Will Intel Kill Traditional Graphics Cards Next Year?

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Advanced Micro Devices (NYSE: AMD  ) has had its Fusion architecture coming for a very long time. Not content to sit on its hands, Intel (Nasdaq: INTC  ) pushed improved graphics powers into next year's Sandy Bridge processors and may beat AMD to the punch with a fully integrated processor-and-graphics solution. Early previews show Sandy Bridge still being too puny to replace high-end graphics products from AMD and NVIDIA (Nasdaq: NVDA  ) , but strong enough to make an impact on the low end of the market, where laptops and netbooks frolic.

These findings prompted AMD to reach out to me with a rebuttal of sorts. In AMD's eyes, the tests run by hardware enthusiast site Anandtech weren't entirely fair. In AMD's words:

The tests were run at netbook-level resolution (1024 x 768 or less than 1 megapixel of resolution) and the lowest graphical settings possible. Running the tests in this manner may have utilized only the L3 cache, which would greatly impact performance results, but may not typical [sic] of how actual gameplay would proceed. Competitive tests against in-market AMD GPUs were run using AMD drivers from late 2009; since then, AMD has updated its graphics drivers at least eight times, with each update bringing increased performance.

So the question should be asked, do you think these tests reflect real-world gameplay? We don't think so.

This raises a number of fair points: Hardware reviews are always a moving target, and Sandy Bridge may not live up to the early hype when it finally hits store shelves as part of new systems from system builders like Lenovo, Dell (Nasdaq: DELL  ) , and Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ  ) . Both AMD and Intel will have updated their software several times over by then, and the nearest AMD equivalent to the Sandy Bridge price point might not even be available yet.

That being said, Sandy Bridge is an unequivocal improvement over Intel's sorry slate of graphics solutions today and will push both AMD and NVIDIA to new heights just to stay ahead. Many of the current shortcomings of Intel's new chip such as a lack of support for the latest graphics technology standards by Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) should eventually be ironed out.

Fusion will probably still blow the socks off of Sandy Bridge and its brethren, but at least Intel is keeping the game interesting. Would you buy a Sandy Bridge-based computer if it could save you $50 without losing much gaming performance? Intel is betting that a lot of people will. Discuss where you stand in the comments below.

Fool contributor Anders Bylund has no time for silly games and holds no position in any of the companies discussed here. Intel and Microsoft are Motley Fool Inside Value recommendations. NVIDIA is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor selection. Motley Fool Options has recommended buying calls on Intel. Motley Fool Options has recommended a diagonal call position on Microsoft. The Fool owns shares of Intel and Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days

True to its name, The Motley Fool is made up of a motley assortment of writers and analysts, each with a unique perspective; sometimes we agree, sometimes we disagree, but we all believe in the power of learning from each other through our Foolish community. You can check out Anders' holdings and a concise bio if you like, and The Motley Fool is investors writing for investors.

Read/Post Comments (14) | Recommend This Article (7)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On September 16, 2010, at 8:37 PM, TEBuddy wrote:

    This is nonsense. The answer is an unequivocally NO. Intel graphics are as you say SORRY. And will come nowhere close to the performance you can purchase in discrete graphics in todays market. AMD already makes integrated graphics that are better than some discrete graphics and just as you have said AMD Fusion will be the performance solution. Intel is copying AMD, they have been for the last decade. AMD is already releasing a chip this year with graphics on the CPU, so not sure Intel will beat AMD to anything.

  • Report this Comment On September 17, 2010, at 12:00 AM, jefftan8866 wrote:

    Intel graphics chip and design are the worst.

    Both AMD graphics chip and Nvidia's are much better than Intel's. Intel's Sandibridge cpu design will based on it's current graphics chip design.

    The author of this article knows nothing about graphics chip quality and performance. AMD and Nvidia graphics chip and design have always been beating down Intel's. I can tell you that you should not even expect Intel's Sandibridge graphics cpu will work. The author of this article has his own personal popurse writing this article.

    So do not trust him.

  • Report this Comment On September 17, 2010, at 1:21 AM, jefftan8866 wrote:

    In the future, AMD Fusion cpu will also take market share of Intel cpu because video content and games become more and more important and because AMD's Fusion has the best performance in the world.

  • Report this Comment On September 17, 2010, at 1:22 AM, jefftan8866 wrote:

    In the future, AMD Fusion cpu with graphics integrated will also take market share of Intel cpu because video content and games become more and more important and because AMD's Fusion has the best graphics and video performance in the world.

