After being blitzed by the NVIDIA marketing machine at CES 2008 about upcoming chipsets, we were excited about the technological possibilities NVIDA was planning to deliver a few weeks later. As it turns out, it was a few months later but as of today NVIDIA is officially introducing the nForce 780a SLI chipset and its family companions, the 750a SLI and 730a chipsets.

At first look, it appears NVIDIA has mastered the marketing checklist with features ranging from HyperTransport 3.0 and PCI Express 2.0 to the environmentally friendly Hybrid Power and performance enhancing Hybrid SLI capabilities. Of course, AMD has featured HT 3.0 and PCI Express 2.0 on their 790FX chipset since November and the 780G had Hybrid CrossFire operating since March. However, AMD does not offer Hybrid power capabilities nor does the flagship 790FX offer integrated graphics capabilities. We will have to wait a few more months for the AMD 790GX to arrive for those two features.

In the meantime, NVIDIA sits alone as it starts to roll out integrated graphics on all of its chipsets over the next few months. NVIDIA is calling this technology a motherboard GPU or mGPU for short. We think the inclusion of integrated graphics on all chipsets is a definite step in the right direction and one that we applaud if done correctly. Our first results indicate that NVIDIA is on the right path, although one that was a little bumpy for us.


The most important design element of the nForce 780a SLI and other chipsets in this product family is the mGPU. Based upon the 8400GS core, it offers decent casual gaming and application performance as a standalone unit. This capability is nothing new as integrated graphic chipsets have been around for a long time. However, the IG performance is clearly a step above what NVIDIA has offered in the past, but a step below the current 780G from AMD. Besides offering extensive HD playback capabilities and additional monitor outputs, its primary purpose is seguing into NVIDIA’s Hybrid SLI technology.

Hybrid SLI offers two different and very distinct technologies that consist of GeForce Boost and Hybrid Power. GeForce Boost allows for the pairing of the mGPU with a discrete graphics card (dGPU) to provide SLI capability to improve 3D performance. Since the mGPU is an 8400GS in disguise, the natural pairing of this technology is with a discrete 8400GS card. NVIDIA provides support for the 8500GT also as its performance closely matches that of the mGPU, anything higher would result in a mismatch in performance and negate any benefits of adding an inexpensive dGPU.

The true technological gem is the HybridPower functionality as it allows the mGPU to function as the primary display for most application tasks and high definition playback duties while the discreet graphics card is in standby waiting to tackle demanding 3D tasks. We use the term standby, but the system actually turns off the dGPU to conserve power until required. In actual practice, we noticed a slight delay when switching from the mGPU to the dGPU, something that we believe driver and BIOS tuning can resolve. However, the biggest drawback at this time is that only two discreet graphics solutions are supported, the 9800GTX and 9800GX2 cards.

So let’s take a detailed look at the chipset specifications and delve into the performance results of the 780a SLI chipset against its immediate competition from AMD.

One Chipset Fits All
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  • SiliconDoc - Wednesday, May 07, 2008 - link

    Maybe I'm the only one, but I'm so sick of every new PC component having a global warming psychotic power consumption "feature set", as if any of we end users actually give a d-a- you know what.
    Heck, maybe I'm lone gunman here, but it really makes me sick, over and over again, as if I'd buy their piece of crap because they have some wattage bean counter going gaga about their lower power requirements.
    Hey, here's an idea. STOP GAMING, lower yer rezz, use a tiny 13 inch monitor, and put monitor sleep mode to kick on in one minute.
    Better yet, shut your system off, you're wasting the earth, and get outside for heat from the sun or put on a wool sweater, or dunk ter head in the creek if you're too warm.
    Who are they fooling ? They're pushing 1,000 watt PS's, then we have to hear this beanny watt counter crud. Yeah, right after the Q6600, 4 HD's, 2 DVD's, memory card readers, dual monitor outputs, ohhh.. and make sure you got a 700 watt plus supergigajiggawatt or she might not run.....
    I for one would just like to say, to noone and nobody in particular, go take a green time out.
    PS- this article is no more or less green than any other, so it isn't a target. I guess it's clear this is a power surge and perhaps an overload. Well, good!
    Reply
  • Donkey2008 - Wednesday, May 07, 2008 - link

    You are absolutely right, especially the application of this technology to notebooks, which is pure insanity. Why would I care if my laptop could switch from discrete to integrated GPU to save battery power and provide me another hour or so of use? I am trying to destroy the earth so I want as little battery life as possible so I can plug it in and use more resources.

