely the right direction for mobile SoCs going forward and I expect Intel will try something similar with its low power smartphone and tablet silicon in the next 18 - 24 months. I'm pleased with the size of the cache and the fact that it caches both CPU and GPU memory. I'm also beyond impressed that Intel committed significant die area to both GPU and eDRAM in its Iris Pro enabled Haswell silicon. The solution isn't perfect, but it is completely unlike Intel to put this much effort towards improving graphics performance - and in my opinion, that's something that should be rewarded. So I'm going to do something I've never actually done before and give Intel an AnandTech Editors' Choice Award for Haswell with Iris Pro 5200 graphics.

This is exactly the type of approach to solving problems I expect from a company that owns around a dozen modern microprocessor fabs. Iris Pro is the perfect example of what Intel should be doing across all of the areas it competes in. Throw smart architecture and silicon at the problem and don't come back whining to me about die area and margins. It may not be the fastest GPU on the block, but it's definitely the right thing to do.

I'm giving Intel our lowest award under the new system because the solution needs to be better. Ideally I wouldn't want a regression from GT 650M performance, but in a pinch for a mostly work notebook I'd take lower platform power/better battery life as a trade in a heartbeat. This is absolutely a direction that I want to see Intel continue to explore with future generations too. I also feel very strongly that we should have at least one (maybe two) socketed K-series SKUs with Crystalwell on-board for desktop users. It is beyond unacceptable for Intel to not give its most performance hungry users the fastest Haswell configuration possible. Most companies tend to lose focus of their core audience as they pursue new markets and this is a clear example of Intel doing just that. Desktop users should at least have the option of buying a part with Crystalwell on-board.

So much of Intel's march towards improving graphics has been driven by Apple, I worry about what might happen to Intel's motivation should Apple no longer take such an aggressive position in the market. My hope is that Intel has finally realized the value of GPU performance and will continue to motivate itself.

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  • wizfactor - Sunday, June 02, 2013 - link

    Shimpi's guess as to what will go into the 15-inch rMBP is interesting, but I have a gut feeling that it will not be the case. Despite the huge gains that Iris Pro has over the existing HD 4000, it is still a step back from last year's GT 650M. I doubt Apple will be able to convince its customers to spend $2199 on a computer that has less graphics performance than last year's (now discounted) model. Despite its visual similarity to an Air, the rMBP still has performance as a priority, so my guess is that Apple will stick to discrete for the time-being.

    That being said, I think Iris Pro opens up a huge opportunity to the 15-inch rMBP lineup, mainly a lower entry model that finally undercuts the $2000 barrier. In other words, while the $2199 price point may be too high to switch entirely to iGPU, Apple might be able to pull it off at $1799. Want a 15-inch Retina Display? Here's a more affordable model with decent performance. Want a discrete GPU? You can get that with the existing $2199 price point.

    As far as the 13-inch version is concerned, my guesses are rather murky. I would agree with the others that a quad-core Haswell with Iris Pro is the best-case scenario for the 13-inch model, but it might be too high an expectation for Apple engineers to live up to. I think Apple's minimum target with the 13-inch rMBP should be dual-core Haswell with Iris 5100. This way, Apple can stick to a lower TDP via dual-core, and while Iris isn't as strong as Iris Pro, its gain over HD 4000 is enough to justify the upgrade. Of course, there's always the chance that Apple has temporary exclusivity on an unannounced dual-core Haswell with Iris Pro, the same way it had exclusivity with ULV Core 2 Duo years ago with MBA, but I prefer not to make Haswell models out of thin air.
    Reply
  • BSMonitor - Monday, June 03, 2013 - link

    You are assuming that the next MBP will have the same chasis size. If thin is in, the dGPU-less Iris Pro is EXTREMELY attractive for heat/power considerations..

    More likely is the end of the thicker MBP and separate thin MBAir lines. Almost certainly, starting in two weeks we have just one line, MBP all with retina, all the thickness of MBAir. 11" up to 15"..
    Reply
  • TheJian - Sunday, June 02, 2013 - link

    As far as encoding goes, why do you guys ignore cuda?
    http://www.extremetech.com/computing/128681-the-wr...
    Extremetech's last comment:
    "Avoid MediaEspresso entirely."

