Tested: Kaby Lake-Powered Laptops Can Play Overwatch (With Limits)
When Intel first showed off its new 7th Gen "Kaby Lake" CPUs, it made a bold claim: that an XPS 13 with the new chipset could play Overwatch with integrated graphics. On stage at the Intel Developers Forums, the company took a notebook with a Core-i5 CPU and played the game on stage.
Later, at a meeting about the new CPUs, I asked Intel representatives what settings were used to play the game. When we got in the latest XPS 13 to review, I decided to recreate the experiment. In short: a computer with a Kaby Lake CPU can play Overwatch... to a point.
I grabbed a review unit that came with an 2.5-Ghz Intel Core i5-7200U CPU, 8GB of RAM, a 256GB SSD, 1080p display and, of course, Intel HD Graphics 620. I installed Battle.net, downloaded Overwatch and got to fragging.
On medium settings at 720p (the specs I was told were used at the show), the game was pretty stable at 30 frames per second, but occasionally would drop to 25 or 26 fps as I stomped across Eichenwald with D.Va's mech to riddle the enemy team with lasers. Even when I bumped the resolution to 1080p and protected my team's payload with Reinhardt's shields, the game ran relatively smoothly, maintaining the same 30 fps. The only problem was that in both cases, the game appeared blurry. The edges of Reaper's hellfire shotguns were jagged, and the characters posing on the games menu screen lacked detail in their armor and faces.
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Most gamers (myself included) would rather play at a buttery 60 fps, so I decided to try removing the 30 fps cap in settings. At medium on 1080p, I laid traps across Ilios as Junkrat and found that the XPS 13 pushed up to 54 frames per second, which felt much smoother, but would also occasionally drop down to 26 frames per second.
Despite the fuzzy visuals and occasional drops below 30 fps, I tried pushing up to high settings on 1080p, and the game struggled to hit 30 fps while I healed my teammates as Mercy during a skirmish. The game simply wasn't reliable enough to be playable at this point.
So technically, yes, you can play Overwatch, and for integrated graphics, it's an impressive feat. If I was stuck waiting at an airport without a gaming machine, sure, I might play to stave off boredom. But it's far from the best experience that the game offers, and I'd much rather play on a console or legitimate gaming PC to enjoy the game as it was meant to be played: with smooth, detailed graphics and a consistent frame rate. The XPS 13 doesn't touch a gaming notebook.
And while Overwatch is an intensive game, it's far from being one of the most graphically challenging on the market. There are still tons of games you won't be able to play at all. In most cases, I'd opt to play these on a real gaming machine, but hey, you can't argue with progress.