Hello everyone.

I set up this blog since I've come across countless posts from different forums about whether a certain game works on a laptop with an integrated graphics solution such as the Intel X3100.

While this blog will cover the X3100, which I have, you can also find a link to the blog about the GMA950 integrated solution (which is maintained by ElbertZai), and as such will prove that integrated graphics solutions are not to be brushed aside.

Welcome to the unique world of mobile gaming.

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year to all.

Here's to another year of gaming with our X3100-equipped lappies.

Here's to hoping for improved drivers as well as support from Intel.

Most of all, here's to good health, happiness and prosperity for this coming year to all of us.

God bless us all. :)

Happy new year everybody!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas to all!

I'd like to take this opportunity to wish all of you a very Merry Christmas!

May you all have a wonderful and happy holiday season.

Thanks for visiting our site today.

God bless you all.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Reply from Intel Tech Support

RE: Proper info regarding the registry tweaks.

As earlier mentioned, I sent Intel an inquiry regarding the registry settings found all over the net with regard to hardware/software TnL. Here's the reply I got:

Thank you for contacting Intel Technical Support.

Intel does not provide any information or assistance on modifying the registry and its components. There are no "tweaks" that we can provide to improve or modify specific aspects of the graphics controller.

This onboard graphics controller may not have features supported by high-end graphics controllers. The purpose of our onboard graphics adapters is merely to provide a cost-effective graphics solution. We are not competing in the graphics market nor we comment or compare our products with those of third party manufacturers.


Carlos B.
Intel Technical Support
There we have it. Thanks to Carlos B. for taking the time to reply. I then replied that we DO understand that the X3100 is not a gaming solution, but while we're ABLE to use it for gaming, we might as well learn how to MAXIMIZE its potential, not that we're expecting NVIDIA or ATI levels of performance.

It's like in the old days. Here is a sample convo I had with an officemate way back in '98:

OfficeMate: Hey, I just bought the kids a PC of their own, pretty nifty piece of technology those boxes are.

Me: Good for the kids! So, how'd they like it so far?

OM: Well, they're kinda hyper about it, playing games and doing homework and stuff, but they keep on saying it won't play their mp3s, I told them to be thankful they've got a PC in the first place.

Me: Do you have WinAmp installed? (This was at the time when mediaplayer would only play .wav files and midi...)

OM: WinAmp? What's winamp?

Me: It's this little program you use which installs the necessary codecs to play mp3s on your PC, turning it into a jukebox of sorts.

OM: You mean the kids' PC CAN do that?

Me: Play mp3s? Of course, all you need to do is do this... blah... blah... and then click.... blah... blah... and then you're good to go. (pardon the blahs, it was a very lengthy instruction, he even had to write it down).

OM: Wow. I never knew it could do that...
So it's just like the days of yore all over again. We've got a piece of hardware. Some people take it for what it just does. Some of us can see what we can really do with it. And still some of us want to know what it can still do. We've probably just unearthed a part of it, but no matter how big we've already unearthed, fact is, there are still some parts buried.

And we'll continue to dig until we've dug up all there is.

Or so we think.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Intel Releases latest drivers.

Version has just been released over at the Intel site. I'm gonna install them and compare them with my RA3 benchmarks using FRAPS and see if there's a performance increase (or decrease).

I'll update you later on the results. I hope we get improvements, however slight they may be.

Meanwhile, a new blog, also about the Intel X3100, has just been created. I have added it on the links list so that you may gather some important information from it as well.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Tasks to end before gametime.

Unnecessary programs and processes on Windows XP or Vista can be closed before gametime, as follows:

Right-click a blank space on the Windows Taskbar and select Task Manager.

