The vast majority of notebooks and netbooks on the market make do with Intel integrated graphics. Intel holds the vast majority of the GPU market with its integrated graphics chipsets, including the GMA 954GM and GSE940 among others.
These GPUs are fine for general computing and surfing the Internet. However, should you decide to play a 3D game on a computer running these Intel integrated GPUs it becomes clear quickly that the GPU is the bottleneck for gaming performance.
Basic games are playable on notebooks of the type you find online, but if you throw a game on a netbook that needs 3D acceleration, you swiftly realize your hardware is lacking. Today we are going to look at a software offering called GMABooster that promises to improve the gaming prowess of most Intel GPUs. Does it work? Read on to find out.
What Is GMABooster?
GMABooster is a free software application that allows you to overclock the GPU inside your netbook or notebook easily. According to the FAQ page on the company website, the Intel GPU is a low voltage version of the Intel 945 chipset. The graphics core on the mobile versions of the GPU is underclocked to 166/133MHz rather than the 400MHz that the standard Intel 945 chipset runs at. However, the GPUs are the same, meaning that with slight tweaks the mobile GPU should be able to run much higher clock speeds. The software maker claims that GMABooster can boost game performance by about 25% in pure GPU tests like 3DMark2005 and 2006 providing for up to 2.4 times the performance.
To say we were a bit skeptical would be an understatement, so we decided to put the company's 3DMark06 claims to the test. To verify if in fact the software is able to meet the claims I am using an MSI Wind U100 netbook running the Intel GMA 945 GSE chipset and Intel GMA 950 GPU. The software promises that all you need to do to get your integrated GPU to run at 400MHz is start the application up and choose the speed from the drop down list; you don't even have to reboot the computer to get the faster speeds.
Installing the software is dead simple; you just download the app, run the exe file and you are done. The catch to the application being free is that you have to download it from a server that wants you to pay for an account. It does offer free downloads, but you have to sit for 90 seconds as it counts down before you can download the application. The other catch is that each week you are forced to download a new version of the application.
Benchmarks - 3DMark06
The proof is in the pudding and now we will be testing the performance of the software using my MSI Wind U100. I installed the software and loaded 3DMark06 onto the U100. I also wanted to run some real world game tests, but none of the games I have on hand will run on the Wind, no thanks to the lowly integrated GPU.
I ran 3DMark06 at all default settings in the application and in the graphics drivers before installing the GMABooster software. Check out the screen shot below for the results of the first test run.
After installing the software, I ran 3DMark06 at the same exact settings with the GMABooster application running at an indicated 400MHz frequency for the GMA 950 GPU in the U100. Check out the screen shot below for the results.
As you can see, the GMABooster application did actually work. It simply overclocked the GPU from its default 166MHz to 400MHz. At 400MHz, the performance of the GPU on 3DMark06 was about 86% higher than before we ran the application. The performance gains are certainly not earth shattering, but they are gains nonetheless and could make the difference between playing some games and not playing them.
GMABooster did deliver on its promise, even if the performance of the netbook was still far from what a normal notebook would score. It's hard to really complain about an application that is free and actually does improve 3DMark06 performance as it claims. When it comes to netbooks, most users will agree that you take any performance gains where you can get them.
Overall, the GMABooster application is easy to use, costs nothing and works. The only bad things I can say are that you have to download a new version each week and the server used for the downloads is a bit annoying with its wait period for free downloads.
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