I plan on building a computer with Intel Xeon E3 1231v3 which has no GPU:

Graphics Specifications

Processor Graphics: None

on a Gigabyte GA-Z97X-UD5H motherboard which has an onboard integrated graphics processor:

Integrated Graphics Processor:

  1. 1 x D-Sub port, supporting a maximum resolution of 1920x1200@60Hz
  2. 1 x DVI-D port, supporting a maximum resolution of 1920x1200@60Hz
  3. 1 x HDMI port, supporting a maximum resolution of 4096x2160@24Hz or 2560x1600@60Hz
  4. Support for up to 3 displays at the same time
  5. Maximum shared memory of 512 MB

I have asked another question and know that even if the CPU has no GPU, I can still get video as long as the motherboard has onboard graphics. However, when I went to buy the parts at a computer center yesterday, the technician said motherboards nowadays use CPU's GPU to display, including this Gigabyte GA-Z97X-UD5H motherboard (which he meant this board has no real onboard graphics).

So for Xeon E3 1231v3 + Gigabyte GA-Z97X-UD5H to display, do I need a video card or not?

(I don't really care about the graphics quality. I use the computer mostly to write programs, web browsing, and Photoshop, and seldom play games or watch videos.)

  • I bought the v1230/1v3 because it saves Intel and us costs by not including the on-chip GPU. I wasn't planning to run a headless server, but get a discrete card for gaming and video watching (I think Intel can give you 4 hours of undropped frames at the actual framerate of the current common framerate in film; I've yet to exceed this.). +1 to you and the answer, but I find this a bit easier to read: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… – Louis Aug 28 '14 at 23:54
  • Louis, thanks for comment. What you wanna point out in the wiki? – midnite Aug 29 '14 at 10:21
  • Windows can run without GPU, but recent motherboards refuse to boot without GPU (probably assuming that you would want it or they need one for UEFI setup). My Asrock motherboard refused to boot with Xeon E3 1231, so I contacted Asrock. They modified the bios so that it would not check for GPU and sent it to me. I am not sure if they would do it again, but at least they did at that time. – Damn Vegetables Jun 22 '15 at 1:16

With older systems, the 'onboard' graphics was a distinct chip on the motherboard. With modern intel systems, from sandy bridge onwards, its part of the CPU. The chipset that the video adaptor was part of has been merged into the CPU proper.

The mainstream processors the z97 is designed for have GPUs built in. The server chips do not, and the onboard graphics outs simply would not work. You'd want to consider a comparable mainstream processor to use the onboard graphics, or to use pretty much any PCIe graphics card.

So in this specific case, you do need a seperate graphics card, and your onboard ports will do nothing at all.

More generally, if an intel processor from sandy bridge generation or later has integrated video, its on chip. All xeons, and some mainstream processors would not have the graphics core, and any on board video wouldn't work.

A good way is to check the intel ARK page for the processor and check for "CPU graphics* as you did, and assume any board with 'none' will not have the on board ports functional.

In addition some boards don't have graphics out (which would be obvious), or let you use processor graphics and discrete graphics at once (The SB era P series boards for example). Any board that supports lucid logix should let you run both at once

With AMD processors, in general A-Series processors always have onboard video, FX series and opterons don't. I don't have direct experience with these, but this seems to be the case off wikipedia.

Generally server boards have low end graphics chips as opposed to on processor graphics, since they can safely assume you have no GPU, nor the desire to install one.

  • Thanks for reply. Yes you are right. Just reconfirmed from GIGABYTE that "Thank you for your kindly mail and inquiry. About the issue you mentioned, the onboard graphics is supported depends on the CPU being used. If you use the Intel Xeon E3-1231 v3 CPU in GA-Z97X-UD5H (rev. 1.1), you need to install external graphics card to display your system." – midnite Aug 27 '14 at 1:12
  • In short, we can assume Haswell (or Sandy Bridge as well) motherboards has NO onboard graphics, no matter they have the VGA/DVI/HDMI ports or not. Right? – midnite Aug 29 '14 at 10:26

You don't need a display card for this. The motherboard in question has a GPU, and it has VGA, HDMI and DVI outputs directly on the board.

The technician you talked to obviously had no idea, or was trying to upsell you the display card.

Don't expect to be gaming from this setup, but desktop work and videos should work just fine. You can always add a display card if you find you need one for heavier graphics. Be aware that the maximum resolution on DVI is 1920x1200, but if you can use HDMI it can go up to a higher resolution.

The specs for the board says:

Integrated Graphics Processor: 
1 x D-Sub port, supporting a maximum resolution of 1920x1200@60Hz 
1 x DVI-D port, supporting a maximum resolution of 1920x1200@60Hz
* The DVI-D port does not support D-Sub connection by adapter. 
1 x HDMI port, supporting a maximum resolution of 4096x2160@24Hz or 2560x1600@60Hz
* Support for HDMI 1.4a version. Support for up to 3 displays at the same time Maximum shared memory of 512MB
  • Thanks for answer. Is it that if a motherboard has VGA/DVI output port, it has onboard GPU? By the way, I have not seen a motherboard with no video output ports. All motherboards have onboard GPU? – midnite Aug 24 '14 at 8:13
  • 2
    Not entirely true with modern intel chips - they're moving to something close to a SOC like design, and there's no GPU on boards. – Journeyman Geek Aug 24 '14 at 8:37

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