The importance of GPU performance is increasing; if it weren't, Intel wouldn't be so feverishly working to bring Larrabee to market and Apple wouldn't have announced a switch away from Intel chipsets two years after adopting them. GPU accelerated applications are finally beginning to get some exposure; Adobe's recent Photoshop CS4 introduction is the perfect example. If more big-name developers deliver GPU accelerated applications that matter, having a higher performance integrated graphics solution becomes more interesting.

Things have been amazingly quiet on the Intel chipset front. Once the AMD-ATI acquisition was announced, development on ATI Intel chipsets all but halted as did shipments of ATI's chipsets to motherboard makers - no one was looking to touch that beast with a 10 foot pole. That left Intel and NVIDIA as the only providers for Intel chipsets.

We finally got G45 a couple of months ago, but in many ways it was a mild upgrade to G35 rather than the platform we'd all been waiting for. NVIDIA has had its gloves on and eyes set on causing Intel trouble wherever possible, so it's not a surprise that NVIDIA's G45 killer is set up to look even stronger on paper.

The GeForce 9300 and 9400 are similar in many ways to the GeForce 8200/8300 from the AMD world, but obviously since we're talking about non-Nehalem Intel platforms they do have a few changes like the inclusion of a memory controller. Like their AMD counterparts however, the GeForce 9300/9400 are single-chip solutions and unlike the 8200/8300 they are built on a smaller 65nm manufacturing process.

  AMD 780G Intel G45 NVIDIA GeForce 9400 NVIDIA GeForce 9300 NVIDIA GeForce 8200
CPU AMD Socket-AM2 Intel LGA-775 Intel LGA-775 Intel LGA-775 AMD Socket-AM2
Manufacturing Process 55nm 65nm 65nm 65nm 80nm
FSB N/A 800 / 1066 / 1333MHz 800 / 1066 / 1333MHz 800 / 1066 / 1333MHz N/A
Memory Controller N/A 2 x 64-bit DDR2/DDR3 channels 2 x 64-bit DDR2/DDR3 channels 2 x 64-bit DDR2/DDR3 channels N/A
Memory Speeds Supported N/A DDR2-800/667
DDR3-1066/800
DDR2-800
DDR3-1333
DDR2-800
DDR3-1333
N/A
PCI Express 22 PCIe 2.0 lanes 16 PCIe 2.0 lanes 20 PCIe 2.0 lanes 20 PCIe 2.0 lanes 19 PCIe 2.0 lanes
Graphics Radeon HD 3200 GMA X4500 GeForce 9400 mGPU GeForce 9300 mGPU GeForce 8200 mGPU
Core Clock 500MHz 800MHz 580MHz Core / 1.4GHz Shader 450MHz Core / 1.2GHz Shader 500MHz Core / 1.2GHz Shader
Shader Processors 8 (5-way) 10 16 16 8
Full H.264/VC-1/MPEG-2 HW Decode Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
8-channel LPCM No Yes Yes Yes Yes

 

The single-chip design does help enable small form factors as you can get a little more compact with your motherboard layout, but this is mainly an advantage on the mobile side (or with non-standard desktop form factors, e.g. iMac). Built on a 65nm process we should actually see power consumption fairly competitive with Intel's G45, especially given that Intel's ICH10 is built on a 130nm process while the G45 is 65nm.

Feature-wise we do get some upgrades over NVIDIA's previous chipsets, exclusively in the graphics department, which we'll get to shortly. Finally, GeForce 9300 boards should be selling for around $100 on average with availability shortly.

The Apple Story
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  • 3DoubleD - Wednesday, October 15, 2008 - link

    Sounds great. Now all we need is a follow-up of the HD 4xxx article as well as confirmation about whether or not these Nvidia issues are solved or will be solved shortly.

    I'm really enjoying these HTPC based articles and hope you continue them. Now that the HDMI + 7.1 audio issue has finally been addressed I think it would be helpful to start looking into the software end of HTPCs, such as a Media Center software review (what programs that work well, include blu-ray playback, OTA support, network features, ect).

    There are tempting systems such as the FuzeBox Media Server http://www.velocitymicro.com/wizard.php?iid=167">http://www.velocitymicro.com/wizard.php?iid=167 , which includes a seamless interface for Cablecard capture, blu-ray playback, multizone playback, expandable storage, network backups). The interface locks the user from exiting the media center interface, but provides a reliable, seamless, and feature rich experience that I have yet to experience with other media centers. The enthusiast looks at the price tag for such a machine and says, I can build that for half, except that the media center software isn't there. Help us enthusiast achieve that seamless experience without having to empty our pockets for pre-assembled box!

