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After nearly a month of struggling with problems, we finally published our review of Intel's G45 in the first part of this series we hastily called the IGP Chronicles. Part I looked at Intel's G45 and compared it to its predecessor, G35. Initially touted as the holy grail of HTPC chipsets, G45's advantages on paper were plagued by too many real issues for us to get excited about it. Not that we were totally disappointed with the chipset as an HTPC platform, we just knew Intel could have done better and in the end they did not. Of course, as we alluded to in our Radeon HD 4550 review, all you really need is one of AMD's lower end cards and you can use any chipset you want for a decent HTPC.

As a business platform, G45 works just as well as G35 or any other Intel chipset so there are no complaints there. Besides less than desirable HTPC attributes we discovered casual gaming performance is a big disappointment considering the chipset specifications. Paper specifications aside, gaming performance - casual or otherwise - is just dismal even on popular titles that are several years old.

We fully understand that casual gaming is not the be all end all measurement of an IGP solution, but a vast majority of systems sold to home users are designed, marketed, and sold as an all purpose solution for the household utilizing an IGP design. As such, we do think it is an important attribute to consider, along with video/audio capabilities, graphic design, and general application performance.

With Intel commanding the lion's share of the IGP market for years and mindlessly rolling out product that met the lowest common denominator in performance for the corporate market, any real hope for improved integrated graphics solutions slid off into oblivion. This is not to say that AMD, VIA, and NVIDIA solutions were not better at the time; they were, but just enough so they could market and advertise superior performance. However, their platform solutions were still underwhelming.

AMD in particular is responsible for bringing the integrated graphics platform back to respectability. The 690G chipset was an excellent first step over a year ago and then AMD released the 780G chipset earlier this year. The 780G chipset release brought the integrated graphics market back to the limelight. Utilizing a graphics core directly out of their current discrete GPU lineup, AMD provided us with a platform that easily handled Blu-ray playback, offered adequate game performance, made a snap out of spreadsheet and digital imaging work, and wrapped all of this in a very energy efficient package. The only real problem we had with the 780G was the lack of multi-channel LPCM HDMI audio output for HTPC users.

NVIDIA followed suit with their GeForce 8200/8300 series, but gaming performance fell between the AMD and Intel solutions in most cases. However, application performance equaled that of the 780G and NVIDIA provided the elusive multi-channel LPCM HDMI output that was sorely missing on the 780G platform. We have grown fond of the GF8200 as an HTPC solution, particularly after a series of driver updates that really let this chipset shine in BD playback. We expect to see a generational improvement in the GeForce 9300/9400 series, something akin to the leap AMD took from the 690G to the 780G and finally to the 790GX.

Finally, there is no perfect IGP solution at this time. Intel’s G45 offers decent HTPC capabilities and leverages off Intel’s excellent Core 2 series of processors, but gaming performance is flawed, BD playback abilities are hindered by drivers, and the chipset is expensive. AMD’s 780G is nearly perfect for the current market but the lack of multi-channel LPCM really eliminates it from most HTPC configurations and gaming performance could still be better. NVIDIA’s GeForce 8200 is the best current HTPC solution as of this article date but casual gaming performance is somewhere between the G45 and 780G. The other issue is that the stronger IGPs are both Socket-AM2 platforms, when the more desirable CPUs are from Intel. We will discuss what our requirements are for the ideal integrated graphics platform later on.

So today, we widen our perspective as we compare G45 not only to G35, but also to its current Socket-AM2 counterparts from AMD and NVIDIA. We will follow up this article with a full roundup of motherboards featuring the AMD 780G, AMD 790GX, and NVIDIA 8200/750a chipsets. Our final article in this series will focus on budget to midrange discrete video card performance on these products along with processor suggestions for each platform.

The Lay of the Land

While Part I focused exclusively on Intel's G35 and G45, today we've got contenders from both AMD and NVIDIA. First up we have the AMD 780G, quite possibly the best chipset AMD has ever made. The more recent addition to the integrated graphics family is the 790GX, bringing an updated Southbridge and faster graphics clock.

