Intel GMA

Intel GMA
GMA X3000 on Intel DG965WHMKR motherboard (only heat sink visible)

The Intel Graphics Media Accelerator, or GMA, is a series of Intel integrated graphics processors built into various motherboard chipsets.

These integrated graphics products allow a computer to be built without a separate graphics card, which can reduce cost, power consumption and noise. They rely on the computer's main memory for storage, which imposes a performance penalty, as both the CPU and GPU have to access memory over the same bus. They are commonly found on netbook, low-priced notebook and desktop computers, as well as business computers, which do not need high levels of graphics capability. In early 2007, 90% of all PCs sold had integrated graphics.[1]



The GMA line of GPUs replaces the earlier Intel Extreme Graphics, and the Intel740 line, the latter of which was a discrete unit in the form of AGP and PCI cards with technology that evolved from companies Real3D and Lockheed Martin. Later, Intel integrated the i740 core into the Intel 810 chipset.

The original architecture of GMA systems supported only a few functions in hardware, and relied on the host CPU to handle at least some of the graphics pipeline, further decreasing performance. However, with the introduction of Intel's 4th generation of GMA architecture (GMA X3000) in 2006, many of the functions are now built into the hardware, providing an increase in performance. The 4th generation of GMA combines fixed function capabilities with a threaded array of programmable executions units, providing advantages to both graphics and video performance. Many of the advantages of the new GMA architecture come from the ability to flexibly switch as needed between executing graphics-related tasks or video-related tasks. While GMA performance has been widely criticized in the past as being too slow for computer games, the latest GMA generation should ease many of those concerns for the casual gamer.

Despite similarities, Intel's main series of GMA IGPs is not based on the PowerVR technology Intel licensed from Imagination Technologies. Intel used the low-power PowerVR MBX designs in chipsets supporting their XScale platform, and since the sale of XScale in 2006 has licensed the PowerVR SGX and used it in the GMA 500 IGP for use with their Atom platform.

With the introduction of the Platform Controller Hub, the Graphics Media Accelerator series ceased, and the CPU-based Intel HD Graphics series was created.

Graphics cores

GMA 900

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 3D architecture of the GMA 900 was a significant upgrade from the previous Extreme 3D graphics processors. It is a 4 pixel per clock cycle design supporting DirectX 9 pixel shader model 2.0. It operates at a clock rate ranging from 160 to 333 MHz, depending on the particular chipset. At 333 MHz, it has a peak pixel fill-rate of 1332 megapixels per second. However, the architecture still lacks support for hardware transform and lighting and the similar vertex shader technologies.

Like previous Intel integrated graphics parts, the has hardware support for MPEG-2 motion compensation, color-space conversion and DirectDraw overlay.

The processor uses different separate clock generators for display and render cores. The display unit includes a 400 MHz RAMDAC, 2 25–200 Mpixel/s serial DVO ports, and 2 display controllers. In mobile chipsets, up to 2 18-bit 25–112 MHz LVDS transmitters are included.

GMA 950

The GMA 950 is Intel's second-generation 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 amount of video-decoding hardware has increased; VLD, iDCT, and dual video overlay windows are supposed to be handled in hardware.[2] However in a feature comparison document[3] it is noted, that VLD and iDCT are not supported until GMA 3100 (on G33 chipsets only). The maximum core clock is up to 400 MHz (on Intel 945G, 945GC, 945GZ, 945GSE), boosting pixel fill-rate to a theoretical 1600 megapixels/s.

The GMA 950 shares the same architectural weakness as the GMA 900: no hardware geometry processing. Neither basic hardware transform and lighting,[4] nor more advanced vertex shaders are handled in the GMA hardware, these are only accessible via Software Rendering. The 950 does support Hardware Pixel Shader 2.0 and Software Pixel Shader 3.0 (Not Emulated) but is not capable of running modern games.