The following should be done to end unnecessary programs:
  1. For the list of active programs, click on the Applications tab.
  2. Click on a program listed in this window then click the End Task button.
  3. Repeat step 2 until all programs have been closed.
To close unnecessary processes do the following:
  1. Click the Processes tab to view the list of active processes.
  2. Click the User Name column header to organize the processes by login (i.e. username).
  3. Click on any program listed next to your Windows login, except EXPLORER.EXE and TASKMGR.EXE, then select the End Process button. (Warning: Do not close any processes running under SYSTEM, LOCAL SERVICE, or NETWORK SERVICE.)
  4. Repeat step 3 until all of the programs associated with your Windows Login are closed except for the aforementioned two programs.

Doing this will free up much needed RAM and will unload the CPU of unnecessary processes, devoting precious cycles for your game.

Friday, December 12, 2008

I just remembered...

Before you attempt to modify the registry, or any important system file for that matter, please make a full backup first.

You can do this manually by launching the Registry editor and then clicking File on the menu then choosing Export. Once the export dialog is on, choose All from the option then give it a distinct name on the name field -a good one would be something like "pre-tweak 12-12-2008"

If your computer suddenly fails to start the next time, it might be that you changed a critical entry (the probability of this happening is next to nil if you followed the instructions). All you have to do is to start in safe mode, then browse to your backup registry and double click it, clicking on Yes or Ok if a dialog asks.

You can back you registry up too by using system restore to create a restore point. This needs no instructions as you'll get walked through the process. Again, make sure to use a distinct name in order to save yourself from confusion later on.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Advanced Settings - Part 2

To set a particular game to run in SWVP mode:
  1. First, press the windows key and the "R" key at the same time to bring up the Run dialog.
  2. Type in regedit in the field and click ok.
  3. Once Registry editor is open, click on Computer in the left pane then go to the Menu bar, click Edit and click on Find.
  4. After the Find window opens, type in _3dmark06.exe on the Find what field then click Find Next.
  5. When you've found the entry, right click anywhere in the window (on the right panel - where the _3dmark06.exe entry is listed) then select New>DWORD Value.
  6. Type in the name of the executable for the game or program that you are trying to run in SWVP mode but don't forget to add an underscore [_] before the first letter (ex.: if the game executable=ra3.exe, name should be=_ra3.exe).
  7. Having done that, double-click your newly made entry then change the default value data from 0 to 1.
  8. Press the F3 hotkey (Find Next) to find the next entry.
  9. Repeat steps 5 to 8 until you get the "Finished searching through the registry" dialog.

The next time you execute the game you just added, it will now run in SWVP mode.

To revert to HWVP mode, you can either delete the entries you added for that game or change the data value from 1 to 0.

I have also seen other configurations with ~executable.exe (ex.: ~ra3.exe) added as well for every instance of the underscored counterpart.

For now, I haven't got the foggiest idea what's the reason or why this is added, but I'll be finding that out for you and will add that as Part 3 of this series. My theory is that one controls Pixel processing as well, in addition to vertex processing, as they do have unified shaders, you know.

You might want to go about this by adding the underscored dwords first then testing to see if your game has improved then adding the ~counterpart and re-testing to see what impact it has on you. I have read this has different effects on different processors since this is where you're redirecting the processing.

Advanced settings - Part 1

Intel recently introduced graphic driver versions for Windows Vista and Windows XP that enable Shader Model 4.0 (including support for hardware vertex shader and HW TnL on the Mobile Intel® GM965 & GL960 Express Chipsets.)

Intel also added the capability to switch between HWVP (Hardware Vertex Processing) and SWVP (Software Vertex Processing) depending on the 3D application running on the Intel integrated graphics engines.

While Intel engineers were in the process of designing and enabling a driver that supports Vertex Processing and TnL, they found that some applications, mainly 3D games, performed better with vertex processing done on the processor rather than on the graphics engine.

As aforementioned, the architecture uses the same programmable engines to process all shaders. By off-loading some of the vertex shader processing to the processor, the graphics engine is able to process more pixel shader data and do additional work like anisotropic filtering.

This is because it has been found out that most often, vertex traffic occurred at the beginning of each scene, accounting for 1/3 of the processing requirements, while pixel traffic often accounted for 2/3 of the scene and thus required more processing power.

