OK everybody it’s super geek time here on A Geek With Guns. If you’re doctor has warned you to avoid discussion of computer hardware this post should be ignored. Otherwise proceed with caution.
Intel recently released new processors dubbed the i5 and i7 series. One of the new features of these processors is mandatory integrated graphics core. Needless to say integrated graphics are hated by anybody who does any graphical work so whining has crept up over Intel’s decision. The processors do support switchable graphics units meaning you can seamlessly switch between the integrated graphics core and another graphics processing unit on the system so really it’s a non-issue. But alas people are curious why Intel decided to include integrated graphics as a mandatory option instead of an optional feature. When you look into it having an on board graphics core makes a lot of sense.
Graphics processing units perform better at certain tasks than standard processing units. It used to be GPUs were only used for 3D games and hence only gamers really card what one they had in their system. Alas GPUs are useful for a great deal of things such as video encoding and decoding.
When writing applications generally a programmer writes in a programming language and uses a mechanism (compiler, interpreter, virtual machine, etc.) to convert said language into something the computer actually understands. In the case of compilers a programming language is converted into machine language (simplified explanation). Different CPUs have different instructions available to them and oftentimes developers are forced to compile their applications to the lowest common denominator (an instruction set available on as many CPUs as possible). This means their applications aren’t taking advantage of the best hardware available when it is available.
Having an integrated GPU ensures instructions specific to GPUs will always be there and programming and write their application with this in mind. Granted right now there is no guarantee with all the older processors out there not having integrated graphics, but in time old systems will become the minority and it will be easier to not have to support them.
Intel didn’t include the integrated GPU for monopolistic reasons. If that were the reason I believe they would have made it more difficult to switch to an external graphics card. Intel wanted to ensure the hardware was available on as many systems as possible for doing work made faster by a GPU.