GMA 3000

The 946GZ, Q965, and Q963 chipsets use the GMA 3000 chip.[5][6] The GMA 3000 3D core is very different from the X3000, despite their similar names. It is based more directly on the previous generation GMA 900 and GMA 950 graphics, and belonging to the same "i915" family with them. It has pixel and vertex shaders which only support Shader Model 2.0b features[citation needed], and the vertex shaders are still only software-emulated. In addition, hardware video acceleration such as hardware-based iDCT computation, ProcAmp (video stream independent color correction), and VC-1 decoding are not implemented in hardware. Of the GMA 3000-equipped chipsets, only the Q965 retains dual independent display support. The core speed is rated at 400 MHz with 1.6 Gpixel/s fill rate in datasheets, but was listed as 667 MHz core in the white paper.[7]

The memory controller can now address a maximum of 256 MB of system memory, and the integrated serial DVO ports have increased top speed to 270Mpixel/s.

GMA X3000

The GMA X3000 for desktop was "substantially redesigned" when compared to previous GMA iterations[8] and it is used in the Intel G965 north bridge controller.[9] The GMA X3000 was launched in July 2006.[10] X3000's underlying 3D rendering hardware is organized as a unified shader processor consisting of 8 scalar execution units. Each pipeline can process video, vertex, or texture operations. A central scheduler dynamically dispatches threads to pipeline resources, to maximize rendering throughput (and decrease the impact of individual pipeline stalls.) However, due to the scalar nature of the execution units, they can only process data on a single pixel component at a time.[11] The GMA X3000 supports DirectX 9.0 with vertex and pixel Shader Model 3.0 features.

The processor consists of different clock domains, meaning that the entire chip does not operate the same clock speed. This causes some difficulty when measuring peak throughput of its various functions. Further adding to the confusion, it is listed as 667 MHz in Intel G965 white paper, but listed as 400 MHz in Intel G965 datasheet. There are various rules that define the IGP's processing capabilities.[11]

Memory controller can now address maximum 384 MB memory according to white paper, but only 256 MB in datasheet.

GMA X3100

The GMA X3100 is the mobile version of the GMA X3000 used in the Intel GL960/GM965 chipsets and also in the GS965 chipset. The X3100 supports hardware transform and lighting, up to 128 programmable shader units, and up to 384 MB memory. Its display cores can run up to 333 MHz on GM965 and 320 MHz on GL960. Its render cores can run up to 500 MHz on GM965 and 400 MHz on GL960. The X3100 display unit includes a 300 MHz RAMDAC, two 25–112 MHz LVDS transmitters, 2 DVO encoders, and a TV encoder. In addition, the hardware supports DirectX 10.0,[3] Shader Model 3.0 and OpenGL 1.5.[12]

GMA X3500

GMA X3500 is an upgrade of the GMA X3000 and used in the desktop G35. The shaders support shader model 4.0 features. Architecturally, the GMA X3500 is very similar to the GMA X3000,[13] with both GMAs running at 667 MHz. The major difference between them is that the GMA X3500 supports Shader Model 4.0 and DirectX 10, whereas the earlier X3000 supports Shader Model 3.0 and DirectX 9.[13] The X3500 also adds hardware-assistance for playback of VC-1 video.

GMA X4500

The GMA X4500 and the GMA X4500HD for desktop[14] were launched in June 2008.[15] The GMA X4500 is used in the G43 chipset[16] and the GMA X4500HD is used in the G45 chipset.[14] The GMA X4500 is also used in the G41 chipset,[17] which was released in September 2008.[18]

The GMA 4500MHD for laptops was launched on July 16, 2008. Featurewise, the 4500MHD is identical to its desktop cousin, the X4500HD.[citation needed] It had been previously rumored that a cost-reduced version, the GMA 4500, was to be launched in late 2008 or early 2009[19] and was to be used in the upcoming Q43 and Q45 chipsets.[17] But in practice the Q43 and Q45 Chipsets also use the GMA X4500.[20]

The difference between the GMA X4500 and the GMA X4500HD is that the GMA X4500HD is capable of "full 1080p high-definition video playback, including Blu-ray disc movies",[14][21]

