Intel Focuses Iris GPUs on Gaming, Video

Intel on Thursday announced the Iris family of graphics processor units for its forthcoming Haswell line of processors.

The Iris family offers up to double the 3D performance of the chip giant’s fastest mobile HD graphics solutions on its processors for laptops and Ultrabooks. It also triples the 3D performance for its R-series processors for desktops.

The GPUs also provide faster, more advanced photo and video editing and better display capabilities through features that include Intel Quick Sync Video technology, MJPEG acceleration, and 4K UltraHD display resolution.

They will be available with select 4th-generation Intel Core processors.

“Intel’s gunning for the high-end gamer market,” Jim McGregor, principal analyst at Tirias Research, told TechNewsWorld. “It’s trying to enhance its processors to include 3D and other enhancements supported by discrete solutions from Nvidia, AMD and other players.”

The chip giant “wants to be able to provide a solution that’s going to meet some of the higher-end or midrange type of graphics demands that are out there,” said Craig Stice, a senior analyst at IHS iSuppli.

“We absolutely see a lot of excitement for this in the PC Market, Intel spokesperson Dan Snyder told TechNewsWorld. “Gamers and video guys will be thrilled.”

More on Iris

Iris comes in two types — Iris and Iris Pro. The Iris family will be integrated into the high-end GT3 and GT3e Haswell configurations. Lower-end GT3 configurations, and the Haswell GT1 and GT2 configurations, will continue to use the existing Intel HD Graphics processor line.

“These are scaled versions of the Iris GPU for different processors aimed at different segments,” Tirias’ McGregor said.

Devices with processors incorporating 4th generation Intel Core processors and Iris GPUs will be thinner, lighter and offer better performance. For example, a new Ultrabook with a 4th generation Intel Core i5 4200 processor and Iris graphics will be almost half as thin as a four-year-old notebook with an Intel Core 2 Duo processor, and weigh half as much, Intel said. The Ultrabook will also offer 17x faster video conversion and 25x faster graphics performance.

The Iris GPUs will be available in Ultrabooks, premium notebooks and desktop all-in-ones.

Intel previously gave the Iris family the “Gen” code name, Tirias’s McGregor said.

Reactions to Iris

Given the steep drop in worldwide PC shipments — they were down almost 14 percent year over year in Q1, according to IDC — it’s not clear whether Iris will be much of a help to Intel.

“Graphics solutions may not be the driver to a mainstream consumer trying to decide whether or not to buy a new PC,” IHS’s Stice told TechNewsWorld. Still, Iris “opens up new doors for someone who may want to accomplish something they can’t on the PC they’ve had for the past four years.”

Intel “continues to increase graphics performance because it’s critical to the user experience,” McGregor said. “They want to eventually push out discrete graphics from all but the ultra high-end systems, and they need to compete with AMD’s integrated graphics technology, which is based on bleeding-edge discrete graphics.”

About the Haswell Processor

Haswell processors use the 22 nm process and have low power consumption. Intel demonstrated a Haswell processor in September at the Intel Developer Forum (IDF) in San Francisco.Outgoing Intel CEO Paul Otellini first announced the Haswell processor at IDF 2011, and the company put up a video of the processor on YouTube.

“The biggest push on Haswell has been reducing power consumption,” McGregor said. However, “I never buy the battery claims. Let’s just see if the average user can get a single day’s work on one charge out of it first.”

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