Results showed that some 3D applications perform best with HWVP, which is the default configuration. In other instances, results showed that some 3D applications perform best with SWVP. Intel’s goal is to provide the best user experience possible for 3D applications while leveraging the performance of the processor where it makes sense.

Basically you have to experiment to get optimal performance.

Originally, I wanted to put the registry tweaks in, providing screenshots as to where to place certain DWORDS and such, but then, I came across a wall - I can show you what, how and where to place these, but I'm unable to show you WHY.

Now I've googled for the relevant information, but it seems that people just copy from one another and just do the tweak without knowing what each added dword does and how it affects the system. What I want to do is not to give you the proverbial fish, but to teach you HOW to fish in order for you to be confident about what you are going to do.

Part 2 will give you the basic instructions on what, where to do place the tweaks, while I'll try to contact Intel and see if they can give me details on each tweak and dword.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Delving deeper into the X3100...

Aside from the basic tweaks you can do, there is another, lesser known way to optimize your X3100's settings. The basic tweaks apply to all the games, while this advanced method can apply to individual games. This involves registry editing, so this is not for the faint of heart nor for the timid.

I'll be posting more on this soon as I get some screenshots of the steps to take so as to minimize confusion. We will, after all, be modifying the registry so I'd like to be as careful as possible in order to save you from headaches along the way.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Basic tips

First off, check to see what version you're using and then compare it with the versions found on the X3100 drivers thread, linked to on the sidebar.

Some drivers work fine, others don't, you can check out the drivers thread further if there are certain issues on certain drivers for certain games. ex.: driver version x.xx doesn't work properly for game x, but shows improvements for game y.

Note that latest is not always best, though there are some additions and bug-fixes you will find on the latest drivers.

If you're unsure of whether a new driver will make an improvement, make a system restore point first before doing any driver updating - that way you can always return to the previous drivers that worked well should the update turn for the worse.

The latest drivers have added support for Open GL 2.0 as well as DirectX 10 so that means you'll be able to play more of the latest games, so long as you have ample memory.

Rigorous testing has shown that with win XP, you'll need at least 1.5 times the minimum memory requirement of the game. i.e. A game with a 512MB minimum would run acceptably if you have 768MB ram. With Vista Home Basic, on the other hand, we found out that it would be best if you had at least 2x the required RAM, if you're using Vista Home premium, you'd better up the ante to at least 3x required RAM. Vista plain sucks in a lot of RAM which is why you need more to game acceptably.

Edit: I have to add that you have to set your Driver Memory Footprint to 'High' in order to allow your x3100 to be alloted the maximum memory the system can share to it.

Processor also plays a big part. If you have a Celeron, you may find that few, if any at all, of the listed games will run. That's because the CPU plays a big part in the graphics processing when it comes to integrated graphics. Dual cores no less than 1.5Ghz are fine, though.

A rough guide would be: take your dual core processor's speed in GHz and double it, if it is more than the minimum processor speed requirement of the game, that counts toward it being playable.

Take note to put your power option to High Performance first before attempting to play any game on your laptop. Doing so will disable the down-throttling and power saving features of your laptop and unleash its maximum processor speed as well as gpu clock.

When you do get the game running, try to run it at the lowest settings on the first time -don't be tempted to go for eye candy right away. You'd want to make sure you can run the game with a degree of stability. Try out the campaign missions (if any), skirmishes, or single player game with one AI opponent for the time being. (AI draws on the processor too, fyi.)

If you find the lowest setings to be okay, try moving an option one notch higher, one at a time. Take note of the settings which you find to be still acceptable then save these.

That's all there is to setting up your X3100 system for a game.

I'd love to hear about your results with these tips.

Games playable

These are the following games that are playable on an Intel X3100.

Note that this is almost the same as the list for Intel GMA950, but you can bump the graphic settings to medium for most of these.

