Sunday, October 30th 2011

Are Improving Integrated Graphics Slowly Killing Off Discrete Graphics Cards?

Intel started the trend of improving integrated graphics with their second generation LGA1155 socket Core i3, i5 & i7 line of processors. Depending on the model, these processors sport integrated HD2000 or HD3000 graphics right on the processor die, which nowadays give acceptable performance for low-end gaming and can play Full HD 1080p video perfectly. This trend is increasing with the upcoming Ivy Bridge processors, which will be able to support a massive 4096 x 4096 pixel display, as we reported here. AMD now also have equivalent products with their Llano-based A-series processors. So, where does this leave discrete graphics cards? Well, the low end market is certainly seeing reduced sales, as there really isn't enough of a performance difference nowadays to always warrant an upgrade from an IGP. As integrated graphics improve further, one can see how this will hurt sales of higher end graphics cards too. The problem is that the bulk of the profit comes not from the top-end powerhouse graphics cards, but from the low to mid-end cards which allow these companies to remain in business, so cannibalizing sales of these products to integrated graphics could make high-end graphics cards a much more niche product and crucially, much more expensive with to boot.

Hence, it's not surprising to see that Digitimes are reporting that while NVIDIA are about to produce the next generation Kepler-based GPU's on TSMC's 28nm process and AMD have already started production of their Southern Islands-based GPU's, the graphics card manufacturers are cautious about jumping in head first with cards based on these new products. Taiwan-based card makers are watching the market before making decisions, according to Digitimes' industry sources:
Compared to the makers' eagerness for the previous-generation GPUs, graphics card makers are rather conservative about the upcoming 28nm chips due to concerns such as TSMC's weak 40nm process yield rate issues may re-occur in its 28nm process and weakening demand for graphics cards and lower-than-expected gross margins.
The poor 28nm yield rate isn't helping either:
Although previous rumors have indicated that TSMC's poor 28nm process yield rate could affect Nvidia's launch of its 28nm GPUs on schedule at the end of 2011, as TSMC already announced its 28nm process has entered mass production, Nvidia's new Kepler GPUs are expected to be announced in December.
All this of course, is bad news for PC enthusiasts, who are always looking to upgrade their PCs with the latest technology so that they can run power-intensive tasks on them, such as 3D gaming and distributed projects such as Folding@Home. On the plus side, a top-end card like a GTX 580 or HD 6970 will not be integrated into an IGP any time soon, because of the sheer power, heat and die size requirements, so there is still hope that affordable high-end cards will remain available.

What's interesting, is that as AMD are now a combined CPU & GPU company, they know full well that their IGP solutions eat into sales of their own discreet low to mid-end graphics cards. It will be worth watching AMD's strategy for dealing with this problem, closely.
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79 Comments on Are Improving Integrated Graphics Slowly Killing Off Discrete Graphics Cards?

nah, you have nothing to worry about. :twitch:
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Crazy 4 TPU!!!
As long as the enthusiast market exists, cards will still be made with them in mind.

It's not a surprise to see a drop in discrete GPU's in the mainstream market especially with IGP's getting more powerful all the time and APU's now coming into play. IGP's still have to share system resources and that hurts them a lot for higher performance tasks and also the GPU circuity still has to share die space so that's a limitation all in itself, enthusiasts want to overclock, throw in multiple GPU's, and get good performance etc so i don't think the enthusiast market will go away because of the increase in IGP usage and performance, it will still lag behind what you can do with a higher end discrete GPU.
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"Intel started the trend of improving integrated graphics with their second generation LGA1155 socket Core i3, i5 & i7 line of processors."

*cough* 780G :slap:
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fuck yeah kepler in december
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"I go fast!1!11!1!"
AMD HD 3200 can't even run The Sims 3: Pets without crashing the game so, no. They work for the casual gamer but not the mainstream gamers.
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Sell old HD 5400, 6400 series to old platform users.
And make upcoming lowest-end cards have a lot better in performance. :nutkick:
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They are improving as slow as possible in order to earn money from nvidia or ati who pays the cpu market not to launch more powerful graphics integreted in cpu. Also there is no need to read the news, it is logical.
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IGP's won't matter for high-end GPU's for a long, long time. The low-end cards, sure, they will disappear after a while (when Maxwell is released, most likely). Meanwhile the battle will be in the mid-range market. As IGP performance moves up they'll be dangerously close to the "low" mid-range cards, which will force NVIDIA/AMD to release higher performing mid-range cards, or face losing the mid-range market as well.

There will always be a need for serious high-end GPU's (think Quadro/Tesla etc.), so the GPU makers won't have anything to worry about, IMO. :)
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Overclocked quantum bit
"Intel started the trend of improving integrated graphics with their second generation LGA1155 socket Core i3, i5 & i7 line of processors."

