How Intel integrated graphics leveled up while you weren’t looking


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Intel integrated graphics. These three words are synonymous with doom for PC gamers hoping to play even the most rudimentary 3D games on a laptop or desktop. An upgrade to AMD Radeon or Nvidia GeForce graphics was once mandatory. 

Times have changed, however. Intel famously hired AMD’s chief graphics architect, Raja Koduri, away from AMD in 2017. While Team Blue’s much-anticipated ARC enthusiast graphics card is due in 2022, recent Intel mobile processors have shipped with Intel Iris Xe graphics, an underappreciated upgrade.

AMD and Nvidia continue to garner the lion’s share of gamer’s respect. But if you’re on a budget, or you want a thin laptop, Intel’s Iris Xe is your best bet.

Yes, Intel Iris Xe is good (well, decent) for gaming

Intel’s Iris Xe graphics, also known as Intel Xe, is available in a number of 11th-gen Intel Core quad-core processors. They typically power mid-range to high-end laptops and 2-in-1s that prioritize thin design, like Dell’s XPS 13, Lenovo’s ThinkPad X1 series, and Samsung’s Galaxy Book Pro.

It’s no exaggeration to say Intel Xe, when compared to the company’s prior UHD 620 integrated graphics, delivers one of the largest gen-on-gen performance upgrades of the past decade. Intel UHD 620 rarely broke a score of 1,000 in 3DMark’s Fire Strike benchmark. Intel Iris Xe can easily break 4,000, a staggering four-fold improvement.

I experienced this firsthand while reviewing 11th-gen Intel Core laptops through the first half of this year. As recently as 2020, packing a laptop with Intel integrated graphics meant abandoning any progress in PC games I’m enjoying. Only the oldest titles might be playable, and more recent games often wouldn’t launch at all. I hated this, especially when a professional trip or vacation was in my future. Being stuck with an Intel-powered laptop brought my PC gaming to a halt.

final fantasy xiv Square Enix

Final Fantasy XIV can achieve 30 FPS at 1080p on most Intel Xe laptops.

Intel Xe is a different story. I’ve used 11th-gen Intel Core laptops with Xe graphics to play games like Final Fantasy XIV, Call of Duty: Warzone, and Civilization VI at 1080p resolution and 30 frames per second. Even Microsoft Flight Simulator is playable, though only at 720p resolution with low detail settings. Older, popular games like Rocket League, Counter-Strike and League of Legends easily exceed 60 fps at 1080p resolution and medium or high detail settings.

Yeah, yeah, I know: This pales in comparison to a RipStonking VMax RTX 3090 Ti overclocked to 4.8 million gigaparsecs. You’ve got me there.

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