World of Warcraft on AMD, Intel and Apple integrated graphics

Last year I've tested AMD integrated Vega graphics in mobile and APU based devices and now I've managed to put Ryzen 4800U against Intel i7-1165G7. There is a quite large stock of cheap existing or refreshed laptops with such chips so the question is - can they run WoW decently? Lets find out.

Cheap and premium integrated graphics

Intel Tiger Lake (11-th gen) and Alder Lake (12-th gen) use Intel Xe graphics. i7 have 96 execution units while i5 have 80 EU (with some differences here and there so check specific variant). AMD has Ryzen 4000 and 5000 mobile chips with Vega 8 and Vega 7 integrated graphics (Ryzen 7 and Ryzen 9). There are lower tier processors like i3 or Ryzen 3 that have way more cut down iGPU and CPU and those I'm not comparing or testing here (not really worth it).

Mentioned Tiger Lake and Ryzen 4000/5000 based laptops start in Europe at around 450 EUR and reach like 850 EUR or more for more premium and slick models. Alder Lake laptops will be above that while having same iGPU and only partially better CPU side (depending wherever it’s a U or P model).

AMD also has Ryzen 6000 mobile series with Radeon 680M integrated graphics that offers up to twice the performance of Vega 8. Same with Apple with M1 and M2 laptops and desktops. Apple chips offer better performance than old AMD and Intel mobile solutions but at a higher price.

Right now Ryzen 6800U (or H/HS) with Radeon 680M integrated graphics and LPDDR5 6400MT/s is hard to come by. There is few Lenovo and Asus models and realistically they start at 1000-1400 EUR. Same for GPD and Aya Neo handhelds. Same with Apple - if you go with 16GB of RAM (which I strongly recommend) you can get Mac Mini from 1000 EUR and laptops for even more.

From pure price to performance ratio right now Intel and older AMD platforms make sense if you need a budget laptop right now - they are priced below entry level gaming laptops and usually are smaller and lighter. If you would want more performance and can accept a 1,8-2+ kg laptop then there is a lot of laptops with entry level Nvidia or AMD graphics. If you want portability and specific productivity values of macOS or gaming handhelds with Ryzen 6000 then you will have to pay way more per frame. With time 6800U models should go down in price, especially when next generation launches on top of it.

Steam Deck

Valves Steam Deck is based on a custom AMD chip. It performance is between old 4000/5000 and current 6000 series. As Valve makes money from their Steam shop the device is very well priced. Other handhelds like GPD or OnePlayer, Aya Neo have to be priced much higher. Steam Deck runs SteamOS which is Linux based. Some users launched WoW on it via Wine and Lutris but note that Linux is not officially supported by Blizzard so there can be patches where suddenly something breaks.

Integrated graphics of 2023 and beyond

At CES show in January 2023 AMD will reveal their next mobile lineup with even better iGPU based on RDNA 3 architecture. It will be way better than 680M but just like 680M AMD will pretty much position it at premium thin and light devices. It will likely have to be paired with soldered LPDDR5 RAM for max performance - which in some cases could reach RTX 3050 or higher levels.

Intel will rapidly grow it integrated graphics but it's unclear when it will launch. Arrow Lake with large graphics tile is planned for end of 2023 / beginning of 2024. This will be a tile design similar to AMD chiplet design. Small integrated graphics becomes a big tile capable of entry level dGPU performance. If you like premium gaming handhelds or premium thin and light laptops both platforms should deliver.

Benchmarks

For this benchmark I've used three devices listed below. The tests were done on 1080p resolution and WoW was set to mode 3 (medium) unless stated otherwise. Data was collected with MSI Afterburner (Windows) and WoW frame counter on macOS. WoW Shadowlands was at version 9.2.7.45338. Latest drivers and fully updated Windows 10 was used.

  • Lenovo IdeaPad 5 14ARE05: Ryzen 4800U, Vega 8. SoC power usage: 24,6W
  • HP 15-dw3000ni: i7-1165G7, Intel Xe graphics 96EU. SoC power usage: 17,2W
  • Mac Mini: M1, 16GB RAM, 8 core GPU

General performance

World of Warcraft average FPS iGPU
World of Warcraft 1% low FPS iGPU

As you can see 1165G7 in the HP laptop performs slightly better than Ryzen 4800U in the Lenovo laptop. Intel is a quad core, Ryzen is octa core. Intel has advantage in single core performance while Ryzen is better in multicore performance which in WoW isn't as important for most scenarios. M1 in a mac mini as expected is way above those two budget laptops.

