Faster framerates, Vertex Shader 3.0 support - all from a simple driver update.
I can’t deny that when it comes to PC hardware I like, nay need, to have the biggest and best possible. This gets tricky in the world of notebooks, where the best graphics hardware is just not available and the most powerful offerings lag miles behind their desktop counterparts.
Of course most people don’t want a gaming notebook and will end up using an integrated solution from Intel and simply take it as given that gaming is off the agenda – unless you consider The Sims a game. With this in mind, the GMA900 series of integrated graphics has received a driver update set to change that impression for the better. The update itself adds hardware support for Vertex Shader 3.0 which is required to get “playable” framerates in games such as Battlefield 2, Call of Duty 2 and The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion.
The reason this update is possible is down to the architecture of Intel’s integrated graphics chips. In a similar fashion to the Unified Shader Model used in nVidia 8xxx and ATI’s 2xxx series of graphics cards, the GMA chips uses “execution engines” which can be programmed to take on whatever task is thrown at them.
The long and short of this is that Intel can, within reason, upgrade the GMA chip to add new functions or improve speed as the surrounding hardware and software requires and allows it. Considering the power available in the Core architecture now inside many a laptop it makes sense for Intel to want to have a decent graphics chip to match.
While hardcore gamers likely won’t be won over by the development, with games such as Far Cry getting a 1.5 – 2x performance improvement one can’t help but be impressed. The update is currently not available on Vista, but Intel says it will be soon for those of you brave enough to have risked the upgrade.