Following Up Our Impressions
Though I can’t say I’ve ever really looked forward to the launch of an integrated graphics chipset, I’m certainly willing to admit when core logic with an onboard GPU is worth buying. AMD’s 780G was the first value-oriented platform I’d seen in a while that really deserved some attention. Not only did it hit an attractive price point under $100, but it also included capable graphics, hardware-accelerated video playback, and a solid array of display outputs.
Best of all, I thought, it supported SurroundView, AMD’s technology that lets you drop in a compatible discrete card and control as many as four displays through Catalyst Control Center. I’ve used the 780G’s SurroundView capability with X1650s, HD 3870s, and HD 4670s to similarly pleasant results. The fact that entry-level Phenoms are so affordable only serves to make the story better.
And while Intel isn’t really known for its low-priced quad-core chips, it doesn’t need to be—the company’s dual-core processors are plenty fast already. So when Nvidia started talking to us about its nForce 730i/GeForce 9300 platform, we wondered if the AMD solutions would finally be challenged by an entry-level platform for Intel processors (check out our GeForce 9300 review posted yesterday for more on the chipset itself).
Overall, I was impressed, though the lack of an official SurroundView-like feature left me leaning toward the 780G/790GX side of things. After circling back with Nvidia representatives, it turns out you can achieve the same thing with 730i. It just doesn’t have a marketing name—and we’re OK with that. So four displays with AMD or four displays with Nvidia; the two platforms are comparable there.
Also, as forum user Pei-chen reminded me, there is no Hybrid Power support available, suggesting this is core logic for someone either 1) sticking to integrated graphics or 2) at most using GeForce Boost. We confirmed this point with Nvidia. Little things to keep in mind as you weigh back and forth between an inexpensive AMD-based system and a entry-level Intel workstation.
Oh, and that reminds me—and this will satisfy the folks who wanted to see something more than an Athlon 64 X2 5400+ up against the dual-core E7200. I also received some feedback directly from AMD with a reminder that 790GX boards can be had for as little as $100 online, if you’re willing to take the Biostar route. Though I have no experience with that particular board, snagging it would let you also grab an entry-level Phenom X4 to put against our Core 2 Duo E7200 setup. But who knows, we may see less expensive i730 boards pop up a month down the road that’ll continue skewing the price comparison.
Around The Web
The GeForce 9300 itself really didn’t spring into the world with much fanfare. More folks focused on the fact that Apple has moved away from Intel core logic in favor of the Nvidia chipset. Nevertheless, I did manage to check out a handful of other stories and picked up on some interesting tidbits from other folks’ testing.
For instance, Geoff over at Tech Report brought up a detail that I neglected to mention. Whereas we tested the GeForce 9300 and GeForce 8500 GT in a GeForce Boost configuration, leveling both GPUs at the issue of graphics, you can also delegate the mGPU to handle physics calculations-only while the GeForce 8500 GT works on graphics on its own. This configuration is called Hybrid PhysX and is supported in the WHQL drivers that Nvidia distributed with its press kits.
Anand’s piece identified in more granular detail the issues we saw in our Sandra memory bandwidth benchmark, which indeed carried over to affect a number of our productivity-oriented tests (though his didn’t seem to be affected). The issue, according to his story, is that Nvidia hasn’t yet enabled the Advance Path feature—a memory controller prefetcher—that’d reportedly yield better latency results than what was seen. The fix is expected quickly, fortunately.
Finally, Shadow703793 asked in the comment section of our 730i piece and was promised some overclocking results. We didn’t try tweaking the 730i—and it seems like most of the other folks looking at these boards decided to focus on stock settings as well. However, Geoff did tweak his MSI board (the same one we used) and found that it was able to take his Pentium E2180 up to 3 GHz. So there Shadow, there’s not much overclocking detail floating around, but the board’s FSB does seem to be fairly flexible at least.