The Ultimate Intel HD Guide
So, you’ve just bought your new system, you can’t wait to play some games and the thought of what you’re going to play first is exciting!
In your total excitement you forgot to buy your graphics card. Ok, I’m just kidding but let’s say you hit your limit in terms of budget or you want to build a new computer now and want to wait for the next generation of graphics cards to come down in price, because we know that GPUs are currently ridiculously overpriced.
You might think it’s a looong wait until payday before you’re able to fire up your favorite games but with the CPUs constantly improving in terms of onboard graphics that might not be the case.
Stick with me and you will learn everything there is to learn about intergrated GPUs. I have also included a mini guide on how to boost your performance of your intel graphics.
What is intel HD graphics card?
Intel HD Graphics is a series of integrated graphics processors introduced by Intel in 2010 that are manufactured on the same package or die as the central processing unit (CPU). Up until that point, you always had to buy a separate graphics card for your PC. But now, Intel made it possible to not only do basic tasks, but also play many of the latest game titles, without a discrete GPU.
Can you game on a PC / Laptop without a graphics card (GPU)?
Yes. You can definitely game on a computer without a dedicated graphics card if you can’t afford or your laptop doesn’t include one. Fear not, cause today we’re going to take the onboard graphics to the limits, as far as gaming goes.
The results may surprise you so let’s get into it:
Intel HD 530 (i5 6600k) Test
This set of tests, were done on the Intel HD 530 graphics and more specifically on the i5 6600k CPU.
When I started benchmarking these games, I wasn’t targeting a specific set of settings or resolution. All I wanted was 60 frames per second. That’s what I wanted to achieve, I wanted to get 60 frames per second but without dropping below 720p because I don’t think anyone likes to play in a resolution lower than 720p.
I started testing these games and messing with the settings a little bit in order to achieve that. For the most part, in the games that I tested I was able to play very well.
Some games ran at 720p, some games even at 1080p, other games not so well, like PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG). That ran absolutely awful, no matter what I did to that game even if I played it at 720p and set the resolution slider all the way to the lowest, at which point the graphics looked like the worst thing I’ve ever seen in my life and even then it was an enjoyable experience.
If you are gaming on an Intel dedicated onboard graphics card I would avoid playing games like PUBG, Rust or any heavy open world games that require constant rendering. It is probably not going to give you the most ideal experience.
However, other less demanding open world games like most MMORPGs can run absolutely fine.
Let’s change game category and move to fps.
It gets better:
Games like OverWatch, Counter-Strike Go, Team Fortress 2 which are all first person shooters, are games where you absolutely want 60fps. Those games need 60fps pretty much all the time, in order to have the best possible accuracy. Otherwise you may as well play on a console (which caps at 30fps). Not to mention that you’re going to play the game with a controller which is never going to be a good thing for a first person shooter.
Let’s not get out of topic.
Surprisingly, in those games I was able to achieve a very smooth performance.
On OverWatch I was testing at 720p on low and depending on the map I was on, there were were a few maps where the frames dropped a little bit below 60 but for the most part it was flowing between 60 and 80 fps all the time and it was a perfectly playable and enjoyable gaming experience. I didn’t have any issues with it.
Now, games like Heroes of the Storm and League of Legends run absolutely perfect. These are also games where you don’t really care about hitting that 60fps mark, you’re more than fine playing with 30fps because you’re not really required to have that split second reaction time to try and pop headshots. Even so, I was able to get more than 60fps on both games.
Rocket League is another game where you don’t necessarily need 60 fps. This game ran extremely well too. I was able to get around 60fps almost all the time, at 1080p on medium settings. So I didn’t even need to drop down to 720p. 1080p with 60 frames is going to be even better than what you’d be able to get on a console in particular title.
For other games like CSGO and Team Fortress 2, hitting and maintaining 60fps is not going to be an issue at all even in 1080p playing on medium settings.
Therefore, all those games besides PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds and Rust ran really well at the settings that I was able to utilize for my testing.
