When I got my hands on a Haswell based Ultrabook, Acer's recently announced S7, I was somewhat disappointed to learn that Acer had chosen to integrate Intel's HD 4400 (Haswell GT2) instead of the full blown HD 5000 (Haswell GT3) option. I published some performance data comparing HD 4400 to the previous generation HD 4000 (Ivy Bridge GT2) but added that at some point I'd like to take a look at HD 5000 to see how much more performance that gets you. It turns out that all of Apple's 2013 MacBook Air lineup features Haswell GT3 (via the standard Core i5-4250U or the optional Core i7-4650U). Earlier today I published our review of the 2013 MBA, but for those not interested in the MBA but curious about how Haswell GT3 stacks up in a very thermally limited configuration I thought I'd do a separate post breaking out the findings.

In mobile, Haswell is presently available in five different graphics configurations:

Intel 4th Generation Core (Haswell) Mobile GPU Configurations
  Intel Iris Pro 5200 Intel Iris 5100 Intel HD 5000 Intel HD 4400 Intel HD 4200
Codename GT3e GT3 GT3 GT2 GT2
EUs 40 40 40 20 20
Max Frequency 1.3GHz 1.2GHz 1.1GHz 1.1GHz 850MHz
eDRAM 128MB - - - -
TDP 47W/55W 28W 15W 15W 15W

The top three configurations use a GPU with 40 EUs, while the HD 4400/4200 features half that. Intel will eventually introduce Haswell SKUs with vanilla Intel HD Graphics, which will only feature 10 EUs. We know how the Iris Pro 5200 performs, but that's with a bunch of eDRAM and a very high TDP. Iris 5100 is likely going to be used in Apple's 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display as well as ASUS' Zenbook Infinity, neither of which are out yet. The third GT3 configuration operates under less than a third of the TDP of Iris Pro 5200. With such low thermal limits, just how fast can this GPU actually be?

First, let's look at what Intel told us earlier this year:

Compared to Intel's HD 4000 (Ivy Bridge/dark blue bar), Intel claimed roughly a 25% increase in performance with HD 5000 in 3DMark06 and a 50% increase in performance in 3DMark11. We now have the systems to validate Intel's claims, so how did they do?

Futuremark 3DMark 11

Futuremark 3DMark06

In 3DMark 11 we're showing a 64% increase in performance if we compare Intel's HD 5000 (15W) to Intel's HD 4000 (17W). The 3DMark06 comparison yields a 21% increase in performance compared to Ivy Bridge ULV. In both cases we've basically validated Intel's claims. But neither of these benchmarks tell us much about actual 3D gaming performance. In our 2013 MBA review we ran a total of eight 3D games. I've summarized the performance advantages in the table below:

Intel HD 5000 (Haswell ULT GT3) vs. Intel HD 4000 (Ivy Bridge ULV GT2)
  GRID 2 Super Street Fighter IV: AE Minecraft Borderlands 2 Tomb Raider (2013) Sleeping Dogs Metro: LL BioShock 2
HD 5000 Advantage 16.2% 12.4% 16.9% 3.0% 40.8% 6.5% 2.3% 24.4%

The data ranges from a meager 2.3% advantage over Ivy Bridge ULV to as much as 40.8%. On average, Intel's HD 5000 offered a 15.3% performance advantage over Intel's HD 4000 graphics. Whether or not that's impressive really depends on your perspective. Given the sheer increase in transistor count, a 15% gain on average seems a bit underwhelming. To understand why, you have to keep in mind that the performance gains come on the same 22nm node, with a lower overall TDP. Haswell ULT GT3 has to be faster, with less thermal headroom than Ivy Bridge ULV GT2.

The range of performance improvement really depends on turbo residency. With only a 15W TDP (inclusive of the CPU and PCH), games that have more CPU activity or the right combination of GPU activity will see lower GPU clocks. In Borderlands 2 for example, I confirmed that the GT3 GPU alone was using up all of the package TDP thus forcing lower clocks:

All of this just brings us to the conclusion that increasing processor graphics performance in thermally limited conditions is very tough, particularly without a process shrink. The fact that Intel even spent as many transistors as it did just to improve GPU performance tells us a lot about Intel's thinking these days. Given how thermally limited Haswell GT3 is at 15W, it seems like Broadwell can't come soon enough for another set of big gains in GPU performance.

I also put together a little graph showing the progression of low TDP Intel GPU performance since Sandy Bridge. I used GRID 2 as it seemed to scale the most reasonably across all GPUs:

Note how the single largest gain happens with the move from 32nm to 22nm (there was also a big architectural improvement with HD 4000 so it's not all process). There's definite tapering that happens as the last three GPUs are on 22nm. The move to 14nm should help the performance curve keep its enthusiasm.

If you want more details and Intel HD 5000 numbers feel free to check out the GPU sections of our 2013 MacBook Air review.