  • Report this Comment On September 17, 2010, at 4:16 AM, TEBuddy wrote:

    AMD's better engineering and more efficient designs will lead to AMD taking market share from INTC in notebooks, because Fusion at 32nm is slated to be super low TDP, even compared to Intel's similar Atom offerings, while sweeping the floor with them at the same time. This is how Fusion will also break into the netbook and tablet market. Intel has been using feature size to stay steps ahead in performance and notebook cpu TDP, but AMD is closing the gap being part of a larger semiconductor business now.

  • Report this Comment On September 17, 2010, at 6:02 AM, TMFZahrim wrote:

    jefftan, always is a long time :) You might remember a time when the Intel i740 chip crushed the ATI Rage Pro Turbo and the Nvidia Riva 128. Sure, the Voodoo2 still kicked Intel's butt, but that belonged to 3DFx before the Nvidia buyout, and besides, a proper Voodoo setup used three card slots in your PC while the Real3D Starfighter only took the AGP slot. That was when the amount of memory on your card determined how many colors you could use on your desktop at high resolutions.

    Anyway, I think I made the point that Intel's graphics products have been pretty unimpressive for a long time. I'm with you, buddy.


  • Report this Comment On September 17, 2010, at 7:59 AM, rav55 wrote:

    Why is Motley Fool trying to change history?

    "next year's Sandy Bridge processors and may beat AMD to the punch with a fully integrated processor-and-graphics solution."

    AMD already landed the punch on Intel's chin.

    Zacate will be shipping to OEM's in the next couple of months.

    Sandy Bridge is still in development.

    AMD launched the Fusion with Zacate and will be shipping before Intel ships Sandy Bridge. Not only is Zacate a fully integrated CPU/GPU or APU (copyright) but the cores are 100% new design UNLIKE Intel who again chose to take old technology i5 cores and glue an Intel gpu on the die. Intel HD graphics, what a joke.


    Regarding the end of discret graphics?

    Intel has never been able to design GPU's discrete or otherwise. If they did, then Invidia and ATI and now AMD would not have made sooooooo much money on discrete graphics!!!

    BUT, the mid range performance price point with AMD Fusion is now gone. And it remains to be seen just what the cost of additional perfomance will be.

    One unexpected turn might be that Porfessional graphics start dropping into the Gaming and Performance price point. In either case Invidia will feel the squeeze and Intel just might need the Invidia design portfolio and design skills to stay competitive. But they will be several years behind.

    I think Intel stumbled.

  • Report this Comment On September 17, 2010, at 12:58 PM, GetMeTheBigKnife wrote:

    This is the lamest Fool article to date.

  • Report this Comment On September 17, 2010, at 12:58 PM, enkidusfriend wrote:

    The Sandy Bridge GPU is definitely a big leap over previous iterations of Intel graphics, but managing to meet an ATi HD5450 in terms of performance at extremely low resolutions and minimal details does not really tell me much about gaming performance.

    The 5450 is not a gaming card. No one is going to play games using either a 5450 or the Sandy Bridge graphics subsystem. They have the power to run games, but that is a far cry from running them at settings anyone would be willing to tolerate.

    The important factor for graphics at this low end is to use minimal power and be able to decode high-definition video for use in an HTPC and Sandy Bridge should fit that market well.

  • Report this Comment On September 17, 2010, at 11:36 PM, CyborgTrader wrote:

    Intel is a joke, with overpriced chips and no graphic chip worthy of production.

  • Report this Comment On September 18, 2010, at 11:09 PM, ssh00 wrote:

    CPU + GPU chips simply spell the end of the integrated on-board graphics cards as we know them today. Discrete chips are still here to stay as CPUs are often locked and highly coupled with the entire system's motherboard and are often never changed (might as well buy a brand new computer). However, discrete GPUs can be upgraded several times during the lifetime of a system (for only a hundred dollars or so) and does often yield a significant impact on gaming and graphics' performance. Graphical application and game developers are ALWAYS pushing the latest hardware to their limits and this is not going to change anytime soon.

  • Report this Comment On September 19, 2010, at 2:09 PM, Estiv wrote:

    I read in August the lawsuit, filed by Nvidia against Intel, was for return of Nvidia's GPU designs, if I'm not mistaken and raised when Intel disallowed Nvidia access to their next generation CPU designs. That suit may stop Intel from exploiting the Nvidia GPU designs or it may not... What's the latest on this anyway?

  • Report this Comment On September 19, 2010, at 5:14 PM, Estiv wrote:
  • Report this Comment On September 25, 2010, at 9:17 AM, rav55 wrote:

    GPU computing: stuck a fork in it.

    "Intel and AMD to kill off affordable supercomputer graphics? "

    Like Cro Magnon killed off Neanderthal.

    "Nvidia’s subsidy for high-end graphics boards is at risk."

    The end is near.

    This is a very real worry and concern.

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