Instant Expert: HD Graphics

24/03/2011 10:55am

Sandy Bridge wafers waiting to become Core processors. Image: Intel

HD? Isn’t that all about being able to see newsreaders’ pimples and wrinkles?

That’s a different kind of HD. We’re talking about Intel HD Graphics here – or what the Intel site calls Intel HD GraphicsΦπΛ.

Has Tutankhamun suddenly taken over your keyboard?

No. Intel’s website has a lot of small print, and the hieroglyphics look better than endless asterisks*****.

Ah. So it’s like those US car commercials Eddie Izzard talks about, the ones where the super-fast voice denies all the claims the advert makes?

Not at all. The bit I’ve copied comes from a description of the technology’s speed, and the symbols take you to the bits explaining what benchmarks were used, what kind of kit the tests were carried out on and the usual legalese you get on US firms’ websites.

So what, pray tell, is Intel HD Graphics Circle With A Line Through It Stonehenge Teepee?

It’s a clever way of giving PCs and workstations graphics without a graphics card.

It’s magic!

More physics than magic, I’d say. It’s a feature of the latest, second-generation Intel® Core™ processors.

Can you stop it with the superscript, please?

If I do that, Intel’s lawyers will slap me.

That’s a risk you’ll have to take. So the graphics are in the processor?

Exactly. What Intel’s done here is put two key components, the processor and the graphics system, together on a single chip. The idea is to remove potential obstacles, so for example by reducing the need for a separate graphics card Intel can eliminate the bottlenecks that might occur between a traditional CPU and graphics card.

That’s the end of the graphics card industry, then.

Oh, I very much doubt ATI and NVIDIA are crying hot salty tears here: Intel’s targeting a different market. If you want a machine that will happily handle everyday graphics and gaming, HD Graphics will be just the job. If you’re doing CAD, rendering Formula 1 cars or making Toy Story 4, you’ll still need something more substantial – like single or twin cards from ATI or NVIDIA.

I don’t do CAD, cars or cartoons. Will HD Graphics make my life a sunnier place?

There are several benefits to combining the processor and graphics processor. It’s very energy efficient, it’s very portable, it cuts the cost of your kit and it also makes new form factors possible: you don’t need a big old box if you’re not sticking add-on cards in there.

Are there multiple versions?

Yes, there are two. HD Graphics 2000 is the entry level option, and HD Graphics 3000 is the more powerful version. It’s a genuine alternative to a dedicated graphics card for everyday use and casual gaming.

And has it been announced years before it actually ships?

Nope. Systems with HD Graphics are shipping right now.

Do you know what would be really funny?

No, what?

If HD Graphics couldn’t actually handle HD.

Yes, that would be funny.

Can it handle HD?

Yes.

Damn.

**** The asterisks in that bit were a joke. Sorry.