Nvidia leads off its marketing material with “good enough is no longer good enough.” The combination of DirectX 10 graphics, CUDA technology, video decoding, PhysX, and GeForce Boost is said to push the GeForce 9300’s capabilities beyond merely ample. And while the chipset successfully stomps Intel’s G45 in all things 3D, it still sports a built-in graphics engine based on discrete GeForce 8400 GS/9300 GS technology, consisting of 16 unified shaders, eight texture mapping units, and four ROPs. When it comes to a majority of modern games that you’d want to see at reasonable quality settings, integrated graphics still cannot be considered good enough. You’d want at least an add-in GeForce 8500 GT in order to realize GeForce Boost mode. And even then, with as many compelling $100-and-lower cards out there, an inexpensive graphics upgrade is really the only way to fly.
With the idea that Crysis is going to look good on an integrated chipset set aside, Nvidia’s nForce 730i is actually welcome competition to Intel’s G45. When you put MSI’s P7NGM-Digital and Intel’s DG45ID next to each other, the platforms seem quite similar. Superficially, Nvidia enables parallel ATA. But buried inside the silicon, you also get hardware-accelerated PhysX through compatible games, CUDA support in the tiny number of applications optimized for it, seemingly more mature Blu-ray playback, and competitive platform performance. Intel had an excellent opportunity with its G45, but with GeForce 9300 available, budget buyers seem to have a better mainstream platform to complement Intel’s Core 2 processors.
To top it off, the MSI board is cheaper, too. Just bear in mind that you do get what you pay for. The P7NGM-Digital does not include a dual-link DVI port—a decision Nvidia says is up to each motherboard vendor. In a desktop environment, we’d recommend looking for another board able to take full advantage of Nvidia’s display output capabilities. But if you are using it as the foundation for a home theater PC, HDMI would likely be your interface of choice anyway.
How about GeForce 9300 versus AMD 790GX? So far, AMD’s exceptional entry-level chipsets have been the biggest reason to build Phenom-based boxes. The 790GX remains the most exciting thanks to its overclocking-friendly SB750 southbridge. However, AMD’s 780G is still a viable option when price is of principal importance. Nvidia’s GeForce 9300 serves up faster 3D overall, though. Yes, AMD scores a handful of wins in titles not optimized for GeForce Boost, but the GeForce is paired to Intel’s Core 2 CPUs, which make a big difference in productivity tests.
Nvidia’s GeForce 9300 might not be powerful enough to make real gaming possible, but the chipset, taken as a whole, is strong enough to shore up Intel’s position against AMD at the entry-level—a previous 780G stronghold. Just do yourself a favor and find a board with dual-link DVI and an optical audio output, two features that were missing from MSI’s P7NGM-Digital.
- Out Of The Chipset Business? Not Yet, At Least
- MSI’s P7NGM-Digital Motherboard
- Test System And Benchmark Configuration
- Benchmark Results: Synthetic
- Benchmark Results: Productivity
- Benchmark Results: Audio/Video
- Benchmark Results: Integrated Gaming
- Benchmark Results: Hybrid Gaming
- DVD Playback
- Power And Pricing