intel-iris-01Intel has announced Iris, its latest generation of graphics processing architecture that will be included in the Intel Core 4th generation processors (CPUs). We haven’t been able to run our own benchmarks with the new chip yet, but according to Intel’s own measurements, the new Intel Iris graphics architecture is 2X to 3X faster than Intel’s previous graphics architecture. This is a huge and unexpected jump, especially considering that in time (but not right now), every Intel CPUs will be equipped with a variant of Iris.


To put things in context, Iris is not a “high-end gaming” graphics unit – on the contrary, it’s meant to be nimble but highly efficient. Intel has made considerable performance progress in integrated graphics (75X faster than in 2006, says Intel), which means that it raises the performance level for just about everyone who uses a PC (or Mac). In absolute terms, this would also mean that Intel’s integrated graphics could now compete with entry-level GPU solutions from NVIDIA or AMD… This was once unthinkable. But Intel isn’t out to get the GPU vendors: its priority is to make sure that the Intel platform can deliver a great experience with an ever-improved performance/Watt ratio.


Due for release in June at Computex, Intel’s 4th generation Core architecture codenamed Haswell will allow Ultrabooks to nearly double their graphics performance, and desktop computers can top as high as 3X the graphics performance on Intel’s 3rd generation Core architecture. This is no small feat, and obviously high-wattage chips will experience larger speed gains.


Finally, Intel part ways with its low-key graphics branding. With Iris, we expect the company to take a long-term stance which means that Graphics is now seen as a “key” aspect of computing rather than a mere enabler for the display (check Intel’s order-independent transparency as well, it’s very smart). The OpenCL compatibility also demonstrates this, and this is great because every single Iris-enabled Intel-powered computer will be able to use a GPU for general-purpose (non-graphics) computation, which provides much better performance-per-watt for specific tasks. Intel’s QuickSync hardware video compressor is getting a huge boost as well. At the moment, only select 4th generation Core processors will have Iris, but it’s clear that it will make its way to more and more products as time goes by.


We expected Intel’s Haswell architecture to bring much better power management, but it looks like some customers will also get a very nice graphics upgrade out of it.

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