Like the X3500, X4500 supports DirectX 10 and Shader Model 4.0 features. Intel designed the GMA X4500 to be 200% faster than the GMA 3100 (G33 chipset) in 3DMark06 performance[22] and 70% faster than the GMA X3500 (G35 chipset).[23]

GMA 500

The Intel SCH (System Controller Hub; codenamed Poulsbo) for the Atom processor Z5xx series features a GMA 500 graphic system. Rather than being developed in-house, this core is a PowerVR SGX 535 core licensed from Imagination Technologies.[24]

Intel describes this as "a flexible, programmable architecture that supports shader-based technology, 2D, 3D and advanced 3D graphics, high-definition video decode, and image processing. Features include screen tiling, internal true color processing, zero overhead anti-aliasing, programmable shader 3D accelerator, and 32-bit floating-point operations."[25] The available Linux drivers do not support much of this.


Early graphics

Graphics Market Chipset Code name Device id. Core render
clock (MHz)
Pixel pipelines Shader model
API support Memory bandwidth (GB/s) DVMT (MB) Hardware acceleration
DirectX OpenGL OpenCL MPEG-2 VC-1 AVC
Intel740 Desktop stand-alone Auburn 7800 220 2 N/A 5.0 1.1 1.3 2-8 Yes No No
i752 Desktop i810
230 2 N/A 9.0 (software) 1.2 AGP/PCI interface bandwidth 32-64 MC No No
IEG Desktop
Brookdale 3577
200 2 N/A 8 (hardware)
9.0 (software)
1.3 1.0(SDR PC133)
64-128 MC No No
IEG2 Desktop
Morgan Hill
200–266 2 N/A 8 (hardware)
9.0 (software)
1.3 2.1(DDR266)
(dual-channel DDR doubles bandwidth)
32-128 MC No No

Graphics Media Accelerator

Graphics Market Chipset Code name Device id. Core render
clock (MHz)
Pixel pipelines Shader model
API support Memory bandwidth (GB/s) DVMT (MB) Hardware acceleration
DirectX OpenGL OpenCL MPEG-2 VC-1 AVC
GMA 900 Desktop 910GL Grantsdale 2582
4 2.0 (SW) / 2.0 9.0 1.4 3.2 128 MC[26] No No
915GV 8.5
Mobile Mobile 915
Alviso 2592
GMA 950 Desktop 945GZ Lakeport 2772
4 3.0 (SW) / 2.0 9.0c 8.5 224[3] MC[3] No No
945GC 400 10.7
Mobile Mobile 945
Calistoga 27A2
GMA 3000 Desktop 946GZ Broadwater 2972
4 1.4 10.7 256 MC[3] No No
Q963 2992
GMA 3100 Desktop Q33 Bearlake 29D2
1.5 12.8 256[28] MC[3] No No
Q35 29B2
G31 29C2
G33 12.8 (DDR2)
17 (DDR3)
GMA 3150 Nettop Atom D410
Atom D510
Pineview A001
400[29] 2 1.5 on
2.0 on
6.4 384 Full No No
Netbook Atom N4x0
Atom N550
200 5.3
Graphics Market Chipset Code name Device id. Core render
clock (MHz)
Execution units Shader model
(unified shader)
API support Memory bandwidth (GB/s) DVMT (MB) Hardware acceleration
DirectX OpenGL OpenCL MPEG-2 VC-1 AVC
GMA X3000 Desktop G965 Broadwater 29A2
667[6] 8[6] 3.0 9.0c 2.0 12.8 384 Full[3] MC + (LF −
WMV9 only)
GMA X3500 G35 Broadwater 2982
667[31] 4.0 10 MC + LF
GMA X3100 Mobile GL960 Crestline 2A02
400[32] 2.1 8.5 MC + (LF −
WMV9 only)
GM965 2A12
500[32] 10.7
GMA 4500 Desktop B43 Eaglelake 2E42
10 12.8 (DDR2)
17 (DDR3)[33]
1700 Full MC + LF MC + LF
Q43 2E12
GMA X4500 G41 2E32
800 Full MC + LF MC + LF
G43 2E22
GMA X4500HD G45 Full Full
GMA 4500MHD Mobile GL40 Cantiga 2A42
400[34] 12.8
GM45 533[34] 12.8 (DDR2)
17 (DDR3)