View All Comments

  • Shadowmaster625 - Tuesday, June 25, 2013 - link

    Wow what a waste it is to use HD5000. It is only fractionally better than HD4400. All those transistors... wasted. Reply
  • tipoo - Tuesday, June 25, 2013 - link

    It's primarily for the lower power required. With more EUs, they can run at lower clock speed and voltages to perform as well with less power used. In the 28W versions (presumably headed for the 13" MBP) we'll see how the GT3 can really perform when power is less of a consideration. Reply
  • Penti - Tuesday, June 25, 2013 - link

    MacBook Pros at least the 15 inch will use non-single chip quad-core processors, also the 13.3 inch version uses 35W chips today. They could bump that one to the 47W GT3e part if they wanted performance, as that would roughly put it slightly under the old 15.6 inch pros in graphics performance. You just have to wait and see what the refreshes and new models brings when it comes to Haswell, Apple or not Apple for that matter. Lots of PC's simply use the dual-core GT2-part for example. The single-chip ULT-parts doesn't have any external PCIe links for any gpu. Don't think 5000 and 5100 Iris graphics really matters that much either. 28W parts are just about CPU-performance. All depends on where they want to take it. Reply
  • IntelUser2000 - Tuesday, June 25, 2013 - link

    The 28W Iris Graphics 5100 is 30% faster in Bioshock 2 and Tomb Raider. Reply
  • IntelUser2000 - Tuesday, June 25, 2013 - link

    Compared to the HD 5000 I mean. :P Reply
  • Penti - Wednesday, June 26, 2013 - link

    Sounds reasonable when you factor in much faster cpu, and slightly faster (clocks) gpu. Reply
  • icrf - Tuesday, June 25, 2013 - link

    Honest question, not trying to troll: is there a purpose to better graphics outside from gaming or professional applications? Have we already reached a baseline of UI acceleration for common office / browsing / content consumption tasks? Basically, if I'm not running Crysis or Photoshop, should I care? Will I notice anything? Reply
  • hova - Tuesday, June 25, 2013 - link

    You will notice it when playing high res videos on the web and also when scrolling through heavy websites (if the browser takes good usage of the GPU).
    By far the biggest purpose is for higher resolution "retina like" screens. And all this is just for the "regular" office/web user. Like you said gamers and professionals will also like having more graphic performance in a more portable form factor. It's a great win/win for everyone.
  • Namisecond - Monday, August 19, 2013 - link

    I think we have reached that baseline of UI acceleration. Intel's baseline integrated graphics is now the HD. It suffices for everything aside from gaming. I'm using it in a celeron 847 windows box connected to my 1080p TV. CPU usage can be a bit high when streaming HD content from services like netflix, but I very rarely see a skipped frame, and with an SSD, performance is snappy. Reply
  • name99 - Tuesday, June 25, 2013 - link

    "increasing processor graphics performance in thermally limited conditions is very tough, particularly without a process shrink. The fact that Intel even spent as many transistors as it did just to improve GPU performance tells us a lot about Intel's thinking these days. "

    As always on the internet, the game fanatics completely miss the point when they think this is all about them. Intel doesn't give a damn about game players (except to the extent that it can sell them insanely overpriced K-series devices which they will then destroy in overclocking experiments --- a great business model, but with a very small pool of suckers who are buying).

    What Intel cares about is following Apple's lead. (Not just because it sells a lot of chips to Apple but because Apple has established over the past few years that it has a better overall view of where computing is going than anyone else, or to put it differently, where it goes everyone else will follow a year or two later.)

    So what does Apple want? It's been pretty obvious, since at least the first iPhone, how Apple sees the future --- it was obvious in the way the iPhone compositing system works with as basic elements the "layer" (ie a piece of backing store representing a view, some *fragment* of a window) rather than with a window as the basic unit. The whole point of layers is that they allow us to move the graphics heavy lifting from JUST compositing (ie CPU creates each window, which GPU then composites together) to all drawing.

    We've seen this grow over the years. Apple has moved more and more of OSX (subject to the usual backward compatibility constraints and slowdowns) to the same layering model, for example they've given us a new scrolling model for 10.9 which allows for smooth ("as butter????") scrolling which is not constrained by the CPU.

    So step 1 was move as much of the basic graphics (blitting, compositing, scaling) to the GPU.

    But there is a step 2, which became obvious a year or so later, namely moving as much computation as makes sense to the GPU, namely OpenCL. Apple has pushed OpenCL more and more over the years, and they're not just talking the talk. Again part of what happens in 10.9 is that large parts of CIFilter (Apple's generic image manipulation toolbox, very cleverly engineered) moves to run on the GPU rather than the CPU. Likewise Apple is building more "game physics" into both the OS (with UI elements that behave more like real world matter) and as optimized routines available for Game Developers (and presumably ingenious developers who are not developing games, but who can see a way in which things like collision detection could improve their UIs). I assume most of these physics engines are running on the GPU.

    Point is --- the Haswell GPU may well not be twice as large in order to run GRAPHICS better, it's twice as large in order to be a substantially better OpenCL target. Along the same lines, it's possible that the A7 will come with a GPU which does not seem like a massive improvement over its predecessor and the competition insofar as traditional graphics tasks goes, but is again a substantially better OpenCL target.

    (I also suspect that, if they haven't done so already, it will contain a HW cell dedicated to conversion to or from RGB to sRGB and/or ICC. Apple seems to be pushing really hard for people to perform their image manipulation in one of these two spaces, so that linear operations have linear effects. This is the kind of subtle thing that Apple tends to do, which won't have an obviously dramatic effect, not enough to be a headline feature of future HW or SW, but will, in the background, make all manipulated imagery on Apple devices just look that much better going forward. And once they have a dedicated HW cell doing the work, they can do this everywhere, without much concern for the time or energy costs.

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