Intel's next processor line, Haswell, is closing in on a summer release. Like last year's bump from Sandy Bridge to Ivy Bridge, the most exciting upgrade in this new processor line is the integrated GPU, aka Intel's HD Graphics. Competitor AMD blew Intel's first shot at integrated graphics out of the water, but last year's Ivy Bridge GPU was a big step forward for Intel. And this year things are looking even better--Intel's claiming comparable performance to an (obviously low end) discrete GPU, and they've given their new graphics a name to go with its new performance. Meet Iris.
More specifically, Iris Graphics 5100 is Intel's new high-performance integrated GPU. But it's not the only name to learn this processor cycle: There are five different tiers of GPUs, but the bottom three (which all stick with HD 4000-level denotations) will likely be reserved for low-performance systems. Iris Graphics and the second-tier GPU, HD Graphics 5000, are the ones to keep an eye on.
Intel's 3DMark tests show Iris doubling the performance of last year's HD Graphics 4000, but there's a price to be paid for that performance. Ars Technica writes:
"The Iris 5100 is confined to chips with a 28W thermal design power (TDP), which is a fair bit higher than the 17W TDP used by both Sandy Bridge and Ivy Bridge CPUs. We've talked before about how Intel's TDP ratings (and the newer SDP ratings) are a bit nebulous, but it may be the case that these chips are confined to slightly larger (think 13-inch) Ultrabooks because of power or thermal constraints."
The new HD Graphics 5000, which delivers approximately 1.5 times the performance of last year's chip, will be better suited to laptops with harsher power restrictions. Iris 5100 and HD 5000 are the two chips we'll likely see in most laptops and Ultrabooks in the coming year, but there's also another, even faster Iris GPU with a higher power draw that Intel will offer.
Ars writes about the Iris 5200:
"The Iris Pro Graphics 5200 GPU is similar to the Iris 5100 in execution resources, but it adds a small amount of integrated eDRAM to the CPU package to increase performance. This performance comes with a fairly heavy power cost—the H-series quad-core processors that use the Iris Pro 5200 have a 47W TDP compared to the dual-core Iris 5100-equipped U-series CPUs' 28W—but this is to be expected, given that you're integrating extra memory on the die and going from two to four cores to boot...Intel benchmarks the Iris Pro 5200 at about 2.5 times faster than the HD Graphics 4000 GPU, which if true puts it in roughly the same league as today's midrange dedicated GPUs."
Intel's Haswell processors for desktop will ship in multiple variations just like Sandy Bridge and Ivy Bridge. "K" will continue to signify an unlocked, overclockable CPU; now "R" signifies the Iris 5200 is on-board, and with the lighter power constraints on desktop Intel expects it to deliver roughly 3 times the performance of Graphics 4000. That should offer more than enough performance for an HTPC or even a low-end gaming system--Iris 5200 will definitely make for interesting comparisons with whatever parts end up in the slow of "Steam Boxes" expected to go on sale within the next year.