Final Words

AMD has produced a very good integrated graphics platform with the 690G chipset, there is no doubt that this platform is the first step from the company in their goal to fuse core logic, graphics, and processing into a neat and tidy single package offering. We see this release as the first shot across the bow of the SS Intel and HMS NVIDIA that signals AMD's intent to play seriously in the OEM and business sectors. Considering the IGP market accounts for almost 90% of PC shipments, then it becomes obvious where AMD wishes to concentrate its efforts at this time.

The 690G features very low power consumption, class leading X1250 graphics performance with the Avivo video processing engine, HDMI output with full HDCP support, excellent audio and video output capabilities, and competitive performance all wrapped in a $80 price tag. It seems to us the 690G is destined to find a home in dedicated home theater systems or for those owners needing a mainstream system centered on multimedia capabilities.

While we are impressed with this release there are also some concerns. The performance of the X1250 graphics core was certainly class leading but one look at the competition tells an ugly truth for certain users. Despite being faster than the NVIDIA GeForce 6150 and Intel G965 in games, the system overall is still incapable of providing a decent gaming experience for even the casual gamer. It's still very underpowered for recent titles unless you consider 800x600 gaming to be a pleasurable experience.

If you're willing to turn the majority of detail levels down to their minimum, then yes, you can play several popular games such as Sims2 at 1280x1024. This resolution is the standard base level now as a significant amount of monitors sold over the past few years use 1280x1024 as their native resolution. The fact that we have an integrated graphics platform being released in 2007 that can barely play most top titles delivered in 2005 at 1024x768, much less 1280x1024, is an issue with us. We understand these platforms are mainly directed to the email, home/office, and Internet crowds, but those wanting to dabble with the occasional game will end up having a sour experience unless Internet Poker or Bejeweled is your game of choice.

That is our main issue, the 690G, G965, and 6150 are targeting the all-in-one home user market and not the office sector. As such we expect a platform that is truly capable of running most game titles decently while performing other duties such as media/audio playback, digital content creation, email, and handling your tax returns with aplomb. When the marketing information tells us we can expect our system to do this, then that is point where our expectations are set. The office sector relies upon the 690V, Q965, and 6150SE chipsets and low-end processor choices to provide just enough functionality to keep the typical office user productive.

With the latest round of processor price cuts and an $80 price tag for the motherboard, we find AMD has a very competitive platform in comparison to the Intel Core 2 processor and G965 platform. Unfortunately, this means that you must utilize a mid-range AM2 processor in order to get performance comparable to that of Intel's base Core 2 processor at similar prices. Our AMD motherboard and processor will cost around $314 compared to $298 for the G965 and Core 2 Duo E6300. If the multimedia capabilities of the 690G are really important then paying the extra $16 for almost equal performance in a wide range of applications should be worth your consideration.

A couple of intangibles that we found during testing swayed us to the AM2 platform to some degree. The overall maturity of the platform, ease of setup, native IDE ports, and platform stability during testing impressed us. While the sheer power of the Intel Core 2 Duo still holds us captive, we found the current AM2 platforms offer a compelling alternative in the low end sector where price to performance comparisons mean everything. This could all change depending upon Intel's pricing structure and new IGP chipset releases over the coming months but for now, we would seriously consider an AM2 system for general desktop or multimedia usage.

Overall, the 690G is a very capable chipset, but one that is late to market in our opinion. We were impressed by its multimedia prowess and features; certainly enough to whisk it into our HTPC test bed, but are concerned about its timing. AMD has not taken that next real step in performance for an integrated graphics platform in terms of performance. This release just barely distances itself from the NVIDIA 6150 series that has been on the market for almost 18 months. In terms of features, NVIDA will soon be releasing the GeForce 7050 that fully supports PureVideo, HDMI with HDCP support, and additional core tweaks that should result in performance closer to that of the 690G. Intel is busily working on their new G35 chipset with native HDMI and hopefully improved game performance although we doubt it unless their drivers improve significantly. While AMD can claim the current IGP performance crown, they need to have another solution ready quickly before NVIDIA or Intel comes calling for it.

