Intel Core i7-2820QM Mobile Sandy Bridge Processor

Gaming with Intel HD Graphics 3000 - Far Cry 2

Before we dive into our Core i7-2820QM gaming tests, let's take a quick scan through a feature comparison of Intel's new HD Graphics 2000/3000 engine versus the graphics core found on Intel's 2010 Core processors.

Though there are the same number of execution units available in the HD Graphics 3000 engine found in the Core i7-2820QM, there are additional processing resources like a dedicated math box and of course the Quick Sync media processing engine for HD video that we showed you earlier.  The graphics core itself also supports DX10.1 as well as the OpenGL 3.0 spec and Shader Model 4.1.  Also, you'll note that clock speed, which is again dynamically scaled based on workload, has also been increased 450MHz higher than the previous generation Arrandale architecture.  Enough with the paperwork though, let's see what the frame rates tell us.

FarCry 2
DirectX Gaming Performance

FarCry 2 Like the original, FarCry 2 is one of the more visually impressive games to be released on the PC to date. Courtesy of the Dunia game engine developed by Ubisoft, FarCry 2's game-play is enhanced by advanced environment physics, destructible terrain, high resolution textures, complex shaders, realistic dynamic lighting, and motion-captured animations.  We benchmarked the graphics cards in this article with a fully patched version of FarCry 2, using one of the built-in demo runs recorded in the "Ranch" map.  The test results shown here were run at various resolutions in DX10 and DX9 mode with no anti-aliasing enabled.

Here we took the liberty of folding in one other machine we happen to have lying around the lab for testing.  Lenovo's ThinkPad T410s with NVIDIA Optimus technology comes equipped with an NVS3100M, which is essentially the Quadro version of NVIDIA's GT 310M GPU, which is a 16 CUDA core GPU clocked at 600MHz.  It's essentially about as close of an apples-to-apples comparison of NVIDIA's nearest competitor that we could find, only in discrete form obviously.

Interestingly enough, the long and short of it is, at least with FarCry 2, Intel's new fully integrated HD Graphics 3000 core has the chops to keep pace with a solid low-end discrete mobile graphics solution, and even offers a bit more performance in the DX9 version of this game engine, likely due to driver optimization with NVIDIA's solution being more focused on the DX10 path.  Playable frame rates are to be had with FarCry 2 at 720p resolutions with high image quality settings and no AA turned on.  AA (Anti-Aliasing) turned out to be a frame rate killer for Intel here due to the fact that the chip needs to go out to system memory for larger capacity frame buffer access.  Regardless, if we dialed back eye candy a bit further to more moderate levels, frame rates in excess of 30fps are very realistic.  And look at the performance gain over Intel's previous generation IGP; over three times faster at 720p resolution is simply impressive no matter how you slice it.

Remember as well, this is a very early look at what Sandy Bridge mobile can do. Hopefully, with time, we could even see more performance optimization made at the driver level by Intel.  And hopefully they're listening intently (or perhaps reading here rather).  Intel's graphics driver team has never been known for earth-shattering execution in driver drops that provide new features and optimizations.  Here's to a solid New Year's resolution, perhaps?

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