From NVIDIA we have the only two single-chip solutions in today's roundup: the GeForce 8300 and 8200. Sometime last year NVIDIA decided that it needed a renewed focus on its chipsets, and part of that strategy was to strengthen its chipset brands. The nForce brand would eventually be phased out and replaced by the name GeForce. We've got two chipsets from NVIDIA and both of these carry the GeForce brand name: the GeForce 8200 and GeForce 8300 aren't graphics cards, they are chipsets. Technically they have nForce names as well but just as Intel's latest IGP chipset is called the G45, NVIDIA's is called the GeForce 8300. Simple enough.

  AMD 790GX AMD 780G Intel G45 Intel G35 NVIDIA GeForce 8300 NVIDIA GeForce 8200
CPU AMD Socket-AM2 AMD Socket-AM2 Intel LGA-775 Intel LGA-775 AMD Socket-AM2 AMD Socket-AM2
Manufacturing Process 55nm 55nm 65nm 90nm 80nm 80nm
FSB N/A N/A 800 / 1066 / 1333MHz 800 / 1066 / 1333MHz N/A N/A
Memory Controller N/A N/A 2 x 64-bit DDR2/DDR3 channels 2 x 64-bit DDR2/DDR3 channels N/A N/A
Memory Speeds Supported N/A N/A DDR2-800/667
DDR3-1066/800
DDR2-800/667
DDR3-1066/800
N/A N/A
PCI Express 22 PCIe 2.0 lanes 22 PCIe 2.0 lanes 16 PCIe 2.0 lanes 16 PCIe 1.1 lanes 19 PCIe 2.0 lanes 19 PCIe 2.0 lanes
Graphics Radeon HD 3300 Radeon HD 3200 GMA X4500

GMA X3500

GeForce 8300 mGPU GeForce 8200 mGPU
Core Clock 700MHz 500MHz 800MHz 667MHz 500MHz Core /
1.5GHz Shader
500MHz Core / 1.2GHz Shader
Shader Processors 8 (5-way) 8 (5-way) 10

8

8 8
Full H.264/VC-1/MPEG-2 HW Decode Yes Yes Yes No Yes Yes
Pin-out 528-pin 528-pin 1254-pin 1226-pin ? ?

Looking at the Southbridges, you'll find that they are all fairly evenly matched. Remember that NVIDIA's GeForce 8300/8200 are single-chip solutions so some of the items in the list don't apply. Both AMD and NVIDIA keep their additional PCIe lanes in the Northbridge while Intel keeps them in the Southbridge/ICH. Both the AMD and NVIDIA solutions still give you at least one PATA channel, which is useful for older HDDs and optical drives.

  AMD SB750 AMD SB700 Intel ICH10 NVIDIA GeForce 8300/8200
Additional PCI Express None None 6 x1 PCIe 1.1 None
USB 12 ports 12 ports 12 ports 12 ports
SATA (300MB/s) 6 ports 6 ports 6 ports 6 ports
PATA 2 channels 2 channels None 1 channel
RAID* RAID 0/1/10 RAID 0/1/5/10 RAID 0/1/5/10 RAID 0/1/5/10
HD Audio Interface Yes Yes Yes Yes
Ethernet Not Integrated Not Integrated Intel Gigabit LAN NVIDIA Gigabit LAN
Northbridge Interface 4 lane PCIe 1.1 4 lane PCIe 1.1 DMI 10Gb/s each direction, full duplex N/A, Single Chip Solution
AMD vs. Intel vs. NVIDIA: Fight
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  • Clauzii - Tuesday, October 14, 2008 - link

    He says that by using a Sempron CPU (lower watt than Phenom), it would still be a nice machine for most people, and still be good for movies.
    Reply
  • duploxxx - Tuesday, October 14, 2008 - link

    nice review, gives a clear ups and downs from each part. there's off course always a reason to recommend an intel part in your conclusion even if you brake it to the ground in the earlier pages....this time you took power consumption, which was one part you would already know from the moment you made your base specs. however for a basic htpc people don't buy quadcores, they buy dual's.

    put a 4850e on the plate against e5200 and start all over again, i'am sure you will get a whole other conclusion and 0 reasons to ever buy a s775 platform for htpc in stead you would pick the nvdia/amd offerings with am2 chipset.
    Reply
  • npp - Tuesday, October 14, 2008 - link

