By: Charles P. Jefferies
When was the last time you played video games on a computer that had integrated Intel graphics? I can’t remember either. Intel integrated graphics are not nearly as bad as they once were. The most recent addition to its lineup, the Graphics Media Accelerator 4500MHD, is part of the Centrino 2 platform and is claimed to be the best-performing Intel graphics to date. So we ask, can it play modern games like Call of Duty 4 and Unreal Tournament III? Join us as we give the 4500MHD a full gaming performance evaluation.
Technical Background & Features
The full technical specifications of the Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 4500MHD, courtesy of TechPowerUp’s GPU-Z application, are as follows:
The card has no dedicated memory of its own; it instead borrows memory from the computer’s main memory (RAM) for graphics use. During normal usage it will draw a negligible amount, and while gaming, the 4500MHD will borrow what it needs to run the game but no more. The 4500MHD will give up memory if the system requires it.
The 4500MHD supports Microsoft’s DirectX 10 technology, which is a Windows Vista-only technology and will power future games. In addition to DirectX 10, the 4500MHD also supports Windows Vista’s ‘Aero’ graphical interface.
Video playback is a key focus of the 4500MHD. It supports Intel Clear Video technology, which allows the 4500MHD to decode Blu-ray and 1080p high-definition video.
In addition to high-definition video playback, Clear Video technology allows the 4500MHD to connect to a variety of external displays. High-Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI) and the latest monitor connection, DisplayPort, are both supported. The 4500MHD also supports traditional DVI-D and VGA monitor connections.
Test System Setup
Our test notebook computer is configured as follows:
|Processor||Intel Pentium Dual-Core T3200|
|Hard Drive||Western Digital WD1600BEVT (160GB)|
|Graphics Card||Intel GMA 4500MHD|
|Operating System||Windows Vista Home Premium 32-bit w/SP1|
We are using the latest Intel video drivers, v126.96.36.1998, from Intel’s website.
We will run a series of synthetic benchmarks and real-life games on the test system to explore the 4500MHD’s capabilities.
The two benchmarks below are synthetic, as in, they are not real-world applications. Instead, they provide numbers that allow comparisons to other systems.
Windows Experience Index (WEI)
Let’s start with Windows Vista’s built-in benchmark, Windows Experience Index (WEI).
WEI rates a computer on a scale up to 5.9, with 5.9 being the highest. The Intel 4500MHD holds back our test system, only producing a score of 3.5 in both the Graphics and Gaming Graphics tests, and thus bringing the entire computer’s score down to 3.5. The relatively low score of 3.5 does not inspire confidence in the 4500MHD, but WEI is only a synthetic benchmark and not indicative of real-world performance.
This is a 3D benchmark by Futuremark; it runs through a series of graphically-intense scenes and scores the graphics card based on how well it performed.
A typical gaming notebook with a mid-level dedicated video card (an ATI Mobility Radeon HD 3650 or Nvidia GeForce 9600M GT) will score 3,500 to 5,000 points in this benchmark. 745 marks is obviously less than that, but again remember that 3DMark06 is a synthetic benchmark.
All of the games below were benchmarked using FRAPS unless otherwise noted. The minimum frames per second (FPS) needed for fluid ‘playable’ gameplay is 30; anything less than that will result in a choppy experience and is not considered playable.
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
Call of Duty 4 is one of the most popular online first-person shooters available today. Introduced in 2007, it is still a challenge for modern graphics cards. We patched the game to v1.7 and benchmarked at the following settings:
Unreal Tournament III
Unreal Tournament III is a popular online first-person shooter based on the Unreal III engine. The Unreal III engine is used in many modern games such as Fallout 3. We benchmarked the 1.5 version of Unreal Tournament III using the following settings and an 800×600 resolution:
The 4500MHD graphics solution just can’t keep up in Unreal Tournament III either, producing barely 12 FPS. I did manage to get one kill with the shock rifle while benchmarking – I suppose that counts for something!
Left 4 Dead
Left 4 Dead is a new first-person shooter from Steam. A multiplayer-only game, in Left 4 Dead a team of four players must make it through a zombie-infested world to an extraction point. We benchmarked at the following settings:
While inside buildings the game is actually playable; unfortunately, going outside brings the framerate down into the low teens.
F.E.A.R. 2 Demo
First Encounter Assault Recon (F.E.A.R) 2 by Monolith Productions is the sequel to the first F.E.A.R. We benchmarked at the following settings, using an 800×600 resolution:
Like Left 4 Dead, while indoors the game is actually playable in some instances, however in large areas and outdoors, the framerate plummets into the single digits.
We have to throw the Intel 4500MHD a bone here – Counter-Strike: Source is much older than the modern games in this article. We benchmarked at a resolution of 1024×768 with all high settings, save for anti-aliasing and antistrophic filtering.
Finally! With an average of over 31 FPS, we finally found a game the 4500MHD could play without any hitches.
Let’s get something straight – the Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 4500MHD is not designed to play games. Its purpose is to provide a low-cost, low-power integrated graphics solution that supports video playback and external monitor connections. While Intel continues to improve the performance of its integrated graphics solutions, its latest 4500MHD offering still is not suitable for gaming. Even at very low settings, the 4500MHD cannot produce the performance necessary for enjoyable gameplay in modern games – older ones like Counter-Strike: Source, yes, but newer ones like Left 4 Dead, definitely not. Gamers looking for a gaming notebook will need to look for a model that has a graphics solution like Nvidia’s GeForce 9600M GT. However, for everything else other than games (check out meccabingo), the 4500MHD isn’t a bad choice.