Let’s see the graphs:
Take a look at the average FPS and the 1% low.
1% low is a good way to understand how the game plays. Average FPS metrics can be misleading.
For example, let’s say the maximum frames per second you get is 200 fps. Sounds cool?
Every 2 seconds, there is a dip to 10 fps. So, the minimum frames per second is 10, and max is 200. The average will still be very high, sounds really good but it isn’t.
1% low is telling us that the worst 1% of the time, the game gets X fps.
As you can see, PUBG and Rust are way at the bottom. You’re getting to the point of being pretty much unplayable. It’s not impossible but it’s not ideal. If that’s the only way you can possibly play the games and you can still get on there with a couple of friends you might be able to have a good time but you really want to look at getting graphics card or a gaming laptop at that point.
OverWatch and Heroes of the Storm both average over 60 frames per second.
Then Rocket League, CSGO and Team Fortress 2 did extremely well too. All ran at 1080p at medium settings so that’s really awesome to see.
Intel HD 620 (i3 7100U) Test
This set of tests, were done on the Intel HD 620 graphics and more specifically on the i3 7100U CPU.
Right now the most popular integrated graphics is HD 620 graphics as it is the integrated Graphics that you can find on the latest Kaby Lake 8th generation of Intel CPUs.
I would prefer to test a quad-core CPU like the i5-7300HQ to represent the best of the best when it comes to integrated Graphics (HD 630), but most of the laptops that come with quad-core CPUs also come with dedicated GPUs so I couldn’t really do that and it’s not really representational of the real world, seeing as budget laptops only come with dual core processors and obviously no dedicated graphic cards.
So for this comparison I’ll be using Acer laptop with the 7100U and the HD 620 graphics.
First game tested was Counter Strike Go, a rather light game. At 1080p on low settings the laptop is able to render around 60 frames per second so this is actually a very nice playable experience. Obviously if you’re a pro gamer this is not good enough for you (since most hardcore gamers chase 100+ fps), but considering the laptop, it was very playable actually and I had no problems with it.
The next game in line has to be OverWatch. Initially I tried it at 768p and managed to get 60-70 frames per second. Then, I tried to bump the resolution all the way up to 1080p. At this point, I had to modify some of the settings like shut off anti-aliasing and drop the render scale down by a little bit, but overall that was a great experience as well. The game was very playable and it did look really majestic.
So over all the laptop with this HD 620 integrated GPU can play a majority of games just fine. League of Legends, Minecraft, CSGO, Rocket League and many more will be fine as long as you’re not playing at 1080p ultra settings.
Let’s find a discrete GPU that is comparable to HD620 so just to see the difference in direct comparison.
I can’t compare it to graphics card like GTX 1050, as it is way better than the integrated Graphics, and that is to be expected since you are giving so much extra money. However, we can compare it to something lot more similar. We have the GTX 940M on the Acer Aspire that’s around 550 bucks total.
Now this is very interesting:
On paper the 940mx is only about 40 to 50% faster.
To find out what I can actually do in the real world when playing games Let’s compare that same $350 laptop with the HD 620 with this $550 laptop with a 940mx.
When I played CSGO on these laptops I got some very interesting results. The 940mx was able to sustain 60 frames a second on mostly high @1080p but certain settings you do have to put down to medium like anti-aliasing and other texture quality.
The laptop with the integrated HD620 as I mentioned previously was able to pull a consistent 60 frames a second on low 1080p.
So what does this all mean? What have we learned by this?
Well, I found the integrated Graphics are getting significantly better. As we saw they’re almost the same performance as cheaper gpus like the 940mx.
A very casual gamer that wants something really cheap that’s able to handle light and medium games like League of Legends, Minecraft, CSGO, Rocket League and can definitely go with the integrated gpu option as long as you have realistic expectations. The $350 Acer laptop remains a fantastic value which is easily upgradeable down the road, with the RAM and SSD.
