GDC 2007: Intel’s G965 Integrated Graphics Performance Sneak Peek

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by Dustin Sklavos

== Intel’s Santa Rosa platform is coming soon and many notebooks will be using the Intel G965 graphics as part of an integrated graphics solution. Intel has been working on writing drivers to utitlize the new hardware and give better integrated graphics performance. Based on a demo Intel gave us today at the Game Developers Conference 2007, games such as Half Life 2 on integrated graphics using the G965 should be quite playable ==

 

Forgive me for waxing a bit poetic: Santa Rosa, California is where I was born and I grew up in the surrounding area. Santa Rosa is also the codename for Intel’s next mobile platform.

Everyone knows about all the other exciting parts of the platform: draft-n wireless technology and flash memory, but we all kind of avert our eyes when we discuss Intel’s G965 graphics part.

And why shouldn’t we? On its release it was a dog, performing in many cases slower than Intel’s own GMA 950 despite the hardware being vastly superior. It’s spoken of in hushed tones.

Well, start talking. I’m in San Francisco at the Game Developers Conference 2007 and had an opportunity today to speak privately with Intel’s PR Managers regarding the G965 and view demonstrations. When the specifications were released last year, they talked about Shader Model 3.0 support and most importantly Hardware Texture & Lighting (finally!), but the performance didn’t bear those specifications out.

The G965 is essentially a completely new architecture, and when the driver team set out to develop it, they were interested mainly in Vista functionality and in improved video processing. This focus has resulted in very impressive video processing and decoding that rivals and exceeds some discrete graphics solutions. While I generally take these public relations bits with a grain of salt, I couldn’t really deny the fact that regardless of who you compare it to or how you slice it, G965’s video rendering looked GOOD. Stairstepping wasn’t an issue, and it played the test DVD (HQV for those wondering) silky smooth.

What’s more exciting, however, is that Intel’s driver team – now satisfied with Vista compliance and video rendering using Intel’s proprietary ClearVideo technology – has shifted their focus back to gaming. Specifically, revealing the hardware capabilities that were announced last year.

The G965 has up to this point been running software vertex rendering and texture and lighting. I was able to experience an early engineering beta driver that exposed these features in hardware, and the performance was impressive (especially considering it’s an integrated part with the word "Intel" attached to it).

I had the opportunity to play Half-Life 2: Episode One using Intel’s early G965 driver, and at 1024×768 with most settings on high, no HDR or AA, the game was surprisingly smooth and very playable. Given the nature of the driver, this bodes extremely well for the future.

Intel will be posting a beta driver within the next few months, releasing a finalized driver later this year. This, coupled with their publicized pursuit of new talent for their graphics division and their release of a laptop gaming toolkit for developers (as will be reported later), shows an increased interest in gaming that can only benefit us as notebook users.


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