  • Age Of Empires 3
  • Age Of Empires 3 Warchief
  • Age Of Empires 3 Asian Dynasty
  • Audition SEA
  • Battlefield 1942 + expansions
  • Battle Realms
  • Battle Realms: Winter of the Wolf
  • Bionic Commando
  • C & C Generals
  • C & C Generals: Zero Hour
  • C&C 3 Tiberium Wars
  • C&C 3 Tiberium Wars: Kane's Wrath
  • C&C First Decade
  • Cabal SEA
  • Chaos Legion
  • Chronicles of Riddick (640 x 480, no character shadows)
  • Civilization 4 (in Industrial Age, things get somewhat choppy.)
  • Corum Online
  • CounterStrike Condition Zero, Source, 1.6
  • Dawn of War Dark Crusade
  • Dawn of War Soulstorm
  • Diablo 2
  • Elderscroll IV Oblivion
  • Empire Earth 2
  • Enter the Matrix
  • F.E.A.R. (set on low settings, but not the lowest)
  • F.E.A.R Extraction Point
  • F.E.A.R. Combat
  • Far Cry
  • Fiesta Online
  • Fly For Fun Online
  • Geometry Wars: Evolved for Vista
  • Grand Theft Auto 3
  • Grand Theft Auto Vice City
  • Grand Theft Auto San Andreas
  • Half Life
  • Half Life 2
  • Half Life 2 Episode 2
  • Halo 1, 2 (2 on low settings)
  • HellGate London
  • Highstreet 5 Online
  • Homeworld 2
  • House of the Dead 2
  • House of the Dead 3
  • Jade Empire Special Edition LOTR Battle for Middle Earth
  • LEGO Star Wars 2 (demo tested)
  • LOTR2 Rise of the Witch King
  • Mabinogi Life Fantasy Online
  • Medal of Honor Allied Assault
  • Mount & Blade
  • Multiwinia - Survival of the Fittest
  • Neverwinter Nights 2
  • NFS Most Wanted Black Edition
  • NFS Carbon
  • Onimusha 3 Demon Siege
  • Perfect World
  • Phantasy Star Universe
  • Pi Story Online
  • Prince of Persia The Sand of Time
  • Prince of Persia Warrior Within
  • Prince of Persia Two Thrones
  • Quake 3
  • Ragnarok Online 2
  • Rainbow Six 3: Raven Shield
  • Red Alert 2
  • Red Alert 2 Yuri's Revenge
  • Red Alert 3
  • Resident Evil 4 (known as Bio hazard 4)
  • Rise Of Nations: Rise of Legend
  • Rome Total War
  • Secret of the Solstice Online
  • Serious Sam II
  • Sins of a Solar Empire
  • Space Cowboy Online
  • Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory
  • Spore
  • Star Wars Jedi Academy
  • Stronghold Legend
  • Super Dance Online Xtreme
  • The Club
  • The Matrix: Path of Neo
  • The Sims 2 series
  • The Sims Life Stories, Pet Stories
  • Tomb Raider Legend
  • Tomb Raider Anniversary
  • Unreal Tournament 2004
  • WALL-E (Demo tested)
  • Warcraft III (DOTA)
  • World in Conflict (1024x768, very low settings)
Thanks to ElbertZai who has made most of the list, I've tested each game here and verified them to run on the X3100. For the games I did not have the full version, the demo was installed and then tested. Games were first run using the lowest settings then bumped higher one at a time until a balance of playability and eye candy is achieved. My suggestion is that you do the same as each laptop is unique in a lot of aspects.

If there are games you are playing on your x3100 laptop that aren't included here, please notify us, I will add to this list too, the more games I get to test.

The following are additional games that were found to be playable. Some of these have been run by our readers which we'll be running ourselves if we get hold of these games. Again, we reiterate that game playable depends on several factors, the two most important being the processor and the system RAM. Results may vary.

