Intel Iris: Integrated Graphics Are Finally Awesome

Intel's integrated graphics have taken plenty of heat over the years, and most of it deserved. But the climb to respectability that started back with Sandy Bridge is about to get a turboboost. Meet Iris, the biggest generation jump in Intel's integrated graphics to date. Get ready to game.

Intel's Iris graphics are going to provide a 2x improvement to 3D performance over Intel's current HD 3000, and HD 4000 that are wrapped into Ivy Bridge cores. Basically, games that would crawl, stutter, or not run at all on older boxes (like your Call of Dutys and Bioshock Infinites) are going to be up for grabs once ultrabooks with Haswell start rolling out.

Iris will come in two flavors: Intel Iris Graphics 5100, which you'll find on the Intel 4th Gen Core i7-4000U series for ultrabooks, and Intel Iris Pro Graphics 5200 which will be making its appearance on H and R-series chips that'll be packed into beefier laptops and all-in-one desktops respectively. So your ultrabooks are going to be up to gaming snuff (if you're down with sacrificing some of the crazier settings), but your more serious (and less portable) machines are going to get an even bigger boost.

Intel Iris: Integrated Graphics Are Finally Awesome

Intel's boasting that 2x performance increase across the board from ultrabooks on up, and three times the processing power for all-in-ones with R-series chips and eDRAM high-speed memory. And of course, all this comes with support for things like OpenCL, DX11.1, OpenGL4.1, three-screen collage display and 4K UltraHD display resolution. Or in layman's terms: those games that are coming out now? Yeah, you'll be able to play them right out of the box, and with a decent chunk of the fancy settings turned on to boot.

Intel's Core 2 Duos were a big deal going to Sandy Bridge, and the move to Ivy Bridge brought even bigger graphic gains. And now with Iris, we're seeing the biggest generational gain ever, with increases on the order of dozens of times compared to the Sandy Bridge cores we had two years ago.

Intel Iris: Integrated Graphics Are Finally Awesome

And all this is just gravy compared to Haswell's big power-efficiency push. The new generation promises advancements that could allow for things like 24 hours of laptop usage on a single charge. But for the moment, Intel is playing those particular cards a little closer to its chest.

In the meantime, these beefed up graphics specs are icing on the cake. Sure, integrated graphics on an ultrabook aren't going to rival a dedicated gaming setup with discrete graphics, but this is a huge push forward that will finally let us leave Ivy Bridge's aging built-in graphics capability behind and hope into the modern gaming fray with nothing but our integrated graphics. We can't wait to see how these benchmarks hold up in the wild once these things get out there, but this is looking killer for what it is.