Final Words

Considering the IGP market accounts for almost 90% of PC shipments, it's very apparent that boards in this sector must meet a wide variety of goals in order to be successful. If nothing else, they must be the jack of all trades but master of none. The Intel G33 chipset reminds us of that philosophy.

What we basically have in the G33 chipset is a P35 core with a "GMA950+" IGP unit tacked on it. This means the G33 based boards will perform very well in a variety of tasks that do not rely on video processing power. While the video capabilities of the G33 will suffice for running Vista Aero, just about any office application, and a wide variety of non-3D based games, it is not up to the task of running the latest games, decoding 1080P HD content, or even providing decent video capabilities for a media station.

At the same time the video output is limited to analog only unless the motherboard manufacturer adds in a separate SDVO chipset, something most are not willing to do based upon the extra cost. While this output capability may suffice for some, the majority of monitors being sold today for PC use have DVI capability with HDMI quickly gaining traction. All of this is a moot point if you pair the board with one of the latest GPU solutions, but at the same time why should you need to if the competition is already offering HDMI 1.2 output, DVI output, 1080P playback capability, accelerated WMV playback, a superior Aero experience, and even better gaming performance? Okay, not that much better on the last, but enough that most people will notice if casual gaming is important to them.

We are generally disappointed with the video capabilities of the G33 chipset if it is not evident by now; however, we know Intel is addressing the majority of these concerns in the upcoming G35 release that features the new X3500 graphics core. With that said, the general performance of the chipset in applications is very good and with the addition of a dedicated GPU card would make for an excellent SFF platform.



As for the boards based upon the G33 chipset, each one is designed for a different market sector with the ASUS board going after the SOHO crowd, Gigabyte after the SFF gaming crowd, and MSI after the general business or casual home user. They all succeed in some form or fashion in their intended market space, though there are a few surprises.

Overall, we liked the ASUS board best. While it did not excel in every area, it was consistently good in each area. Overall compatibility with a wide variety of components and applications is better than the other two boards. It just seems as if any CPU, memory, video card, auxiliary card, input device, or storage item works well with it. This is not to slight MSI or Gigabyte as their compatibility with peripherals is excellent also, but these other two boards at times require certain BIOS settings or changes to function properly when the same components are plug and play on the ASUS board. The ASUS P5K-VM also offers the best overall performance of our G33 based boards and is certainly the easiest one to work with when overclocking. It is difficult to put into words, but the board simply works as it should -- sadly something that we can't say about some of the other offerings in this market.

If you plan on using one of these boards as a basis for a gaming system or in an SFF system and do not plan on serious overclocking, then the Gigabyte board probably has the best option list available and is the only board to offer RAID via the ICH9R and more than 5 SATA ports. Also, the Realtek ALC889a is an improvement over the ALC888/883 codecs utilized in the other boards. We prefer the general layout of the Gigabyte board and it offers very good stock performance, but it's a disappointment when overclocked compared to the other two boards. We have also grown tired of the Crayola color scheme, Ctrl-F1 "Top Secret BIOS options", and the lack of fan headers on the DS series of boards. That said, the board's use of quality components, support, and overall construction usually has us overlooking the other negatives, but not for too much longer. Then there's the price, which at $15 more than the ASUS and $40 more than the MSI is quite difficult to justify for some in this market sector.

That brings us to the MSI board. It has the lowest price of the group at $92.99 or less, and it's designed for the office crowd. It is the only G33 board to offer eSATA, although it limits the on-board SATA connections to three and still offers Firewire 400. The stock performance is very good and overclocking is excellent with a 1066 or 1333MHZ FSB processor -- provided you have proper CPU cooling as this board will require slightly higher CPU voltages. While this board requires the most effort in getting the BIOS set up properly for overclocking or utilizing 4GB of memory, it does perform very well and is just shy of the ASUS board in overall performance. Considering the price/performance ratio, we would say this board offers a great value in the G33 market sector for those needing above average performance with budget features.

However, these boards don't exist in a vacuum -- there are many other uATX options out there. We really cannot recommend any of these boards for the user who needs a basic HTPC setup and does not want to spend more on the GPU than they spent on the board, processor, and potentially memory in some cases. In the Intel world, the AMD Radeon X1250 offers a significantly better feature set, as do the NVIDIA MCP73 based boards that we will see in our next article. These same video capabilities are also available in the AMD 690G and (to a certain extent) the NVIDIA 7050 boards for AMD. That sometimes is the issue with being a jack of all trades: you get left out in the cold when somebody needs a master tradesman for a specific job.

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  • tooter2 - Sunday, September 30, 2007 - link

    Hi all. I had just ordered the DS2R board when I read your review, and how poor this board overclocked, exceeding fsb of 400, contrary to what I had read elsewhere. I was a bit concerned to say the least. Well, I just spent an hour running the newest memtest86 using this board with an e6750 at 7 X 500 = 3.50 GHz at default vcore using 2 X 1gig of DDR2 6400 GSkill at 5-5-5-15 with vdimm at +.2, and all other settings at default except for the power management settings so as to be sure that I was running at the high speeds. This was with the Intel stock cooler. I've also run memtest at 8 x 463 = 3.70 GHz, default vcore. CPU temp never exceed 38C. And I've used an older Antec Neopower 480 for my psu. I should add that this is with on-board video in a bare-bones setup, i.e., no case, no hdds, ide optical drive. This board appears to be an overclocking monster, not at all like your results.