  • Dalaran: few laps around Legion Dalaran (loading and rendering complex geometry, lots of assets)
  • Dazar'alor: a widefield view on the Dazar'alor harbor with high influence of draw distance
  • Ardenweald: a widefield view of Ardenweald which is quite GPU heavy on the assets side
  • Bastion: a view on a part of Bastion (moderately heavy)
  • Stonard: old, very lightweight zone
  • Combat: mass combat benchmark with multiple mobs in Karazan - simulates worst case scenario for modern encounters (multiple particle effects happening at once for example) or mass PvP.
  • Empty: Karazan room after all mobs get killed and despawned - combat FPS drop comes from single core CPU bottleneck processing the state of the combat and the world around you.
  • Oribos: few laps around Oribos - high memory usage, some parts hard to render.
  • Hellfire peninsula and Shattrah: WoTLK prepatch benchmarks

Both AMD and Intel based laptops could be used to play WoW on mode 3, sometimes 4 at 30-40 FPS in worst case scenario and more in less demanding scenes and activities. The downside is that on those lower modes particle effects are less visible. This can affect visibility of some mechanics during combat. To have like guaranteed 60+ FPS you would have to look for a device with an entry-level dGPU (1660 Ti, 3050 Ti or alike). It should also be possible with Apple M chips and Ryzen 6000 with 680M with top spec LPDDR5 memory.

Ryzen 4800U - Revendreth world boss

Ryzen 4800U - Revendreth world boss

Ardenweald has a lot of draw calls and generates multi-core load

Ardenweald has a lot of draw calls and generates multi-core load

Mass combat in an old zone is only combat intensive so we see a single core bottleneck

Mass combat in an old zone is only combat intensive so we see a single core bottleneck

GPU bottleneck - scaling with WoW settings

WoW allows lowering game graphical fidelity quite severely allowing weak iGPUs to still run the game. From assets quality to draw distance and specific features. Switching the mode setting handles all of that. Mode 10 is max, mode 1 is lowest. Mode 3-4 is quite good quality while still light and mode 7 is the default high setting.

WoW dazaralor benchmark
WoW dazaralor benchmark 1% low

Widefield view from the pyramid showcases draw distance effect quite well for this scene. Intel is bit better on all settings levels.

WoW mass combat benchmark
WoW mass combat benchmark 1% low

Mass combat scenario in Karazan is quite good for repeatable results. The zone and combat abilities are simple so it showcases the single core limitations of the game during mass anything but for iGPU particle effects of abilities can be a challenge so when FPS drops with increasing mode it means it can't handle all of them. In this case it's mostly the fire breath. Similar things happens on for example Wrathion fire on floor (BfA) or Denathrius mass swirls (SL) and so on.

Alder Lake with even better single core performance should be better at this scenario. Apple CPU performance also shows here.

RAM performance scaling

iGPU performance is highly dependent on memory timings and frequency. Premium Tiger Lake laptops often have LPDDR4X instead of standard DDR4 3200CL22 SODIMM sticks. Ryzen 6000 in devices focused on iGPU performance (or ultra portable) use LPDDR5 6400 MT/s while typical dGPU gaming laptop with 6800H uses standard DDR5 SODIMM sticks (and using iGPU would give 10-20 FPS less than with LPDDR5). Of course the LPDDR5 and LPDDR4X memory isn't as cheap and always is soldered to the motherboard - so you have to buy with enough RAM.

Desktop Ryzen APUs can use desktop DIMM RAM and desktop motherboards which means XMP memory support. Laptop SODIMMs don't support that so wherever DDR4 or DDR5 we are stuck with less optimal JEDEC standard timings.

For DDR4 laptops (Ryzen 4000, 5000, Tiger Lake, some Alder Lake) there is however one parameter that can give or take 10-20% of iGPU or dGPU laptop performance. Single rank x16 memory kits have much lower bandwidth than x8 kits which affects system performance by a lot. You can read more on notebookcheck. You can see what type of memory you have on it label. 2x4GB DDR4 will pretty much always be x16 while 2x8GB can be either so it's worth checking.

I don't have x16 16GB RAM kit so I had to compare x16 8GB versus x8 16GB which is two variable equation:

WoW x16 vs x8 RAM
WoW x16 vs x8 RAM

Stonard or empty Karazan are less memory intensive and even these spots show the effect of x8 vs x16 memory scaling. Depending on scenario there can even be 25-20% difference.

In terms of memory usage - in systems with 16GB pure Windows and WoW with no addons will use around 10-10,5 GB of RAM. In systems with 8GB of RAM around 7,5GB of RAM will be allocated when the game is running. In previous Shadowlands patches 8GB systems had problems rendering Oribos due to lack of memory. In 9.2.7 there is still some stutter but it manages. Either way you should get 16GB of RAM. On macOS with 16GB of RAM the allocation is also similar and exceeds 10GB. On 8GB models the system could swap to the SSD which even when fast would cripple the iGPU performance (less so in some productivity tasks).

M1 mac mini resource usage while playing Shadowlands

M1 mac mini resource usage while playing Shadowlands

Summary

Cheap AMD or Intel base laptops with iGPUs I just tested can handle WoW although without rock solid FPS being guaranteed. Dragonflight will have some bigger zones with increased draw distance but at lower settings the draw distance will be already limited - the game will run but you won't get the full visual effect as planned.

If you want a handheld or some premium laptop then those can deliver better performance but at a high premium tax - so if you need for more than just WoW then it may be an option. In other cases it would be good to look for something with a decent entry level dGPU. And early 2023 will bring newer mobile chips as well.

In case of laptops with iGPU only the performance you can get can also vary greatly even within the same CPU models. This is related to power limit set for the laptop. Some ultra thin laptops will run CPUs at lower power limit which means lower performance. I would recommend checking detailed reviews of a model you want to pick to see if there are no problems with the performance.

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