Now if you’re a hardcore gamer obviously a cheap laptop isn’t going to cut it for you. You have to look for a laptop with a dedicated GPU like the amazing Xiaomi Notebook Pro, which is my personal favourite.
So if you are a situation where you need to be gaming on Intel Graphics or maybe a temporary period of time for a few months, there are many games out there that will allow you to do that which is great.
How To Boost Performance On Intel HD Graphics
The following steps, are measures you can take in order to improve your gaming experience with intel HD graphics. These steps will increase your fps and improve your overall performance.
1. Dual Channel RAM
If you’re running integrated graphics, your GPU shares the computers RAM. If you have one stick of 8GB ram, you still have 8 gigs, but it’s only running in single channel as opposed to having 2 sticks of 4GB each. This means that the amount of bandwidth is limited. Its certainly worth it to either buy another 8 gigs (if you already have 8)or buy 2 x 4 gigs. This will open up the use of both channels and will double your memory bandwidth. It’s one of the best, if not THE best, step you can take to drastically improve your gaming experience with intergrated graphics.
Tip: Don’t mix RAM sizes. It’s never good to do that. If your laptop/PC already has X amount of RAM in one slot, then you’d be better off adding the exact same X amount of RAM (eg. If your laptop has 4 gigs, add another 4 gigs. If it has 8, add another 8).
2. Optimize The Games For Your CPU
Intel had made website where you can go and input your cpu model. You can then choose from a list of games (most of the games are there) and intel will guide you through the exact settings you need to apply in order to optimize the game for your CPU.
First, visit the website:
Then in the search box provided type your CPU model, or your graphics model.
If you are unsure about the model you have, then click on the “Auto-detect” feature and Intel will do it for you.
Then, you will see a list of games which can run on your dedicated graphics card. Simply type the game you are interested in, inside the search box or just scroll until you find a game you would like to optimize.
For this case, I clicked on Overwatch.
You can now see all the recommended settings by Intel, which are optimized for this certain game and your specific processor.
Then, you need to go to the “Graphics” tab, where you will be able to overclock your graphics.
On this screen, you will want to increase the “Processor Graphics Ratio Limit”.
Now you need to be careful and only do this at your own risk. I wouldn’t advise it I wouldnt unless you’ve got extra cooling going on.
Now after you’ve done this, you will notice an increase in performance and FPS. If your games start crashing, then it means that you increase the Ratio Limit too much. You will need to go back and reduce it by a little.
4. Invest In An SSD
This might sound weird and I agree, as it is not closely related to the intergrated graphics.
However, having an SSD in your system will indirectly making your gaming experience so much better, as the games will load and run much faster.
What are the advantages of Intel HD graphics?
Contrary to what others say, I’d recommend Intel HD graphics to everyone who isn’t too much into gaming and heavy graphic/video manipulation work. The reasons are many:
- It consumes way less power than a dedicated card does. Remember, a top-notch GPU consumes almost the same, and in many cases more than the CPU does. So, if you want to lower your electric bill, stick with the intergrated graphics card.
- It’s cheap. Most modern intel processors have them built into their die. Discrete graphic cards are expensive. And if you are a hardcore gamer, it can get VERY expensive.
- It’s silent and produces less heat. Fanned discrete cards produce noise, and fanless discrete cards produce heat which is bad for the longevity of your system.
- It’s really not that weak as others make you believe. Modern Intel HD graphics are capable of many things regarding gaming, as we say above. You can also work on medium graphic manipulation on photoshop and premiere, as well as video editing.
"My laptop/PC has Intel HD graphics. Can I upgrade it into a better version?"
If you mean to update the driver version then yes.
Intel’s integrated graphics have always been soldered onto the motherboard, and in recent generations they’re actually manufactured as part of the same die.
So the only way to get a different model of HD Graphics is to replace your processor.
So there you have it.
I hope you found this article useful.
If you ever had to game on Intel graphics, let me know down in the comments. How was your experience?