PowerVR based

Graphics Market Chipset Code name Device id. Core render
clock (MHz)
Pixel pipelines Shader model
API support Memory bandwidth (GB/s) DVMT (MB) Hardware acceleration
DirectX OpenGL OpenCL MPEG-2 VC-1 AVC
GMA 500 MID UL11L Poulsbo 8108
100 4 3.0 9.0c 2.0 4.2 256 Full Full Full
US15L 200
GMA 600 MID Atom Z6xx Lincroft 4102 400[citation needed] 4 3.0 9.0c 2.1 Full Full Full

These tables are derived from these sources:[3][4][5][6][11][26][28][31][32][33][34][35][36][37][38][39][40][41][42][43][44][45][46][47][48][49][50][51][52][53][54][55][56] [57]


The raw performance of integrated GPU, in single-precision FLOPS, can be calculated as follows: EU * 4 [dual-issue x 2 SP] * 2 [multiply + accumulate] * clock speed. For example, the HD Graphics 3000 is rated at 125 GFLOPS,[58] which is consistent with the formula (12 * 4 * 2 * 1,300 MHz).

Software support

Mac OS X

Mac OS X 10.4 supports the GMA 950, since it was used in previous revisions of the MacBook, MacMini, and 17-inch iMacs.[59] It has been used in all Intel-based Mac minis (until the Mac Mini released on March 3, 2009).[60] Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard contains drivers for the GMA X3100, which were used in a recent revision of the MacBook range.[61]

Late-release versions of Mac OS X 10.4 also support the GMA 900 due to its use in the Apple Developer Transition Kit, which was used in the PowerPC-to-Intel transition. However, special modifications to the kext file must be made to enable Core Image and Quartz Extreme.

Although the new MacBook line no longer uses the X3100, Mac OS X 10.5 (Leopard) ships with drivers supporting it that require no modifications to the kext file. Mac OS X 10.6 (Snow Leopard), which includes a new 64-bit kernel in addition to the 32-bit one, does not include 64-bit X3100 drivers.[citation needed] This means that although the MacBooks with the X3100 have 64-bit capable processors and EFI, Mac OS X must load the 32-bit kernel to support the 32-bit X3100 drivers.[citation needed] November 9's 10.6.2 update ships with 64-bit X3100 drivers.[citation needed]

For a while MacBook and MacBook Pro notebooks instead shipped with a far more powerful[62] NVIDIA GeForce 9400M,[63] and the 15" and 17" MacBook Pro notebooks shipped with an additional GeForce 9600GT supporting hybrid power to switch between GPUs. The NVIDIA GeForce 9400M chipset implemented in Apple MacBooks did not support composite or S-video output.[64]


FreeBSD 8.0 supports the following Intel graphic chipsets: i810, i810-DC100, i810e, i815, i830M, 845G, 852GM, 855GM, 865G, 915G, 915GM, 945G, 945GM, 965G, 965Q, 946GZ, 965GM,945GME, G33, Q33, Q35, G35, GM45, G45, Q45, G43 and G41 chipsets. In practice, chipsets through 4500MHD are supported with DRM and 3D using FreeBSD 9. Work to integrate GEM and KMS is currently adding support for i-series integrated graphics and improving support for earlier chipsets.