    So the one you pick is the worst of the bunch to show GPU power....jeez. You guys clearly have a CS6 suite lic so why not run Adobe Premiere which uses Cuda and run it vs the same vid render you use in Sony's Vegas? Surely you can rip the same vid in both to find out why you'd seek a CUDA enabled app to rip with. Handbrake looks like they're working on supporting Cuda also shortly. Or heck, try FREEMAKE (yes free with CUDA). Anything besides ignoring CUDA and acting like this is what a user would get at home. If I owned an NV card (and I don't in my desktop) I'd seek cuda for everything I did that I could find. Freemake just put out another update 5/29 a few days ago.
    http://www.tested.com/tech/windows/1574-handbrake-...
    2.5yrs ago it was equal, my guess is they've improved Cuda use by now. You've gotta love Adam and Jamie... :) Glad they branched out past just the Mythbusters show.
    Reply
  • xrror - Sunday, June 02, 2013 - link

    I have a bad suspicion one of the reasons why you won't see a desktop Haswell part with eDRAM is that it would pretty much euthanize socket 2011 on the spot.

    IF Intel does actually release a "K" part with it enabled, I wonder how restrictive or flexible the frequency ratios on the eDRAM will be?

    Speaking of socket 2011, I wonder if/when Intel will ever refresh it from Sandy-E?
    Reply
  • wizfactor - Sunday, June 02, 2013 - link

    I wouldn't call myself an expert on computer hardware, but isn't it possible that Iris Pro's bottleneck at 1600x900 resolutions could be attributed to insufficient video memory? Sure, that eDRAM is a screamer as far as latency is concerned, but if the game is running on higher resolutions and utilising HD textures, that 128MB would fill up really quickly, and the chip would be forced to swap often. Better to not have to keep loading and unloading stuff in memory, right?

    Others note the similarity between Crystalwell and the Xbox One's 32MB Cache, but let's not forget that the Xbox One has its own video memory; Iris Pro does not, or put another way, it's only got 128 MB of it. In a time where PC games demand at least 512 MB of video RAM or more, shouldn't the bottleneck that would affect Iris Pro be obvious? 128 MB of RAM is sure as hell a lot more than 0, but if games demand at least four times as much memory, then wouldn't Iris Pro be forced to use regular RAM to compensate, still? This sounds to me like what's causing Iris Pro to choke at higher resolutions.

    If I am at least right about Crystalwell, it is still very impressive that Iris Pro was able to get in reach of the GT 650M with so little memory to work with. It could also explain why Iris Pro does so much better in Crysis: Warhead, where the minimum requirements are more lenient with video memory (256 MB minimum). If I am wrong, however, somebody please correct me, and I would love to have more discussion on this matter.
    Reply
  • BSMonitor - Monday, June 03, 2013 - link

    Me thinks thou not know what thou talking about ;) Reply
  • F_A - Monday, June 03, 2013 - link

    The video memory is stored in main memory being it 4GB and above...(so minspecs of crysis are clearly met)... the point is bandwidtht.
    The article is telling there are roughly 50GB/s when the cachè is run with 1.6 Ghz.
    So ramping it up in füture makes the new Iris 5300 i suppose.
    Reply
  • glugglug - Tuesday, June 04, 2013 - link

    Video cards may have 512MB to 1GB of video memory for marketing purposes, but you would be hard pressed to find a single game title that makes use of more than 128. Reply
  • boe - Monday, June 03, 2013 - link

    As soon as intel CPUs have video performance that exceeds NVidia and AMD flagship video cards I'll get excited. Until then I think of them as something to be disabled on workstations and to be tolerated on laptops that don't have better GPUs on board. Reply
  • MySchizoBuddy - Monday, June 03, 2013 - link

    So Intel just took the OpenCL crown. Never thought this day would come. Reply

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