At GDC 2013, Intel told us that their latest major driver update for HD 4000 graphics is due out next week. As you may know, all 2nd-gen Ultrabooks feature 3rd-gen (Ivy Bridge) Intel Core processors which use HD 4000 graphics (if you’re confused, read this). Intel says that this is their 7th major graphics driver release since 2nd-gen (Sandy Bridge) Intel Core processors. While each release seeks to fix graphical bugs and improve performance, Intel seemed especially proud about the latest driver update which they say will increase performance by up to 10% while simultaneously lowering power consumption.
If you’ve been following along the last few days, you saw us highlight plenty of Ultrabook deals for those looking to snag a machine on the cheap for Black Friday or Cyber Monday. The deals came in many shapes and sizes and often spanned the gap between first generation (Sandy Bride) and second generation (Ivy Bridge) Ultrabooks. If you haven’t been following the Ultrabook space closely, as we have, you might be confused about the difference. This article aims to clear that up and tell you how to identify one from the other.
Intel has launched the latest driver update for their integrated graphics. This update brings full support for Windows 8. HD 3000 graphics are found on Ultrabooks with second generation (aka Sandy Bridge) processors while HD 4000 graphics are found on newer Ultrabooks that use Intel’s third generation (aka Ivy Bridge) processors. In addition to some game-specific performance updates, Intel has also enabled 4k Ultra HD video output and OpenGL 4.0 for Ivy Bridge / HD 4000, as well as OpenCL 1.1 for Sandy Bridge / HD 3000. All Ultrabook users should update, even if your Ultrabook has discrete graphics!
Ultrabooks might not be able to play the latest blockbuster titles at max settings like a full blown liquid-cooled gaming desktop, but there’s still a heck of a lot of great titles that they can play. I’ve been using the Asus UX31E (Core i5 Sandy Bridge with Integrated HD3000 graphics) to happily play Minecraft, Tribes Ascend, Half-Life 2, Day of Defeat Source, Bit Trip Runner, League of Legends, Team Fortress 2, and plenty more. Having my Ultrabook running at peak performance means I get a competitive advantage and the most enjoyment thanks to my games running smoothly and responsively. This guide will tune up your Ultrabook to run at maximum performance and will benefit your graphical applications even if you aren’t a gamer!
Lately we’ve been getting asked, “should I buy an Ultrabook now or wait for Ivy Bridge?”. Here I’d like to give my recommendation to help out those who might be ready to pull the trigger on an Ultrabook purchase.
A lot has been said about Ivy Bridge, the 3rd generation Intel Core compute platform and the platform that will go into the 2nd Generation of Ultrabooks. Although the CPU core remains largely the same as in the ‘Sandy Bridge’ platform, it’s going to be manufactured with the next generation process at 22nm. That means lower power usage and more space for other goodness on the die and that’s exactly what Intel have done. They’ve taken the opportunity to vastly improve the graphics and media subsystem. You’ll hear about ‘70%’ improvements on the GPU which relates to gaming graphics. Early tests have shown that where modern game frame-rates were in the 10-20fps range, they may now reach above the all-important 30fps figure and include DirectX11 support which brings the Ultrabook right into mainstream gaming. In this article though I want to talk about the other features on the GPU that relate to media. For many people they may be more important than 3D gaming frame rates.
Genuine Ultrabooks use integrated graphics which, while not as powerful as a ‘discrete’ GPU, allow the systems to be slim and power efficient. Even though the graphical capabilities of current Ultrabooks won’t satisfy those looking to play the latest blockbuster titles at full settings, there are still plenty of excellent games that will run perfectly on an Ultrabook. I’ve got six great games to share with you that will run great on your Ultrabook and offer hours of entertainment (all together hardly more expensive than a single blockbuster title!) For now, my recommendations and performance-evaluations are based on an Ultrabook using the current-gen HD3000 ‘GPU’ and Core i5 processor. Also note that your experience may vary depending upon the processor that your Ultrabook is equipped with (Core i3, i5, or i7), amount of RAM, whether or not you have up-to-date drivers, and your power settings (check back with us at UltrabookNews for a guide to optimizing your Ultrabook’s power configuration).
Update: This is an Intel concept design called Letexo.
As I filter through some of the information coming out of IDF in Beijing, this image strikes me as being significant. It’s a slider tablet design with a Windows 8 button. The design smacks of Dell but the logo on the images [Lxo, Lyo or Lko perhaps?] tells us that this is probably just a CAD concept. However, it looks fantastic and is something that could hit the Ultrabook sector soon.
Despite Acer’s bullish proposals for an updated S3 ultrabook in April next year it looks like new Ultrabooks won’t start hitting shelves until the second half of 2012 but when they do, we can expect CPU and GPU clock boosts along with the extra goodness that’s going into the chipsets.