In August 2006, Intel added support to the open-source X.Org/XFree86 drivers for the latest 965 series that include the GMA (X)3000 core.[65] These drivers were developed for Intel by Tungsten Graphics.[66]

In May 2007, version 2.0 of the driver (xorg-video-intel) was released, which added support for the 965GM chipset. In addition, the 2.0 driver added native video mode programming support for all chipsets from i830 forward. This version added support for automatic video mode detection and selection, monitor hot plug, dynamic extended and merged desktops and per-monitor screen rotation. These features are built in to the X.Org 7.3 X server release and will eventually be supported across most of the open source X.Org video drivers.[67] Version 2.1, released in July 2007, added support for the G33, Q33 and Q35 chipsets.[68] G35 is also supported by the Linux driver.[69]

As is common for X.Org drivers on Linux, the license is a combination of GPL (for the Linux kernel parts) and MIT (for all other parts).[70]

The drivers were mainly developed by Intel and Tungsten Graphics (under contract) since the chipsets' documentation were not publicly available for a long time. In January 2008, Intel released the complete developer documentation for their, at the time, latest chipsets (965 and G35 chipset), allowing for further external developers' involvement.[71][72] In April 2009, Intel released documentation for their newer G45 graphics (including X4500) chipsets.[73] In May 2009, Intel employee Eric Anholt stated Intel was "still working on getting docs for [8xx] chipsets out."[74]

The driver source contains references to a currently-unavailable binary named "". It is entirely optional, and the advantages are not clear; ostensibly they are increased performance and/or additional features. References in the open source code indicate that it contains or contained (at least) Macrovision support and some minor, optional 3D optimization routines. Calls to the Macrovision code inside the binary were later removed from the 2D driver.[75][76]

GMA 500 on Linux

GMA 500 support on Linux is not optimal. The driver is developed by Tungsten Graphics, not by Intel, and the graphic core is not an Intel one, but is licensed from PowerVR. This has led to an uncertain mix of open and closed source 3d accelerated drivers, instability and lack of support.

Ubuntu supports GMA500 (Poulsbo) through the ubuntu-mobile and gma500 repositories on Launchpad. Support is present for 8.04, 8.10, 9.04, 9.10 and in an experimental way for 10.04 and 10.10, but the installation procedure is not as simple as other drivers and can lead to many bugs.[77]

Joli OS, a Linux based OS optimized for netbooks, has a driver for the GMA500 built in.

PixieLive, a GNU/Linux live distribution optimized for GMA500 netbooks, it can boot from USB Pendrive, SD Card or HardDisk.

Intel releases official Linux drivers through the IEGD (Intel Embedded Graphic Driver) supporting some Linux distributions dedicated to the embedded market.

GMA500 is capable of running well in Ubuntu 9.10 with Compiz visual effects activated.[78]

In November 2009, the Linux Foundation released the details of a new, rewritten Linux driver that would support this chipset and Intel's other upcoming chipsets. The Direct Rendering Manager and parts would be free software, but the 3D component (using Gallium3D) will still be proprietary.[79]


Solaris may possibly have support for these chipsets.[original research?] Scant information can be found on the Opensolaris DRI page.[80]

Microsoft Windows

GMA 900 on Windows

The GMA 900 is theoretically capable of running Windows Vista's Aero interface and is certified as DirectX 9 compliant. However, no WHQL certified WDDM driver has been made available. Presumably this is due to the lack of a "hardware scheduler" in the GPU.[81]

Many owners of GMA900 hardware believed they would be able to run Aero on their systems as early release candidates of Vista permitted XDDM drivers to run Aero. Intel, however, contends that Microsoft's final specs for Aero/WDDM certification did not permit releasing a WDDM driver for GMA900 (due to issues with the hardware scheduler, as mentioned above), so when the final version of Vista was released, no WDDM driver was released.[82] The last minute pulling of OpenGL capabilities from the GMA drivers for Windows Vista left a large number of GMA based workstations unable to perform basic 3D hardware acceleration with OpenGL and unable to run many Vista Premium applications such as Windows DVD Maker. To get OpenGL acceleration, users must use third party drivers, like the freeware TitaniumGL.

GMA 950 on Windows

This IGP is capable of displaying the Aero interface for Windows Vista. Drivers have shipped with Windows Vista since beta versions were made available in mid-2006. It can also run Windows 7's Aero interface since Intel released drivers for Windows 7 in mid-June 2009.