    As for desktops, those crazy tree-huggers want you to use less power so that your systems run more efficient and PUT OUT LESS HEAT. This would be a complete waste for those who dropped several hundred dollars for water-cooling and giant, ridiculous, circus clown heatsinks. This isn't even mentioning the enviro-psychos who like to use their computer as a floor heater in winter.

    How about you take your finger out of your nose because it is clearly in too far and blocking your brain from releasing any common sense.
    Reply
  • SiliconDoc - Wednesday, May 07, 2008 - link

    Why stop at that, you need the wind up power notebook, like the ones selling for the 3rd world. No plugging in and no charging any battery except by turning the crank handle.
    If you're gaming on a battery, it's not just your finger up your nose, but likely your neighbors as well, to hold it up so high. Where are you that you cannot plug in ... up in that airplane ... saving all that jet fuel ?... or did you drive your Yugo to some way out park to hack, away from civilization, also an energy saver, no doubt. Have fun disposing of the polluting battery, too.

    Desktops: If your system is putting out so much heat that you need to run a refrigerator to "cool just the system down", you certainly are not "saving" any power either.. DUH.
    Gigantic heatsinks (and their gargantuan fans)are power-hungry users trying to crank out the last bit of mhz, often with voltage increases, huh ... DUH. Maybe the jet engine they replaced was a cheap sleeve bearing, but they didn't "save power".

    Not sure exactly what the donkey you were trying to say, since you didn't make any sense, but then, that's what it's all about, huh. Preening your green self while wildly flailing about and praising the gigantic power (savings ? lol ) drain you are, anyway - while firing up the 250 watt triple 3d sli maxxed super whomper game.

    I think if you had any common sense, you'd "get it".


    Reply
  • The Jedi - Wednesday, May 07, 2008 - link

    Jigga-WHAAAT?! Reply
  • zander55 - Wednesday, May 07, 2008 - link

    Why on is ESA only available on the highest end model? Nvidia wants the industry to adopt and implement it into their hardware but won't even put it into their own stuff? Reply
  • crimsonson - Tuesday, May 06, 2008 - link

    I don't understand why so many pages and charts are devoted to pure performance for motherboards. Unless there is physical flaw or bad drivers, performance between these motherboards are normally next to nil!
    I understand stability, overclocking, and power consumption. But looking at these charts a lot of them are minuscule difference that often can be explained by settings, other components or bad drivers. I am not saying bench testing are not useful. But I don't think it is necessary to view dozens of charts with no or little difference. In fact, it would make more sense to go in to details where there is a significant difference. I think your attention to detail gets the best of you :D

    My .02

    In general I do think you guys do awesome work.

    Reply
  • wjl - Tuesday, May 06, 2008 - link

    Right. The benchmarks are not that interesting, and also which IGP runs which game at how many fps more or less is pretty uninteresting - as if the world had only gamers.

    As much as I like the image quality provided by Nvidia products, they're still a no-go if you want open source drivers - and here is much room for improvement. I won't buy (nor sell) any of them unless they follow the good examples of Intel and ATI/AMD.

    So my next mb - which will definitely have an IGP again - will be of the other mentioned makers, depending on whether I need an AMD or an Intel CPU next time.
    Reply
  • strikeback03 - Thursday, May 08, 2008 - link

    I have to use the restricted drivers on both my desktop (discrete NVIDIA) and laptop (discrete ATi) in Ubuntu.

    And I've never understood the point of windows that wobble.
    Reply
  • sprockkets - Tuesday, May 06, 2008 - link

    Tru, I love not having to install any drivers for compiz-fusion on my Intel G31 system. It actually runs it better than my 6150 AMD system.

    But, under load with movies and compiz and other stuff graphics wise running, the 6150 doesn't crap out as much.

    Good chipset, waiting for Intel's version. I have been an AMD person for a long time, but, for $70 a 2ghz Pentium Allendale works great for me.

    WTB a gen 2 Shuttle XPC in silver with either the G45 or Intel's. 3ghz Wolfdale will do nicely.
    Reply
  • wjl - Wednesday, May 07, 2008 - link

    BTW: tried movies (MythTV) together with Compiz, and that really didn't look nice, even on my 6150/430 Nvidia. Only after switching off most or all desktop effects, the picture became more stable... Reply

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