    And I plan to use a video card in this board, but I bought it for its mATX size plus the fact that I can get a video card later. I want to see how the new AMD cards pan out, plus what Nvidia comes back with. This will be used in a HTPC setup, but a setup where I can play games as well. Hence, the e6750.
    Reply
  • tooter2 - Sunday, September 30, 2007 - link

    In the above post, I meant to say "not exceeding 400 fsb". Reply
  • jonp - Saturday, September 29, 2007 - link

    The Asus P5K-VM feature set chart shows only 1 PCI when it should say 2. Reply
  • overzealot - Saturday, September 29, 2007 - link

    The g33m-ds2r comes with an eSATA expansion slot bracket. It also makes it quite clear that it's supported on the product's site and on the box it comes in. Reply
  • falacy - Friday, September 28, 2007 - link

    Something I have noticed over the years is that this site doesn't really take an objective look at the "low end" hardware, from the perspective of those of who would purposely purchase these items - even though we're "tech savy". For instance,though I do agree that the absence of a DVI port isn't great, I find it hard to believe that I'm the only person who is still happily using a 17" CRT monitor at 1024x768 and it's pretty insulting to hear that anything without a DVI port isn't worth looking at. Did everyone forget that CRT monitors have better visual quality that LCDs - unless you're able to shell out far, far more money? I digress...

    Here is my path to the P5K-VM:

    When I moved in 2003, after losing my great job, I had to sell my good computer and when I finally got settled I was far too poor to replace it. That was 2004. Anyhow, I needed a computer so bought a Dell desktop (P4 2.8) and used it until 2005 with an Ati 9550SE graphics card. This was good enough to play Star Wars Galaxies, Everquest, and a whack of other games that I played at the time. Of course, it ran everything office-like too. Later on I was given an ATI 9800XT video card, which was very expensive when it first came out. Anyhow, in 2006 I upgraded to an Asrock board that could handle a Core2, yet still had the AGP slot so I could make use of the 9800XT. At the time, there weren't any cheap Core2 processors, so I bought a P4 531 and it was a decent upgrade from the Dell. All this was awesome (and for the games I played I was happy), until recently when I bought I bought a Pentium Dual-Core 2160 and then was lucky enough to have the fan on my 9800XT fail, which awesomely fried the GPU. Yay. I was back to using the i865G graphics, as had given away my 9950SE and the only other cards in my collection of junk weren't any better than the onboard video.

    And this brings me to yesterday, when I set up my new system.

    I bought 1GB RAM and a P5K-VM and after testing it out, I found that the graphics capabilities trounce the i865G onboard video, in the practical testing of playing World of Warcraft as well as in 3DMark2000 scores; the G33 is smooth and playable in WoW at 1024x768, where as the i865G was somewhat choppy at 800x600. Also, the apart from playing at 1x AA rather than 4x AA, the G33 scored the same in 3DMark2000 as the old Ati 9550SE that I used to have. And finally, it really isn't that much of a downgrade from the Ati 9800XT (which sucked up so much power even in idle, the air from my PSU went from HOT to cool when I stopped using it!) in World of Warcraft (the only game I really play now). Sure, AA is nice, but I like the electicity/heat/noise savings better. Down the road, I may purchase a fanless PCI-E graphics card if the NEED arises.

    All together, I believe a lot more credit should be given to the value of these motherboards. In fact, I have felt since the first onboard video chipsets to offer full AGP support that so long as you're not giving up any important features, it's pretty stupid for the average person to buy a motherboard without onboard video - you never know when you're going to need it! There is a huge list of fun gaming titles that the onboard graphics can play with Playstation 2 quality (or better) graphics quality and I think that this information is lost on the Anandtech crowd. Also, these systems can run with Windows XP and 1GB RAM and be completely amazing in compairison to what was available just two short years ago!

    The P5K-VM is a perfect motherboard for a person like me, who has some dispoable income to build a computer over time and enough patience to make that happen. Eventually, I can add 8GB of RAM or a wicked graphics card (if ever I feel like playing more than WoW or Neverwinter Nights) or 4 SATA drives to run software RAID5 (or 4 IDE drives to use with my promise controller) or a camcorder to use the 1394 or a super-mega quad-core, low power consumption CPU.

    Seems to me that anyone with a 17" CRT monitor, which often has better visual quality than the crappy LCDs people peddle these days, would be very wise to buy one of these boards now and upgrade as "the itch" and their budget fits!
    Reply
  • lopri - Saturday, September 29, 2007 - link

    Dunno whether I should laugh or cry over your post. Are you being serious or sarcastic? Sorry it was a long day and I'm not that a sharp person. Reply
  • falacy - Sunday, September 30, 2007 - link

    That's exactly what I am talking about: The inability of so many people on Anandtech to see from the "Average Person"'s perspective. Funny enough, it just happens to be that "Average Person" makes up the majority of the computer purchasers in North America.