The GMA 950 is integrated into many netbooks, such as the Acer Aspire One, and is able to display a resolution up to 2048×1536 at 75 Hz and up to 224 MB of video memory.[83]

Most of the reviews about this IGP were negative, since many games (such as Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory or Oblivion) need both Pixel Shader 2.0 or higher, which the GMA supports, and Vertex Shader 2.0, which is not supported in hardware on the GMA and is software-driven. Other games such as Crysis will run but may not work at frame rates fast enough to make the game playable. But older games such as Portal or some titles in the Battlefield series are playable with a decent framerate due to a decent graphic computing of 1.6 GP/T Per second.

GMA X3000/X3100 on Windows

T&L and Vertex Shaders 3.0 are supported by Intel's newest 15.6 drivers for Windows Vista as of September 2, 2007. XP support for VS3 and T&L was introduced on August 10, 2007. Intel announced in March 2007 that beta drivers would be available in June 2007.[84][85] On June 1, 2007 "pre-beta" (or Early Beta) drivers were released for Windows XP (but not for Vista).[86] Beta drivers for Vista and XP were released on June 19.[87] Since hardware T&L and vertex shading has been enabled in drivers individual applications can be forced to fall back to software rendering,[88] which raises performance and compatibility in certain cases. Selection is based on testing by Intel and preselected in the driver .inf file.

Intel has released production version drivers for 32-bit and 64-bit Windows Vista that enable the Aero graphics. Intel introduced Direct X 10 for the X3100 and X3500 GPUs in the Vista 15.9 drivers, though any release of DX10 drivers for the X3000 is uncertain. WDDM 1.1 is supported by X3100 but DXVA-HD is not.

OpenGL 2.0 support is available since Vista 15.11 drivers[89] and XP 14.36 drivers.[90]

GMA 500 on Windows

As of September 2010, the latest available driver revisions from the Intel website for Windows XP, Vista and 7 are:[91]

  • Version 3.3.0 for Windows XP.
  • Version 4.0.2 for Windows Vista.
  • Version for Windows 7.

Modern gaming

The performance and functionality of GMA processors are limited, attaining the performance of only low-cost discrete GPUs at best[2]. Some features of games and other 3D applications may be unsupported by GMAs, particularly older ones. The GMA X3x00's unified shader design allows for more complete hardware functionality, but the line still has issues with some games and has significantly limited performance.[92]

Intel has put up a page with 'Known Issues & Solutions' for each version.[93] For Intel Graphics Media Accelerator Software Development concerns, there is the Integrated Graphics Software Development Forum.[94]

Microsoft Windows performance reviews

GMA X3000 review

A review conducted in April 2007 by The Tech Report determined that the GMA X3000 had performance comparable to the Nvidia GeForce 6150.[95] During that review the GMA X3000 was unable to run the PC games Battlefield 2 and Oblivion.[96] However, the ExtremeTech review found that games which aren't as graphically demanding, such as Sims 2 and Civilization 4, "look good" when the GMA X3000 is used to run them.[97]

Reviews performed by The Tech Report, by ExtremeTech and by Anandtech all concluded that the AMD's Radeon X1250 integrated graphics solutions based on the AMD 690G chipset was a better choice than the GMA X3000 based on the G965 chipset, especially when considering 3D gaming performance and price.[95][98][99]

GMA X3500 review

In a review performed by Register Hardware in December 2007,[13] author Leo Waldock argued that because the GMA X3500 is not capable of running any PC game that requires DirectX 10, the addition of DirectX 10 support to the GMA X3500 was "irrelevant".[100] During that same review, the GMA X3500 was used to run the PC games Crysis and FEAR Extraction Point, where it was able to render only 4 and 14 frames per second respectively for each game.[101] In the end the review concluded that overall the X3500 made "minimal advances" over the GMA X3000.[100]

GMA X4500 review

In a review published in May 2008, the GMA X4500 showed a superior game performance to the lowest-end 1-year-older GeForce 8400M graphics card in some CPU-bound tests, while losing to the still low-end GeForce 8400M GS with a slower GPU.[102]

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