What can the new Intel Haswell HD 4400 graphics manage? That’s what I wanted to find out. Aside from our usual slew of benchmarks, which we’ll be showing in our forthcoming Sony Vaio Duo 13 review, I wanted to find out how games felt with HD 4400. So I fired up two classics, Minecraft (2011) and World of Warcraft (2004), to see how Haswell managed.
Though not a particularly popular brand in the US, Gigabyte has earned some loyal fans (one of them being our very own Chippy!) thanks to their ability to make quality computing products. Now Gigabyte has entered the Ultrabook segment with the U2442 “extreme Ultrabook”, as they’re calling it. There are two variants of the U2442: the U2442N and U2442V (which is the one that we’ve got); the only differences is the processor (Core i5 vs. i7). There’s also talk of a non-Ultrabook version which is likely to be referred to as the U2440 — be sure not to mix them up! Does Gigabyte’s first entry into the Ultrabook realm stand up to their prior products? Step inside to our full U2442V review to find out.
Our pals at Dynamism sent us over the new Gigabyte U2442 Ultrabook with discrete graphics to have a look at. Gigabyte is also launching non-Ultrabook versions of the U2442, but the U2442V which we’ve got is the high-end Ultrabook model. Pretty much every spec is what you might ask for from an ideal Ultrabook. I’ve been using the U2442V for a few days now and have some initial thoughts to share about this performance powerhouse.
If you know about Black Mesa, congratulations — you’re a gamer. This obscure fan-lead remake of Valve’s famous 1998 title Half-Life has long been shrouded in mystery. Going on 8 years of development, with the only mention of a release date being “when it’s done”, most thought Black Mesa would never see the light of day. However, earlier this month the official website for the remake began buzzing with hints of activity. To the delight of fans worldwide, Black Mesa has finally launched and is ready to let players relive the opening chapter of the Half-Life saga. The remake, which has completely rebuilt from the ground up, runs on Valve’s ‘Source’ game engine. What’s more, because it is a modification of Source, it has been released for free. Fortunately for Ultrabook users the powerful HD3000 or HD4000 graphics inside are quite capable of handling modern Source games with the right settings. In this video I’ll show you how to optimize your settings to play Black Mesa and other Source games on your Ultrabook.
Asus’ UX32VD is the Ultrabook you want if you want a Zenbook-styled device from Asus with gaming capabilities. Thanks to the discrete Nvidia 620M GPU, the UX32VD can handle a range of modern games (with the right settings). MobileTechReview’s Lisa Gade took the UX32VD out for a spin testing its ability to run Skyrim, Left 4 Dead 2, and Civilization 5.
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!
Continuing my Ultrabook game-testing, I wanted to highlight a game that’s free-to-play and worth a shot if you’re a fan of strategy-based games rather than twitch-based first-person shooters. The game in question is League of Legends  which is a standalone game based on the immensely popular Defense of the Ancients mod which ran within Warcraft III  and began its rise to fame in 2003. This is a multiplayer action-RPG which is highly strategic and can take some time to master. In my testing on the UX31 with Core i5 CPU, HD 3000 graphics, and 4GB of RAM, League of Legends runs flawlessly.
If you’ve got an Ultrabook, it likely has either integrated Intel HD 3000 graphics or discrete Nvidia GeForce graphics. Recently we gave you 6 excellent game suggestions for your Ultrabook. Now we’ve got a suggestion to make sure your Ultrabook is running those games as well as possible. One of the best ways to keep the graphical capabilities of your Ultrabook performing at maximum capacity is to ensure that you’re using the latest driver for your graphics card. Intel and Nvidia regularly update their GPU drivers to address bugs and other problems. Sometimes there are game-specific fixes, and other times there are general performance-enhancing changes. In this article I’ll show you how to quickly and easily update your Ultrabook’s GPU drivers in order to maintain maximum graphics performance. Note that this guide will also apply to Intel HD4000 graphics when Ivy Bridge Ultrabooks are released later this year.
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).
In 2012 we’ll see the next generation of Ultrabooks featuring the Ivy Bridge platform and integrated HD4000 graphics. Existing Ultrabooks utilize HD3000 graphics which aren’t adequate for recently released blockbuster games (see the ‘Gaming’ section of our Samsung Series 5 review). HD4000 graphics are going to be very welcomed as part of the next generation of Ultrabooks for both gaming and video encoding/decoding purposes. A benchmark from Intel comparing HD2000 and HD4000 graphics gives us an idea of how HD4000 will perform, even if we don’t have a direct comparison to HD3000 yet (note that the benchmark compares desktop processors, but the changes in performance from HD3000 to HD4000 are relevant).
At IDF Beijing 2012, Intel has a demo showing the Ivy Bridge / HD4000 platform running three taxing tasks across three separate monitors simultaneously. You’ll see video encoding, gaming (Portal 2), and HD video playback all at the same time. Quite impressively, the computer handles it with relative ease. NetbookNews shot a video of the demo in action:
I suspected that the Acer S5 shown at CES was going to be an Ivy Bridge Ultrabook as it fits with the Q2 timescale, previous leak and hidden CPU information on the demo we saw at CES. it looks like another tech site saw the possibility that the S5 is based on Ivy Bridge too and took the chance to benchmark it. CPU figures are slightly better than on Sandy Bridge but the GPU figures show a marked improvement.
Thanks to everyone that joined in the live testing session yesterday evening. It was totally worth the effort because we uncovered a few more nuggets of information and a lot of data on gaming as well as confirming battery life and performance. The videos are embedded at the bottom of this article.
The bad news first. During the evening we experienced two power-downs on removing / inserting the power plug while we were in a game. It was an instant-off situation [see it on the live video here.]. Apparently others have experienced this too. I testing today, I experienced an instant shut-off while World Of Warcraft was loading (on battery mode.)