While workstation users rely heavily upon the closed-source ATI and NVIDIA drivers for performance, we had run 3DS Max test with SPECViewPerf 9.0. The X800XL graphics card with Mesa 7.1 wasn't even able to function and the X1300PRO and X1800XT had both delivered low results. With this workstation test, the X4500HD equated to being about 45% faster than the competition. Likewise, in the x11perf test of 500x compositing from pixmap to window, Intel had a substantial performance advantage.
With these quantitative results it's important to reiterate we were using the open-source Mesa 3D stack for both the ATI and Intel testing. Mesa is rather performance-capped until the drivers switch to using Gallium3D and more driver tuning takes place. If running these R400/500 graphics cards with the proprietary ATI Catalyst driver instead, the performance is roughly doubled. The Catalyst driver also allows these Radeon GPUs to run quite well with Enemy Territory: Quake Wars, Nexuiz, and other graphics-intensive games where right now with the Mesa stack they either experience a segmentation fault or otherwise are unplayable.
Intel still hasn't been able to achieve an IGP that's able to satisfy the casual gamer, at least not for a Linux user, but they are certainly getting close. With Tremulous, OpenArena, and Enemy Territory the games were certainly playable, but this is using technology that's a few years old. Fortunately, the X4500HD isn't hardware bound under Linux and once we see greater Mesa optimizations and the maturation of Gallium3D we will have a few more compatible games to share and greater performance across the board.
While the Intel GMA X4500HD isn't for Linux gamers, this is an ideal solution for solely desktop users, those looking to build a Home Theater PC (HTPC), or those deeply concerned about open-source support. The Intel GMA X4500 series works great for desktop applications with the choice of either XAA or EXA 2D acceleration and we had found no significant slow-downs or other problems while testing out this IGP with the latest git code. Those interested in the X4500 series for media playback, the xf86-video-intel driver supports both X-Video and X-Video Motion Compensation. In comparison, neither of the latest graphics cards from NVIDIA or ATI supports XvMC with the closed-source or open-source drivers. XvMC is currently limited to MPEG-2 decode offloading, but hopefully not too far away that will be extended to support more video formats. The Intel GMA X4500MHD should also serve very well in notebooks. Finally, all of Intel's Linux support is backed by open-source software and even free software fanatics tend to be pleased by these open Intel drivers.
The same-day support for the GMA X4500 series on Linux is great to see, but this doesn't mean users should immediately buy these products if you are inexperienced with building X.Org drivers and Mesa from source. Without that support, users of these new IGPs and HDMI/DisplayPort connectors will need to use the VESA driver, which is less than ideal. Fortunately, by the distribution refreshes this fall, the updated Intel support should be widespread and result in an "out of the box" experience. Aside from the graphics, you will also need to use a very recent distribution using the Linux 2.6.25 or 2.6.26 kernel for supporting Serial ATA on the ICH10 motherboards.
Right now it's next to impossible to find many Intel G43 and G45 motherboards in stock at the various Internet retailers. In the coming weeks we expect more motherboards will begin to appear. With our testing, thanks goes out to Super Micro in providing the C2SEA G45 motherboard and expect a full review on this product in the coming weeks. In addition to the C2SEA, Super Micro is also selling a G43+ICH10 motherboard based around a similar set of features as the C2SEE.
As the Linux support for the Intel GMA X4500 series matures over the coming months, we'll be delivering many more benchmarks. If you are interested in seeing how the graphics on your system compare to the X4500HD, install the Phoronix Test Suite and then run phoronix-test-suite benchmark phoronix-23628-11417-4652.
For pricing and more reviews on Intel motherboards and graphics cards, visit TestFreaks.com.