When gaming on a pc, the only real option for those who want to play seriously (not counting things like online flash games) is to have a dedicated graphics card in their computer to handle all of the demanding graphical processing required by the games. The alternative to this, if it can be called that, is to have a graphics processing unit built into the processor, which, traditionally just focusses on the processing of the computer’s actions rather than the graphics. This is the integrated graphics, or iGPU option.
The main reason integrated graphics aren’t used by most people when gaming is because they’re very low powered. A dedicated graphics card has lots of space for memory, from 1gb to 6gb in size, whereas the iGPU can only really use the space already available to the tiny CPU (processor) and as a result they only contain about 170mb of memory.
Now, I’ve been gaming using an iGPU for several years now, and let me tell you, it’s rather painful. Most modern games run almost unplayably slow on the lowest graphics settings and the smallest window size. Older games run great, but if you want to play all the newest releases, this isn’t really an option. To put this into perspective, my igpu can run things like skyrim at about 12 fps, whereas most dedicated graphics cards would do so at a much more healthy 60fps, with better graphical quality in things like textures too.
A bridge is now being formed by both AMD and Intel in their processor designs. AMD has a strong range of APUs which incorporate the graphics card side of AMDs company into their processing area. This provides both an entry level gpu and cpu in one package, however the price, in my opinion, isn’t really low enough compared to a cheap cpu and dedicated gpu to justify buying one, although I really support what they’re doing.
Intel are now improving upon their iGPU. I’m currently using one of their earliest versions of it, and the performance has been increasing slowly as they release newer CPUs, varying by about 10-25% each time. However, in the recently released Haswell CPU family, Intel introduced a new technology : Iris Pro. This ramped up the graphical power in the CPUs that contained it by a big leap compared to previous technology that intel have showcased, and if this fans out to the rest of the intel cpu family, I think that it could shake up the budget end of the graphics card market. In a few years time, considering the rate at which they are improving, who knows? Maybe they could even compete with the higher end dedicated graphics cards.
However unlikely this may sound, iGPUs are now able to play games which would have, several years ago, required top end dedicated gpus to run them, so there could still be a chance for it to happen.
I use a laptop for gaming, and a decent gaming laptop can often be quite costly, as you can’t build it yourself. With desktop pcs, you can customise them and build them yourself, to your exact budget and requirements, but portable pcs don’t have as much freedom to do this. I think that iGPUs could be seen in many laptops in the future, allowing casual gamers to play the latest titles at decent quality, but desktop gamers will still be able to buy new upgrades to their pcs, so I don’t think it would appeal to them as much.
Next gen intel processors with more iGPU performance: http://news.softpedia.com/news/2014-Bound-Intel-Broadwell-EK-CPUs-Get-80-Graphics-Boost-from-Iris-Pro-401991.shtml
As an aside, I might write another post detailing some of the variants available, such as the past and present APUs, Hybrid CrossfireX the AMD Fusion range and other attempts at bridging graphics and processing in one package