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Graphics Boosted: 790GX's Side-Port Explored

Graphics Boosted: 790GX's Side-Port Explored
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The last two years have been increasingly difficult for AMD. Although the company’s product portfolio is modern and powerful, Intel has had a hot hand when it comes to releasing new processors and platforms. The Core 2 Duo has dominated performance metrics since its introduction, and AMD is late with its own ultra-mobile, low cost platform to compete with Intel’s Menlow platform with its Atom processor. That said, AMD, post-ATI acquisition, is usually superior when it comes to the performance of integrated graphics chipsets. The current 790GX chipset, with its side-port memory option, aims to extend this leadership.

Since the high-end and upper mainstream desktop segments are out of reach for AMD, the firm had to look at optimizing the value of its mainstream and low-cost products. The results can be seen when comparing processor prices. There are hardly any AMD processors that cost more than $200 today, ensuring AMD’s products remain competitive from a price/performance standpoint. These improvements have had an influence on platforms, as AMD’s 790GX chipset (and the 780G) offer a side-port memory option, allowing motherboard manufacturers to add a limited amount of real graphics memory to complement the standard shared memory.

Platform Choices

Enthusiasts will not go for a platform with integrated graphics—they will typically install a full-blown graphics card for performance reasons. However, the capabilities of integrated platforms have improved impressively, especially when it comes to 3D performance and HD video playback. Although there still aren’t any integrated chipsets that can provide serious 3D performance for the latest game titles, they have become extremely versatile. The flexibility to install additional graphics cards to hook up more displays and options to increase graphics performance by utilizing ATI’s CrossfireX or Nvidia’s Hybrid SLI have made integrated graphics platforms by both companies excellent choices for the mainstream.

SiS and VIA effectively stopped competing for the mainstream, leaving most of this market to AMD and Nvidia. Nvidia has its so-called mGPUs, which are motherboard-integrated graphics processing units. The current models are the GeForce 8200 to 8300 types, which provide traditional integrated graphics, paired with DirectX 10 capabilities and Hybrid SLI graphics for performance enhancements, support for multiple monitors and potential power savings. AMD has had its 780G chipset, and it introduced the 790GX several months ago, upgrading the graphics unit from the Radeon HD 3200 to HD 3300 level and introducing its PowerPlay power-saving feature and the revised SB750 southbridge.

We will have a look at the graphics flexibility and performance of the 790GX in this article using a Jetway HA07 Ultra motherboard that comes with the side-port memory option.

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  • 0 Hide
    pjumpleby , 9 December 2008 14:43
    Running one additional Radeon HD graphics card (up to a Radeon HD 3470) allows the enabling of Hybrid SLI

    shouldn't it read "allows the enabling of Hybrid Crossfire"
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , 9 December 2008 16:55
    Lol @ above comment xD
  • 0 Hide
    wild9 , 9 December 2008 19:31
    Be interested to see the overclocking results, and I really can't fault this hardware (aside from limiting the DDR3 memory to a 64-bit bus rather than 128). Older games should be fine, and you get HD capability (one that actually works), as well as plenty of upgrade options even if you install a cheap card. Well done, AMD.
  • 0 Hide
    pete3867 , 9 December 2008 22:43
    yeah this is a very smart move ,i,am looking to upgrade from my skt 939 and doing it this way allows me to spread the cost by not having to buy a graphics card straight off
  • 0 Hide
    Solitaire , 11 December 2008 19:35
    Hopefully AMD will release a HD4370-based onboard solution with HybridCF compatibility with HD4550 cards. Low-profile mATX systems are really suffering at the moment. Plus that above setup could actually be decent if the 4370 was OCd and had 256MB GDDR3 sideport with a 128bit interface. A HD4000-based GPU on one of their ITX boards would make things interesting too - we've seen elsewhere how scalable AMD CPUs and GPUs are with regards input voltage (hint: undervolting can give surprising TDP results...)

    And when the hell will HD4000 chips start appearing on mobos and laptops anyhow? They'd be a pretty compelling reason to go AMD on the smaller platforms; its been shown already that AMD can undervolt 65nm X4 quads to run with a lower TDP than Nanos (
  • 0 Hide
    Solitaire , 11 December 2008 19:37
    Hopefully AMD will release a HD4370-based onboard solution with HybridCF compatibility with HD4550 cards. Low-profile mATX systems are really suffering at the moment. Plus that above setup could actually be decent if the 4370 was OCd and had 256MB GDDR3 sideport with a 128bit interface. A HD4000-based GPU on one of their ITX boards would make things interesting too - we've seen elsewhere how scalable AMD CPUs and GPUs are with regards input voltage (hint: undervolting can give surprising TDP results...)

    And when the hell will HD4000 chips start appearing on mobos and laptops anyhow? They'd be a pretty compelling reason to go AMD on the smaller platforms; its been shown already that AMD can undervolt 65nm X4 quads to run with a lower TDP than Nanos (
  • 0 Hide
    Solitaire , 11 December 2008 19:38
    Cool, even the comment box fails now :( 
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , 11 December 2008 20:05
    Absolute tosh, who in there right mind would even consider this for gaming. If you don't game then you don't need it! If you do game you need better. There is no market for this. Buy the 8800GT/9800GT or the 4830 and get a board without crossfire and sideport. It ends up the same price and much quicker.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , 2 March 2009 02:39
    "Absolute tosh, who in there right mind would even consider this for gaming. If you don't game then you don't need it! If you do game you need better. There is no market for this. Buy the 8800GT/9800GT or the 4830 and get a board without crossfire and sideport. It ends up the same price and much quicker" :) :) :)  ... Yo frodo ( to anonymous ) wake up ... Most of the boards that have the 790 have multiple pcie slots ... so you can actually use the crossfire option if you have two ( o lets say ) HD3850 or other , it will shut down the igp yes .. but it would only slow down performance anyways ... on the other hand the chip is good , overclocks very well , it has AM3+ support and stuff .. so it can be used to make a mean gaming machine . And what`s more you can build it in stages , lets say you are short on money right now first get just the board and CPU and ram and a 3450 , in a couple of months when the bank account has filed up you can sell the HD3450 on e-bay and by one HD4650 .. then in time another or change to a AM3+ CPU ... The boards with the 790 gives you the freedom to adapt your machine over time .
  • 0 Hide
    SupaNova5k , 20 October 2009 19:06
    Hi Guys,

    I read through the article and it says that the new HD3300 chipset handles 1080i nicely. How does it perform at 1080p with all the Sideport + addition shared memory etc?