Top 20 Integrated Graphics and Mobile GPUs for Zwift

In response to a question about the Zwift graphics engine choices on Reddit, October 30th 2019, game creator John Mayfield had this to say:

Zwift is tailored to lower end hardware, and we’re not shooting for Crysis 3 level graphics because almost none of our users a) care and b) have a machine that can render 100+ riders ontop of a very detailed world.

We optimize for the 90% rather than the 10%. For Zwift its nearly entirely Intel integrated graphics and mobile GPUs. Artists get their lower than AAA polygon budgets, and we stay with simpler shaders, and Zwifters get their sweat on.

That pretty much confirms what I said in my buyer’s guide post last week about not expecting GeForce RTX real-time ray tracing to be utilized anytime soon - so don’t over spend on RTX 20xx when GTX 1660 will suffice, by a large margin, if you’re one of the almost none who cares about graphics in the first place of course.

For the 90%, there’s still a minimum spec at which low graphics performance can hamper one’s ability to use the platform satisfactorily. So what should one look out for, and which integrated graphics chip performs the best?

Slicing the zwiftalizer.com benchmarks data for the 1080 resolution, basic profile in Jupyter notebook gives the following plot:

png

gpu avgFps
Intel Intel Iris Pro Graphics 580 56.90
Intel Intel Iris Plus Graphics 650 48.41
ATi AMD Radeon RX Vega 11 Graphics 44.38
Intel Intel Iris Plus Graphics 655 41.20
Intel Intel UHD Graphics 630 39.68
Intel Intel Iris Graphics 650 37.92
Intel Intel Iris Graphics 550 37.36
Intel Intel Iris Plus Graphics 640 36.88
Intel Intel Iris Pro OpenGL Engine 34.62
Intel Intel Iris Graphics 540 34.33
ATi AMD Radeon Vega 8 Graphics 34.26
Intel Intel Iris Pro Graphics 6200 32.82
Intel Intel HD Graphics 630 31.48
Intel Intel HD Graphics 530 30.31
ATi AMD Radeon RX Vega 10 Graphics 29.31
Intel Intel HD Graphics 4600 28.41
Apple Apple A10X GPU 28.08
Intel Intel UHD Graphics 620 27.75
Apple Apple A10 GPU 26.98
Apple Apple A9X GPU 26.73

Observations

Intel Integrated Graphics

There is not much difference between systems in the 30 to 40 FPS range. This is the standard Intel Integrated graphics found on most Core i5 and Core i7 laptop and desktop systems that cost between $500 and $800.

Apple A10X

The Apple TV 4K and iPad Pro 2018 use the A10X chip. Seeing Apple mobile GPUs in the top 20 shows how much mobile CPUs have progressed the past few years (and how Intel CPUs have not). The A10X sits between Intel Integrated HD graphics HD 620 and 630 found in 9th generation Kaby lake Core i5 and Core i7 CPUs. The performance of the A10X would probably equal HD 620 if it was not capped at 30 FPS. At $180 Apple TV 4K is the best bang for buck system, without question.

Radeon Vega 11

The high performance of the Radeon Vega 11 surprised me because AMD OpenGL drivers on Windows aren’t great. This is the integrated GPU found in the Ryzen 5 2400G CPU. Unlike discrete GPUs, integrated graphics don’t have any dedicated graphics memory and share the system RAM. This is one reason why on-board graphics can’t run high or ultra profiles. The Vega 11 is impressive because it benefits from fast dual-channel DDR4 system RAM and high CPU clock speeds. If you are looking for a small form factor PC, something with Ryzen 5 2400G with Radeon Vega 11 on-board would be a good choice. Expect to pay around $600 USD for a complete system.

Intel Iris Pro

The Intel Iris Pro on-board GPU is commonly used in high end Microsoft Surface and Apple MacBook laptops. This is as good as it gets without stepping up to a dedicated GPU. Expect to pay upwards of $1,000. You won’t get any additional graphics effects - like reflections, headlights, etc, but you will get the smoothest picture possible at 1080 resolution. If you don’t need portability, and do want the additional effects and polygons, a desktop PC with a dedicated GPU such as the Nvidia GTX 1660 Ti is a better option.

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Mike Hanney
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