In the past Intel's IGPs have been everything but performance-oriented. Earlier Intel Graphics Media Accelerators were very slow, lacked OpenGL 2.0 support, contained no hardware vertex shaders, and had very poor hardware acceleration. However, since the introduction of the GMA X3000/3100 with the G965 motherboard chipset, their performance hasn't been that bad. What really has sealed the deal though for many Linux users with Intel graphics is their first-rate open-source support. A majority of the innovations within the Linux graphics subsystem appears within the Intel driver and months later will then appear in the other open-source X.Org drivers. This in part is due to Intel's large open-source development team and Keith Packard being both an Intel employee and key maintainers of X.Org.
Some of the recent innovations to have first appeared in the Intel driver include Kernel-based Mode-Setting, TTM (albeit short-lived), the Graphics Execution Manager, DRI2, and Gallium3D. In addition to these bleeding-edge innovations, the open-source Intel driver is also continually refined with XvMC improvements and other enhancements.
While this integrated graphics processor isn't as well equipped as the ATI Radeon HD 3200 (780G), the X4500HD is still one impressive chipset especially considering Intel's past. Reiterating the points from earlier, the X4500 series has ten unified shader processors, hardware vertex shaders, OpenGL 2.0 support, hardware video acceleration, and for those who care there is Microsoft DirectX 10.0 support.
Our benchmarks of the Intel GMA X4500HD compared to the ATI Radeon X800XL, X1300PRO, and X1800XT had surprised us a bit, but not too much. Starting with the 2D performance using GtkPerf, when it came to drawing Pixbufs with the GtkDrawingArea widget the Intel driver was immensely faster than any of the ATI cards. However, this can be explained by the video memory with the X4500HD being shared with the system memory where for this operation it's a beneficial. With the other two GtkPerf tests, the open-source Intel and ATI results were on par.
Tremulous is a first person shooter / real-time strategy mix and is powered by the ioquake3 engine. With this game, the ATI Radeon GPUs were faster with the open-source driver over the G45. In fact, the X800XL was the best performing GPU and was about twice as fast as the open-source R500 3D support isn't yet complete (Open-Source ATI Driver Achieves 3D Success and Gaming With The Open-Source R500 Driver). The tides though had turned when running OpenArena with the Phoronix Test Suite. OpenArena uses a different version of the ioquake3 engine and here the X4500HD had delivered a constant ~30FPS while all three ATI cards had delivered less than 5 frames per second.
Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory uses the id Tech 3 engine, which ultimately became the open-source Quake 3 engine after parts were stripped away, and here we see yet another spread of results. With Enemy Territory the frame-rate for the average frame-rate for the G45 was 42 FPS while the Radeon X800XL was at 36 FPS and the newer R500 GPUs had lagged behind.
Conclusion continued on next page.