    As a person who has managed a "ma & pa" computer store in a small town, I can tell you that even the most inept of "boony noobs" out there has some computer knowledge these days. And, many people still have some decent hardware kicking around that, considering the things they actually USE a computer for, they can squeeze a bit more value out of. Heck, it was just two years ago that replaced an AMSTRAD 200 portable computer with a laptop that ended up frustrating the hell out the customer, because it didn't do all the things here ancient computer did (such as print to her equally ancient printer). In fact, my computer is housed in a modified 486 AT server tower that we took in on trade that was being used as an office server until the we replaced it in 2005. For "Average People" doing average things with average expectations, it's amazing how long a computer can last (Personally, I used my Celeron 300a Malay @450MHz & Abit BH6 Rev2 for over 3 years). Look at it this way, if all you're doing is crunching numbers and typing, my 486SX 25MHz laptop with Word Perfect 5.1 and Lotus 123 will still get the job done (and it will boot faster than anything else out there today).

    Anyhow, it may come as a surprise that not everyone has enough money to just buy what ever the heck they want, when ever they feel like it. No, most of us have to set priorities in life - I believe that has something to do with being an adult and/or a parent. Consiquently, "Average People" like me (in wealth, as aposed to computer knowledge) have to wiegh the pros and cons a little more carefully and for someone like myself, I'd rather through some spare money at more storage space for my movies or a camcorder or a better TV to watch said movies on than I would an uber graphics card.

    The plain truth of the matter is that the G33 under Windows XP can play fun games like Quake 3, Neverwinter Nights, World of Warcraft, and many other great 1999-2004 titles. All the while, it can do so using that CRT you probably already own, that likely still looks just as good as new and will give you a sharper image at 1024x768 than the low-end LCD you'd likely buy. Finally, a board like the P5K-VM is amazing, because should a person strike it rich they could upgrade the hell out of their computer without ever needing to consider buying a new motherboard - DDR3, 45nm CPU, Gigabit LAN, 8 channel audio? Boy, that seems pretty "bleeding edge" from vantage point on ye o'l interweb!

    There's a lot of potential (for the "Average Person") in these boards.
    Reply
  • strikeback03 - Tuesday, October 02, 2007 - link

    I don't think a CRT can ever give a "sharper" image than an LCD - kinda the nature of the beast with discrete pixels vs a scanning electron beam. Now your CRT probably has better colors and almost certainly has better viewing angles than the average cheap LCD, but is almost certainly not sharper.

    also, 1024x768 is REALLY small. Even using the internet is cramped, and forget the average programming environment or photo editing program.

    finally, it does not appear the P5K-VM supports DDR3. The chipset can, but most motherboard makers are choosing either DDR2 or DDR3, as the slots are different, and they cannot be used simultaneously.
    Reply
  • ltcommanderdata - Friday, September 28, 2007 - link

    Can we please get a review of the 14.31.1 XP driver for the GMA X3000 that enables hardware DX9.0c SM3.0 acceleration? I know you've switched over to Vista, but the 15.6 driver release notes don't mention that they added hardware acceleration so it looks like only the 14.31 and the newer 14.31.1 XP drivers have it. I would love to see a comparison between the GMA X3000, Xpress X1250, Geforce 7150, and a discrete X1300HM and 8500GT.

    You're probably saving the new drivers for an IGP review when the G35 GMA X3500 comes out (October 21?), but it would be nice to have numbers for the GMA X3000 too for comparison.
    Reply
  • IntelUser2000 - Tuesday, October 02, 2007 - link

    quote:

    Can we please get a review of the 14.31.1 XP driver for the GMA X3000 that enables hardware DX9.0c SM3.0 acceleration? I know you've switched over to Vista, but the 15.6 driver release notes don't mention that they added hardware acceleration so it looks like only the 14.31 and the newer 14.31.1 XP drivers have it. I would love to see a comparison between the GMA X3000, Xpress X1250, Geforce 7150, and a discrete X1300HM and 8500GT.

    You're probably saving the new drivers for an IGP review when the G35 GMA X3500 comes out (October 21?), but it would be nice to have numbers for the GMA X3000 too for comparison.


    I agree, they should run XP driver tests. Better yet, they should test out G965 to see the taste of G35.

    Here's my results:

    From Gary-"We set our quality settings to medium or low where applicable except for the first two are set to high and the sliders are set in the middle spot."

    With that in mind, I did a test. However I wasn't sure whether Object Scarring and Post processing were on or off. I did both tests.

    AT settings+Object Scarring/Post Processing Off-12.5
    AT settings+Object Scarring/Post Processing On-11.6

    I also use Dual Channel DDR2-800 with 5-5-5-15 ram and E6600. I found out that in Company of Heroes, performance increased by 10% going from 5-6-6-18 to 5-5-5-15.

    Supreme Commander: 8.381

    I am using 14.31.1 driver and XP SP2.



    Reply

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