    Thanks

    Reply
  • yehuda - Wednesday, October 15, 2008 - link

    Thanks Anand and Gary for all your work on this article. Do you know if the Gigabyte GA-E7AUM-DS2H board is coming out with the others? Reply
  • kevinkreiser - Wednesday, October 15, 2008 - link

    Where's the discussion about hybrid-sli drivers/benchmarks? A follow-up article with the tests still in progress?

    This german review has hybrid-sli benchmarks but they omit a discussion about drivers or even how you set it up, they just show numbers.

    http://www.computerbase.de/artikel/hardware/mainbo...">http://www.computerbase.de/artikel/hard...schnitt_...

    Reply
  • kevinkreiser - Wednesday, October 15, 2008 - link

    Wait my mistake, actually the german article mentions in the conclusion that they experienced bugginess with the hybrid-sli driver and sometimes games don't start or run really slow. Any comments from you guys at anandtech? Reply
  • Visual - Wednesday, October 15, 2008 - link

    Does nVidia intend to have this GPU on an AMD chipset at all, or have they given up competing there?

    Can we expect this chipset to be used in Intel laptops (other than Apple), and will they still get the Centrino brand? If Intel insists on requiring their own chipsets for that brand, I'm afraid laptop manufacturers will not use it despite its obvious advantages.

    Does something like hybrid-SLI work on this chipset, to get better performance from a 9400/9500/9600GT card?

    From the Apple adverts it seems dynamic switching between the IGP and stand-alone GPU will be a reality in its laptops... is that the case also with the desktop version that you test today? I guess you'd have mentioned it if it were... Is it at least planned with future drivers or something?
    Reply
  • R3MF - Wednesday, October 15, 2008 - link

    Good point about the Centrino brand, that may well make laptop manufacturers wary of this chipset, just because of the power of the Centrino brand.

    On the other hand, this may be a very good reason for nVidia to push the Via Nano netbook platform via big companies like HP which have a strong brand quality of their own.
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, October 15, 2008 - link

    The Hybrid Power tech (switching between IGP and discrete GPU) should be available in this chipset; support for the feature still remains with the motherboard/notebook vendors, however. I'm still waiting for my first Windows notebook to feature hybrid power (which is also available with G45 chipsets... though why you'd want G45 over GF9300 is a tough question to answer; oh, right: Centrino 2!) You're right: Centrino as a brand is so powerful that NVIDIA can have the best solution in every way and still not see much uptake. We'll have to see how it goes.... Reply
  • danielgr - Thursday, October 16, 2008 - link

    It's funny... it seems that it's always the same, and Apple has to introduce something for people to get to know it...
    Sony has been selling "hybrid-power" laptops for about 2 years now... (here is an old laptop running Intel's 965GM chipset with NVIDIA 8400M graphics and "the magic switch"), together with LED displays, SSD drives...
    Their current offer gets you Centrino2+DDR3, BD, Raid-SSD, HybridStuff with Nvidia 9300M GS on Intel's GM45, Wide Gammut LED display, and still weights around 1.5Kg with 7.5-11h of autonomy...
    http://www.vaio.sony.co.jp/Products/Z1/feat1.html">http://www.vaio.sony.co.jp/Products/Z1/feat1.html
    Reply
  • danielgr - Thursday, October 16, 2008 - link

    Forgot the link to the "old_laptop":
    http://www.vaio.sony.co.jp/Products/SZ6/feat2.html">http://www.vaio.sony.co.jp/Products/SZ6/feat2.html
    Reply
  • Gary Key - Wednesday, October 15, 2008 - link

    We will be updating the article shortly. It has been an all night meeting marathon with the motherboard suppliers and NVIDIA trying to get answers on the AHCI problems, memory performance, and other minor items we discovered. ASUS sent us a new BIOS that we will test in a couple of hours, the AHCI problems have diminished greatly after yet another clean install of Vista SP1 (still have some minor pauses during heavy drive load), and we feel safe enough in taking a detailed look at the motherboards in a couple of days.

    That said, NVIDIA surprised us with this chipset, probably the best one (all around) on the market for HTPC setups and casual gaming performance now. That is not to take anything away from the AMD platforms, personally I am running a 8750 and GF8200 hooked up to a new 52" LCD, if the price was right, the 9350e is a really sweet processor that will greatly lower power requirements on the AMD side, as we will see next week. Hopefully, AMD will respond with multi-channel LPCM output in their IG chipset. If that is not important, the 780g/790GX is great. ;)
    Reply

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