The last decade as throughly transformed PC gaming. On the other hand, exclusive AAA releases are rarer than they used to be, and hardcore gamers are feeling abandoned. On the other, casual and mainstream gamers have turned in droves to titles like World of Warcraft, which offer a gaming experience unique to the PC. Game like WoW have, as part of their mass-market appeal, forgone cutting-edge graphics in favor of more stylized but technically simple graphics that can run on more computers.
Still, casual gamers must deal with broad spectrum of hardware available. One of the most common questions is “Will the Intel HD graphics card work with WoW?” Intel is technically the world’s biggest graphics chip maker, as they place Intel HD Graphics into all of their new computers. They’re particularly common in laptops because of their low power draw.
So, can Intel HD graphics run WoW?
The short answer is – Yes.
But as always, there is more to it than that.
What is Intel HD Graphics?
Intel has been shipping integrated graphics processors (IGPs) with desktops and laptops using their processors for years, but it’s only recently that Intel started using the “Intel HD” brand name. The first Intel IGPs given the Intel HD name shipped with the Clarkdale line of Core processors, known to most people as Core i3 and Core i5 (and a few Core i7s also ended up with this technology). Previously, Intel’s call its IGPs by the name Graphics Media Accelerator (GMA).
The decision to switch to Intel HD Graphics was not arbitrary. Prior to Intel HD Graphics, all IGPs were part of the motherboard chipset. The first incarnation of Intel HD Graphics placed them onto the processor die instead, as well as updated the architecture to improve performance. The number of shader processors, for example, was bumped from 10 to 12, and the maximum clock speed available was bumped from 800 MHz to 900 MHz. These changes were serious, so Intel changed the name as well.
Performance increased substantially because of these improvements. Although still very slow when compared directly to any discrete GPU of similar vintage, it is at least possible to run games like World of Warcraft at acceptable framerates (30 FPS and above), provided that you’re willing bump the details settings down. The same holds true for many other games that were released a few years back. For example, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare and Dragon Age: Origins should run at low detail settings.
Intel HD Graphics 2000/3000
While Intel HD Graphics are a big improvement over GMA, they’re still the bare minimum required in most games. Not satisfied to stop there, Intel has released yet another significant revision with its latest line of Core processors
Although still known by the name of Intel HD Graphics, the latest versions have the 2000 or 3000 suffixes attached. There is one major difference between them, and that’s the number of shader processors – the 2000 has 6 and the 3000 has 12. Otherwise, they’re the same.
Intel HD Graphics 2000 has performance similar to the Intel HD Graphics shipping on the previous generation of Intel processors. That’s surprising only because it actually manages to keep up with its predecessor – it’s doing about the same amount of work with half the shader processors. Intel HD Graphics 2000 remains capable of playing World of Warcraft, but not at high resolutions and detail settings.
The Intel HD Graphics 3000, however, is much more interesting. This part actually offers performance on par with some entry-level discrete GPUs and is capable of achieving almost 60 FPS in World of Warcraft if you have the detail settings turned to fair and are playing are a resolution 0f 1024×768. Even at the more common laptop resolution of 1366×768, the game remains playable at this level of detail.
What if I have GMA?
If you have a Core 2 Duo processor in your desktop or laptop, you don’t have Intel HD Graphics. You instead have the older GMA, and it’s much slower.
That doesn’t mean playing WoW is impossible, but you’ll be lucky if you clear an average of 20 FPS. That’s playable, but only just barely – and if you enter a high-traffic area like Stormwind the game will likely turn into a slideshow.
So, will the Intel HD Graphics work with World of Warcraft?
Yes, they will. They’ll also work with other relatively recent games. Even newer titles like Rift and Starcraft 2 are playable on Intel HD Graphics if you keep the detail settings low. You should not expect to play any modern 3D game at 1080p resolution on Intel HD Graphics – even the new 3000 incarnation. But if your expectations are realistic, you should not have a problem.