Tested by Blue Skies (please check out the comments for detailed descriptions):
  • The Psychonauts demo runs, albeit with some stuttering during in-game cinematics -at 800x600 and with all graphic effects unchecked.
  • Bionic Commando
  • Geometry Wars: Evolved for Vista
  • The Matrix: Path of Neo
  • LEGO Star Wars 2
  • Wall-E

Tested by dreamersrhapsody:
Quake 4 and FIFA 09 runs decently on his system.

A brief history of why integrated graphics got a bad rep.

When laptops first came out, they were purely no-nonsense, business machines - used mainly for work, running programs made for the usual work loads such as word processing, spreadsheets and slideshows. Games weren't a concern for the people who bought these laptops and as such, there was no need to address the compatibility of such laptops to certain gaming requirements.

Over the course of time, laptops have crossed over from being a work-related machine to a study-related one as well. As laptop technology improved, prices went from unreasonable to affordable. In addition to this, the internet has grown to be a powerful tool in research for students and teachers alike. With these developments, the laptop became a necessity for people, rather than a luxury.

Of course, students don't just work... they play too. And with this, came the requests for better graphics solutions to replace the ordinary ones that usually came with the mainstream laptops.

This demand was addressed by integrated graphics solutions:

Integrated graphics solutions, or shared graphics solutions are graphics processors that utilize a portion of a computer's system RAM rather than dedicated graphics memory. Computers with integrated graphics account for 90% of all PC shipments. These solutions are cheaper to implement than dedicated graphics solutions, but are less capable. Historically, integrated solutions were often considered unfit to play 3D games or run graphically intensive programs such as Adobe Flash. (Examples of such IGPs would be offerings from SiS and VIA circa 2004.) However, today's integrated solutions such as the Intel's GMA X3100 series (Intel GL960 & GM965 chipset), AMD's Radeon HD 3200 (AMD 780G chipset) and NVIDIA's GeForce 8200 (NVIDIA nForce 730a)are more than capable of handling 2D graphics from Adobe Flash or low stress 3D graphics. However, the aforementioned GPUs still struggle with high-end video games.

Previously, the early solutions made by VIA and SIS fell way short of their discrete counterparts (by discrete, we mean dedicated graphics cards, those with separate graphics memory chips for exclusive use of the GPU). People started to try playing games on their laptops which they played on their desktops. Naturally, some worked fine, but a lot didn't. This didn't discourage the hardcore users though, some came up with emulators which allowed one to play without the necessary hardware requirements, albeit with a drastic cut in quality, but nevertheless got the point across: mobile gaming was a possibility.

When Intel made their own solution, it was the "Intel Extreme Graphics". This brought about some improvements in graphics, but not enough to consider any game "acceptably playable". This technology apparently wasn't enough so they replaced it with the GMA line.

The GMA 900 was the first graphics core produced under Intel's Graphics Media Accelerator product name, and was incorporated in the Intel 910G, 915G, and 915Gx chipsets.

The GMA 950 is Intel's second-generation Graphics Media Accelerator graphics core, which was also referred by Intel as 'Gen 3.5 Integrated Graphics Engine' in datasheets. It is used in the Intel 940GML, 945G, 945GU and 945GT system chipsets.

The GMA X3100 is the mobile version of the GMA X3000 used in the Intel GL960 and GM965 chipsets and is the fourth generation. The X3100 differs in a lot of ways such as it supports hardware transform and lighting, up to 128 programmable shader units, Direct X 10, and up to 384 MB memory, in addition to other improvements.

Throughout the early course of these developments, gaming has always been seen as unacceptable for such solutions which gave rise to the notion that if you didn't have a dedicated graphics card, there would be NO CHANCE that you can play a decent game. This has significantly changed with the 950 and x3100 series.

This is why I've put up this blog - to dispel the notion that those people who have the integrated solutions won't be able to enjoy gaming on their laptops. I'll be putting tips and tricks on how to make the most out of the X3100 for gaming.

Drop by every now and then, try the tips and get your game on.