Other tweaks to the GPU include improved texture samplers, enhanced overall bandwidth, and additional circuitry to handle tasks that the driver deals with in the HD 4000.
All of these features improve performance without increasing power consumption. According to Intel, an 8W Haswell unit could conceivably integrate a full GT3 GPU, though the company offered no specifics on product versions. Intel showed two different applications running: Unigine Heaven, a synthetic graphics benchmark; and Bethesda's Skyrim, a PC RPG with demanding graphics requirements. Haswell ran both tests at double the performance of Ivy Bridge, permitting a much smoother visual experience.
Historically, Intel has been late to the party in adding software support for the latest programming interfaces. Haswell breaks with this tradition this by implementing all of the latest standards: DirectX 11.1 for Windows 7 and Windows 8, OpenCL 1.2 for GPU compute, and OpenGL 4.0. Intel has been good about driver support, supplying both Windows and Linux drivers.
Though Haswell's 3D graphics engine substantially improves on previous Intel efforts, desktop PC users will probably still want to use a high-end discrete graphics card for best PC game performance. But Haswell's graphics core will make even extremely thin Ultrabooks respectable gaming platforms, and the new GPU opens up possibilities for modern PC games that run on Haswell-based tablets.
Next: The video engine
The video engine
Ivy Bridge introduced the QuickSync video block--a dedicated, fixed-function video unit built into the GPU. A fixed-function video engine permits much faster video encode and decode performance. Unfortunately, it's not programmable, so if some hot new HD codec came along, the video engine wouldn't be able to handle it. But given that video codecs are fairly standardized, that's not likely.
Intel did, however, add additional codec support to the Haswell video engine. Motion JPEG (MJPEG) is important for videoconferencing. SVC (scalable video codec) is useful in mobile environments, where the quality of the video may change depending on the speed of the connection, so the video quality can scale gracefully. When network bandwidth degrades, SVC enables users to continue to see good frame rates instead of experiencing jerky or dropped frames. Intel also added support for 4K video for the upcoming generation of ultra-high-definition panels.
Bottom line: Bigger chip, better performance, lower power