    I suspect the E5200 system would be faster at the end - running at equal clock speeds Core 2 CPUs tend to faster than the old Athlons (at least I think so). I'm not sure what goes for the power consumption, but I really don't understand why one should care about that, anyway. Decent coolers are all around and saving the planet by cutting off some 20-30-50W from your bill is simply ridiculous. As long as we're talking of numbers around the 100W mark, anything goes. Reply
  • strikeback03 - Tuesday, October 14, 2008 - link

    Anandtech has seemed to favor quad-cores for transcoding duties in past HTPC articles. Reply
  • harshaflibbertigibbet - Tuesday, October 14, 2008 - link

    I hope you will also be reviewing the much delayed and finally launched NVIDIA GeForce 9300/9400 chipsets for the Intel platform. In my opinion, they would end up being the best solution for HTPC users. Reply
  • Badkarma - Tuesday, October 14, 2008 - link

    Hi Gary,

    I read through your article which is very good btw. However, I couldn't find what driver versions you were using to test with. Sorry if I just missed it.
    Reply
  • Golgatha - Tuesday, October 14, 2008 - link

    I have a HTPC running an Intel E8400 C2D, Zalman 9500 HSF, 6GB RAM, a passively cooled ATI 2600 Pro 256MB, Lite-On SATA Blu-ray/HD DVD combo optical drive, Abit IP35-E, 3 hard drives (250GB and 2x750GB), 380w Earthwatts PS, 4 fans (this includes the PS and CPU fan), and a HT Omega Striker 7.1 discreet sound card. The system runs Vista 64bit Home Premium.

    My requirements for a HTPC were for it to be out of sight (tucking it behind the entertainment center and using a Bluetooth Logitech DiNovo Mini works great for me), run cool and quiet, and not use much electricity. Running 2xFolding@Home clients, a Tversity server for my PS3, and playing a Blu-ray movie uses about 115w system power for the entire system (measured with a kill-a-watt brand device).

    I think the configurations tested weren't really representative of how folks build their HTPC, unless you're assuming it's a do-it-all type of PC, which isn't really a HTPC at that point IMO?
    Why in the world would a dedicated HTPC need a quad core CPU or a 520w PSU? Dual core 45nm parts are more than capable of even the most demanding tasks. Also, a 520w PSU for a 100-150w system is completely inefficient.

    http://www.anandtech.com/casecoolingpsus/showdoc.a...">http://www.anandtech.com/casecoolingpsus/showdoc.a...

    Also, barebones motherboards are cheaper than their IGP counterparts by at least $15-$20 (my Abit board was $70 after MIR), which gives a bit of leeway to purchase a $30-$50 dedicated video card that will give a much better end user experience at the end of the day. Also, when something better comes out (hey, I'm interested in AMD's new 4550 etc. series too), you don't have the unnecessary components on the motherboard sucking electricity.
    Reply
  • fic2 - Tuesday, October 14, 2008 - link

    That is exactly what I don't understand about the recent "HTPC" articles on here. For some reason they think that people actually use quad monster processors for HTPCs. I got a $25 BE-2400 45W cpu that I intend to use in an HTPC, not some 125W beasty thing that triples my power usage. Reply
  • androo - Wednesday, October 15, 2008 - link

    I totally agree! HTPCs are for the living room and should make little to no noise. 140W CPUs have no place in such a rig. Save that for a gaming rig that goes in the bedroom or den (especially if your wife is a light sleeper!). Reply
  • tonyintoronto - Wednesday, October 15, 2008 - link

    I don't get it either. HTPC in my opinion are to be low power systems, dedicated to movies, music and TV... Doesn't make any sense to me to see 3x and quad cores tested. I use a AMD 4450E and i'm already way "oversized", that processor can play all formats of HD running at 1.1GHZ w/out any issues together with a cheap asus 3450 card. That and the gaming performance, who in they right mind would game with integraded graphics? its like showing to 1/4 mile race with a horse and carriage.
    I do agree with them, the 780G and G45 are poor excuses for HTPC boards, IMHO the cheapest possible board with ati 4650 or 4670 makes the most sense. Don't get me started on those 550W power supplies :)
    Reply

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