iPad, laptops drive integrated chip market

Standalone graphics chips making way for smaller, less power hungry integrated chips

Four out of five PC laptops that ship in 2014 are expected to use integrated graphics processors, according to a report released today.

In four years, integrated processors will be used in 82.9% of PC laptops, compared with 39% today, according to a report from research company iSuppli . The tech market's shift to smaller devices is helping to drive this move from the traditional setup of having separate graphics cards in the system to integrated chips.

"The booming popularity of products like ultraportable notebooks and Apple's iPad has put the spotlight on products with small and innovative form factors," said Matthew Wilkins, a principal analyst, with iSuppli, in a statement. "To develop such products, PC makers are adopting highly integrated semiconductor solutions that use less power and generate less heat, thus allowing smaller form factors. By integrating functions that normally would be implemented in a separate graphics chip, graphics-enabled microprocessors play a key role in aiding this effort."

Wilkins noted that Appleused its own A4 microprocessor as an integrated silicon solution in its iPad . The integrated processor helps designers build a small device because it takes up less space than a processor and a discrete graphics card working together.

Greg Richardson, an analyst with Technology Business Research, noted that since integrated chips use less power but also deliver less performance than their separate counterparts, a lot of people are turning to them as low-power alternatives to pricier standalone chips.

"I would say the role of integrated graphics is functionality. They're adequate enough for your everyday user who doesn't necessarily need the graphics capabilities of standalone graphics chips," Richardson said. "We have really seen a shift in the market. As PC users are growing up, they are focusing more on functionality and efficiency, versus the sheer power and luxury of high-end systems."

He added that during a sluggish economy, corporate buyers and consumers also are more likely to go with an integrated chip simply because they're cheaper.

"The value of the integrated graphics processor shines because it is a reliable, usable tool that may not be flashy, but gets the job done for everyday users," said Richardson.

The iSuppli report noted that Intel , which features integrated processors in its Core i Series chips [http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9180285/FAQ_Which_Intel_chip_is_right_for_your_new_iMac_, is benefiting from this turn in the market. iSuppli analysts also noted that Intel rival AMD is expected to launch graphics-enabled processors in the fourth quarter of this year or early in 2011.

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Sharon Gaudin

Computerworld (US)
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