*cough* 780G :slap:
But you've missed the crucial difference: it's not integrated into the CPU, but in the chipset. Putting it in the CPU changes the dynamics considerably, as you can see.
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"" ELLO ""
Never really liked integrated graphics and so have never used them as such
Personaly i think M/b manufacture's should Have offered M/Boards with socketed North/southbridge chips for enthusiast and overclockers. Look at the Nvida chipset fiasco and the warrenty costs.or intels latest chipset failure
"Failed chipset or upgrading" Replace the socketed chips after all whats the cost of these chipsets compared to the total cost of the motherboard.
After all things considered it could be another revenue stream for these companys
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Short answer: No

Long answer: Not in the foreseeable future. It depends on whether the graphics department have stalled long enough for integrated to be viable (as in the case now, thanks PS3/XBOX360). However, once we move on to the next gen consoles, the gap in graphics processing might jump again, causing integrated to look a a bit weak. There might be another equilibrium where most casual/non gamers settle for integrated (a stronger one than 400 stream processors, maybe closer to 800 or 1600), and mainstream/hardcore gamers go for the discrete. A third option is that GPGPU increases exponentially, and suddenly "graphics card" became researcher's wet dream and gamers are left behind, or we can join the boat together. Regardless, its too early to tell, and the direction we are heading is to the 2nd option: budget/casual/non gamers go for the integrated (Llano is perfectly strong enough to play almost all games at low-mid quality at 1080p), and the mainstream and above go for discrete solutions.

The mid-range price (6870/GTX550Ti to 6950-GTX570 or thereabouts) is not going to be affected much, but the low range is probably going to disappear as pointed out.

Lets see what Intel is capable of, AMD have shown through Llano that its prefectly capable of making APUs, while not powerful that can be addressed within the next 2-3 generations with significant improvements in chip fabrication technology. Intel's HD3000 while respectable with regard to their past offerings is no where near usable by even budget gamers, they need to step up their game or lose the mainstream "I use my computer to play farmville, sims and the likes" games crowd.
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Pro Indian Modder
no way. no friggin way.
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With the boom of the mobile market I would say sure, that makes sense.

However, for desktops, no IGP driven systems have existed before despite their incapability to do gaming. New IGPs still incapble of gaming (except webbased or flash games)
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As long as Discrete Graphics Cards keep developing into new heights then most likely not in this lifetime. But it really depends on the software it's running, if we stick with the same era of graphics right now for a decade or two more then imo we'd see integrated gpu's to likely become more viable and cost effective.
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Well it's not really going to affect AMD is it they can discontinue their low end discrete and get the cash off the fusion cpus
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I feel like I'm being trolled by TPU now :( Am I dreaming, am I on 4Chan? Watdo?
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The obvious short answer is no, but what will happen is that there would, in theory, be less lower end discrete graphics cards and basic PC systems used in office (and other less graphic based applications) based environments may only have the integrated CPU graphics to power their PC's graphics. What this would also mean is that old discrete graphics cards would be be more difficult or impossible to sell, but as for the high-end part of the market there would only be small change which won't affect much at all.
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I don't think Intel solutions will ever threaten anyone. AMD solutions on the other hand...
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maybe im wrong but as much as graphics hardware keep advancing, the software side keeps putting out more intensive apps/games.
like the guys above said, the cheaper cards will more likely to be affected.
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I think its gonna happen sooner than most of you are hoping it wont and imo thats what it is a false hope. ive been a pc gamer long enough to know the need for a discrete gfx is bs.
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as technology improves the affected will be the low and middle discrete gpu market but we don't know what surprises reserve the future;i don't exclude even a apu with a high-end integrated gpu;why not? is all about using the silicon for a specific purpose and amd seems to know what is doing with fusion

this question will be treated in a different way after a few years when probably we'll have a high-end gpu inside the apu
Posted on Reply
What's interesting, is that as AMD are now a combined CPU & GPU company, they know full well that their IGP solutions eat into sales of their own discreet low to mid-end graphics cards. It will be worth watching AMD's strategy for dealing with this problem, closely.
I don't know how complete (or correct) this list of 7xxx GPUs is, but I think it tells of AMD's strategy.

- Radeon HD 7570
- Radeon HD 7670
- Radeon HD 7850
- Radeon HD 7870
- Radeon HD 7950
- Radeon HD 7970
- Radeon HD 7990

Smallest selection of low-end GPUs compared to previous generations and no 77xx models, at least not initially.

My wife's system is an Athlon II X2 with HD 5670 (similar to Llano). Unless something is horribly wrong with Trinity, that will probably be her upgrade path. If she also moves up to 1920x1200 from 1680x1050, throw a 7670 in there as well for Crossfire. So I'd say AMD is in a good spot for the casual gamers. Moving up, there's a good mid to high range discrete selection.
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~Technological Technocrat~
APU performance can only get better and better. So can IGP's for that matter but there doesnt seem to be any real 'movers' in that department. Intel GMA/HD graphics are what they are and are rather low performing at best. APU's will definitely take 'Integrated Graphics' up to a level sitting in between low and very close to mid-range but I think thats just perfect.

There are so many possiblities and oppotunites open to APU's. I think the only 'limitation' or weakness so far will be the link between the processor and the system ram that it needs to function, since APU's dont have dedicated memory, that slows it down a little.

I can see IGPs market share shrinking in favor of APUs but I dont think they will completely vanish
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I agree with the above-comments. As long as gamers/enthusiasts exist, discrete graphics will be necessary to us.

Off Topic: Very good article Qubit...informative, concise, and not laced with commentary. Keep up the good work!
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