Intel HD 520 (Review) – Graphics of 6th Gen Core U-Series CPUs
The Intel HD 520 is a graphics processor you can find integrated in the 6th Generation Intel Core U-series “Skylake” CPUs, such as the popular Core i5-6200U and i7-6500U. These chips are typically used in the mainstream notebooks, ultraportables, and select lower-end gaming laptops.
The GPU brings a slight performance improvement over the previous generation Intel HD 5500, primarily thanks to a bit higher clock speeds of 1,000 or 1050 MHz (depending on CPU model) instead of 900 MHz, as well as doubled number or ROP and TMU units. What’s not visible in graphics rendering benchmarks, such as 3D Mark 11 below, is improved support for 4K content decoding, resulting in lower CPU use when you play these high-resolution videos. As expected, 4K, Full HD, and lower resolution videos run perfectly smooth on the Intel HD 520.
Intel HD 520 3D Mark 11 Benchmark
For this review, we used an HP Pavilion 15 15.6-inch Full HD laptop with the mid-range Intel Core i5-6200U processor with the Intel HD 520 graphics, 8GB of dual-channel system memory (2 x 4GB modules), and a standard 5,400rpm mechanical hard drive with 1TB capacity. The tested machine had Windows 10 Home operating system and Intel HD 10.18.15.4281 drivers installed. Keep in mind that laptops with single channel memory setups, with one RAM module instead of two or more, won’t have as good integrated graphics performance as the dual-channel ones. Also, different processor models like the i3, i5 and i7, different thermal designs of laptops’ chassis, as well as BIOS settings, can influence performance of the Intel HD 520 and other integrated graphics processors.
Gameplays were recorded with help of a specialized capture card on another computer instead of using software recorders which can degrade system performance.
The world’s most popular MMORPG League of Legends on maximal graphics detail settings and 1080p 1920×1080 resolution runs flawlessly, with around 50 frames per second. If you primarily play this hardware non-demanding game, the HD 520 IGP is an almost equally good choice as some high-end dedicated video card.
DOTA 2 is another famous MMORPG title. It requires better hardware resources than LoL and you won’t be able to play it on maximal settings and Full HD with the Intel HD 520. Instead an optimal choice appears to be 720p HD-class resolutions like 1280×720 and lower-mid detail settings. Frame rates in this case are around 45. If you increase settings to higher-medium, fps will drop to around 35 mark.
The Intel HD 520 can render PC game classic Minecraft effortlessly on the highest settings. Frame rates were somewhere between 60 and 70 fps most of the time.
Counter Strike: Global Offensive – the most played first person shooter game, isn’t a graphics-rich title. On the positive side, it doesn’t require gaming-class hardware. On the Intel HD 520 graphics, you can play it on 720p resolution and high settings, with around 65 fps most of the time.
The latest iteration of Grand Theft Auto – GTA 5, isn’t so integrated graphics-friendly as the CS:GO. One can say the game is barely playable on the reviewed GPU. With all settings set to minimum and 720p resolution, frame rates vary between 20 and 25 fps.
Battlefield 4 works quite smooth, if you’re willing to make a compromise and dial down resolution to 720p and put settings on medium. However, there was a glitch with displaying ground textures, which we weren’t able to fix by changing graphics settings or reinstalling graphics drivers and the game.
A similar story is with Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare. Frame rates varied greatly, depending on scene, but generally they were mostly between 30 and 50 fps on minimal settings and 720p resolution. Unfortunately, a serious graphics rendering glitch on a part of the first level was very annoying, as you can see in the first part of the video. Again, we weren’t able to fix it.
Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim runs very well on low / 720p settings, with mostly 50 – 60 fps.
FIFA 2016 is easily playable, but the settings need to be put on minimum to achieve gameplay without stutter. During standard camera shots of the matches, frame rates are around 55 fps, while during zoomed in scenes like goal celebrations, when the objects are bigger, they drop to around 30 fps.
For a list of laptops with the Intel HD 520 click here.
Note: The benchmark scores of the listed graphics processors are averages measured across various devices with these processors. The scores and real-world performance of the Intel HD 520 and compared GPUs may vary depending on the notebooks' other components, settings, cooling, and other factors (especially single-channel vs faster dual-channel RAM and speed of the main processor). However, the benchmark results, as well as gameplay videos, are good indicators of the graphics processors' performance.
Specifications of the Intel HD 520
Here are the most important specs of the Intel HD 520:
Intel HD 520 Graphics
Integrated graphics (uses laptop's RAM as video memory)
|Number of Execution Units, Cores, Shaders||
|ROPs / TMUs||
8 / 16
|Core Clock Speed||
300 – 1,000 / 1,050 MHz
|Memory Bus Width||
|Video Memory Size||
Shared main memory, depends on system
DDR3 shared system memory
|Video Memory Speed||
Depends on system
|3D Mark 11 (Performance Mode) Score||
User Reviews, Q&A, and Videos on the Intel HD 520
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