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.

Audio Performance
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  • strikeback03 - Friday, September 28, 2007 - link

    When building a couple computers for work using the MSI P35 Platinum board, it appears they don't support eSATA hot-swapping, at least not in XP. I know my Foxconn G965 board at home can do it. Is this behavior still present in the MSI board here? Is it a P35 limitation, or BIOS, or what? Reply
  • hans007 - Friday, September 28, 2007 - link

    I dont get it...

    an svdo card (add2-n) with dvi output costs what $6 on ebay. why dont you guys just buy one, so you can test these with digital.

    also the video driver in vista 32bit is not as mature still as the recently released gma 3000 compatible XP driver.

    most people actually have XP so could another round of benchmarks in XP be run? I probably wont even get vista for at leas tanother year, since well its pointless and has no reason for being bought at this point.
    Reply
  • lopri - Saturday, September 29, 2007 - link

    Well.. it seems like you're using Windows XP and a monitor via VGA. Then why bother with these new IGP-based mATX boards? 915G/945G (or GeForce 6100) series would be a better choice for you. They are a lot cheaper (~$50 probably) and XP support is as mature as can be.

    In the center of this new wave of IGPs is the advent of HD contents. Vista is kinda necessary-evil in a sense but in general it handles HD and multimedia contents a lot better than XP and has a more intuitive/prettier UI for a living room environment. CRT has long been dead in living rooms, and if you prefer CRT over LCD for some reason (professional gaming maybe?) IGP wouldn't be an option to begin with.

    I'd say DVI is the minimum requirement, HDMI w/HDCP being a preferred solution in these days and nights.
    Reply
  • veritronx - Thursday, September 27, 2007 - link

    One thing that may have been overlooked.. The MSI board is the only one suitable for people looking to use a dual-slot graphics card as well as, say, a creative sound card, with some space between them. For that reason the only board reviewed that I would look at buying would be the MSI. Reply
  • Ajax9000 - Thursday, September 27, 2007 - link

    From page 1:
    quote:

    The innovation in the IGP market has been lagging for some time but has picked up in recent months with the introduction of the AMD 690G, AMD Radeon X1250, and now the NVIDIA MCP73 series. All of these solutions offer native DVI/HDMI output, HD decode and playback, ...


    Read the following Nvidia pages and the news is somewhat disappointing re HD video.

    Summary PDF -- http://www.nvidia.com/object/IO_35712.html">http://www.nvidia.com/object/IO_35712.html
    AMD (MCP78) features -- http://www.nvidia.com/object/mobo_gpu_features_ben...">http://www.nvidia.com/object/mobo_gpu_features_ben...
    AMD (MCP78) specs -- http://www.nvidia.com/object/mobo_gpu_tech_specs.h...">http://www.nvidia.com/object/mobo_gpu_tech_specs.h...
    Intel (MCP73) features -- http://www.nvidia.com/object/mcp_features_benefits...">http://www.nvidia.com/object/mcp_features_benefits...
    Intel (MCP73) specs -- http://www.nvidia.com/object/mcp_intel_techspecs.h...">http://www.nvidia.com/object/mcp_intel_techspecs.h...

    PureVideo is only listed for the MCP78 (7050PV+630a) combination. All the other AMD chipsets and none of the Intel chipsets have PureVideo HD.

    If, in the future, they release an MCP73 using (say) 7050PV+630i then memory will be limited to DDR667.

    There is no details thus far, but what would be good is if the new chipset fixes the HD Audio problem that all current HDMI video cards seem to suffer from (i.e. the problem whereby the chipset supports HD Audio, but the video cards can only accept SPDIF-grade audio for HDMI pass-through).
    Reply
  • BansheeX - Thursday, September 27, 2007 - link

    Everyone who is letting these boards have it for not including HDMI/DVI is completely right. It makes no sense. Sure, I could buy a cheap DVI graphics card and stick in there, but if I have to do that, why would I buy a board with onboard graphics in the first place?

    Sadly missing from this review is the board that DOES include onboard DVI, Intel's own DG33TL. Even sadder is that it takes Intel to make the feature-full board while the OEM companies go for the minimum.
    Reply
  • Emma - Thursday, September 27, 2007 - link

    I agree with the others, as most computers I build have IGP's, being able to directly compare each of the available IGP's on the market would be about the best thing from a review for a long time.

    The 6100/6150SE should also be included as this is still widely sold.

    Also of interest would be a summary of what other nVidia and AMD IGP's are on the horizon.

    Thanks!
    Reply
  • Owls - Thursday, September 27, 2007 - link

    "We generally feel that users like to install games into the same colored slots for dual channel operation, but MSI chooses to color channel A orange and channel B green."

    I wasn't aware you could install games into DIMM slots.
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, September 27, 2007 - link

    Sorry 'bout that - I was helping Gary out a bit and managed to mangle the text. Blame the speech recognition. That or I'm just slurring my words a bit. :) Reply
  • 8steve8 - Thursday, September 27, 2007 - link

    great article tackling most the issues that we care about!


    question #1: why bother reviewing boards without DVI or HDMI?

    whether we are building pc's for friends/offices etc, or an office/server box for ourselves, or we want it to find a home in its post-gaming life when we ditch it for something better... DVI will be key. inexcusable that they pinch pennies there and frankly not worth your time considering these boards. gigabyte has a g33 board with dvi/hdmi, as does intel...
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N8...">http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N8...
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N8...">http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N8...

    question #2: this would have been muuuch more useful like 5 months ago when G33 was new. now it's about to be eclipsed by the 7150 and g35.



    overall i cant wait to see a similar roundup with modern chipsets like g35/nvidia 7150/ g690 and 7050pv for amd...

    would be interesting to see a cost/perf of integrated platforms including cpu costs...
    mobo + cpu costs... it seems amd has some good cheap 690g boards out there, with dvi/hdmi for around $75. (almost $50 cheaper than a g33 board with dvi)...
    Reply

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