Benchmarking tests on the latest Apple MacBook Pro models have revealed that the new Iris integrated graphics systems from Intel is considerably faster
than the previous generation -- up to 65 percent faster, in fact. Two different test suites (Cinebench r15's OpenGL and Unigen's Heaven) showed improvements between 40 and 65 percent on the graphics performance compared to a similarly-specced early 2013 MacBook Pro.
The early 2013 MacBook Pro was a 2.6GHz Ivy Bridge-powered, 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro, while the late 2013 was a 2.6GHz Haswell-powered Retina MBP, reports MacWorld
. Separate CPU and RAM tests showed far more modest speed increases between the two models (of between two and eight percent), making the Iris and Iris Pro graphics options a key factor (along with faster PCIe-based flash storage) in perceived speed increases with the newer models. The Haswell chip's main emphasis is on equalling performance using dramatically less energy rather than focusing solely on speed.
Intel has touted the Iris Pro as catching up to the more basic discreet video cards in terms of performance, in part by using its own dedicated RAM rather than borrowing from the system memory. The Iris Pro leverages an extra 128MB of memory in the Crystalwell chip of the mid-tier 15-inch MacBook Pro to use as a high-speed Level 4 cache, as well as a cluster of 40 "execution units" for processing. The highest-end MBP has a discreet Nvidia GeForce GT 750M as well as the Iris Pro 5200 on board, according to Anandtech
While even the latest Intel Iris chipset can't equal the better discrete cards available, the move to independent RAM and its integration with the Haswell chip puts Iris well above other integrated graphics chips, with performance that is starting to threaten the lower-end of discrete cards -- all while using significantly less power than the discrete cards. Typical and casual Mac users will find the Iris system to be more than acceptable for pretty much all but the most intense gaming needs.
The chart below indicates that the Iris Pro is roughly on par with an Nvidia GT 640 in terms of performance. While this is far from replacing most discrete video cards, for an integrated chipset to be in the same class as nearly any
currently-available discrete graphics solution demonstrates how quickly the old maxim about integrated graphics might change going forward.