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  • 3 CUBED - Friday, March 09, 2007 - link

    I have to mention power also. Considering that a HTPC is properly going to be on quiet a bit, I would like to se some info on the power draw, from these mobo's. The same goes in the roundup!! Also considering that the energy prices is headed only UP, even a little lower performance might be worth that in the long run!!

    Thanks Kasper.
    Reply
  • MrNeutrino - Thursday, March 08, 2007 - link

    Guys,

    First, the feedback:

    Frankly I'm quite frustrated from waiting for a site like AT for the past half a year or more to come out with more mATX reviews (until this review, which is a start).

    I realize there are a lot of gamers OCers out there - very many AT readers. However, there are many (just as many?) non-gamer enthusiasts hoping to run stock-speed,SILENT, SFF systems out there - myself for one.

    While lesser known sites have reviewed many of these products, I (and others like me I know of) have been waiting for AT to publish SOMETHING in the mATX / C2D (current and long-standing performance champ depending on the system config.) category for months on end! I realize you have dedicated folks working for each review category. However, AT - a site as a whole - still seems to have enough bandwidth to publish back-to-back LCD and heatsink reviews in a matter of day or two each. Yet you seem to have held off on prioritizing mATX system reviews for some inexplicable milestone until yesterday. I recall reading a vague comment in one of your reviews around the end of the year regarding an 'upcoming' mATX review, if I remember correctly. In my opinion it was already too delayed a review. Little did I know I'd be waiting another two months for such a review.

    Geez! Publish the review in parts if you must, but don't make your readers hold off for this long and think all is well! What's the point of releasing this type of review, months after products became widely available and just a few months before the next round of technology updates?!

    -----------------------

    Second is a set of requests for the (personally) much anticipated upcoming mATX review next week 'as well as' for future reviews:

    Requests for the upcoming mATX review:

    * Please try to include Asus P5B-VM. One of the currently best featured G965 MBs.

    * Please include at least one C2D ATX MB for comparison! My vote is for Asus P5B-E. I can't stress this enough! I have yet to receive any 'quantitative' (read: benchmark backed) response in forums http://forums.anandtech.com/messageview.aspx?catid...">here) and http://forums.anandtech.com/messageview.aspx?catid...">here, on the following topics (quoting from my earlier posts):

    - how do mATX boards compare to ATX boards "for non-gaming tasks such as video / audio editing, general productivity, multi-tasking etc.?"

    - "How much of a performance hit does a G965 type mATX motherboard with integrated graphics incur as a result of sharing memory bus bandwidth with the CPU, for NON-GAMING benchmarks, compared to regular C2D ATX boards?" (Assuming of course, the user chooses to use integrated graphics vs. discrete solution and has that enabled in BIOS.)

    Please BE SURE to adderss these and other such real-world topics and help make the review more meaningful for folks like me.


    Requests for future reviews:

    * Consider investing more time and effort in SFF / mATX / silent PC config based reviews! Yes, there is an audience out there...

    * For a site this major and popular - both with readers and vendors - you need to seriously evaluate your time-to-publishing lags for some of these reviews - C2D mATX roundup review for one. I realize there are a million things you can review and only 24 hours in a day. Delayed reviews (compared to when the products came out) don't help your readers as much - think luxury car depreciation over time... :)

    Thanks.
    Reply
  • Gary Key - Thursday, March 08, 2007 - link

    Hi,

    Your suggestions and comments are appreciated. I did reply in the forums this morning.

    :)
    Reply
  • MrNeutrino - Friday, March 09, 2007 - link

    Thanks Gary.

    I appreciate you reviewing the feedback and requests in detail. Hopefully we'll see some follow-up action based on this as and where appropriate.

    Also, thanks for replying to some of the key questions I've had around mATX vs. ATX boards. Lack of major performance delta is very good to hear about, at least for pre-Vista Windows OSes. Interesting.

    Based on your comments in the forum posting re: Vista + IGP + memory latency, I am intrigued. If you are going to cover this in the upcoming review, feel free to say so and defer this question. Else I am curious what performance difference we are talking about between XP vs. Vista using IGP solutions? Any pointers to help with this comparison would be helpful in helping decide whether or not a Vista purchase is worthwhile from a performance standpoint in such categories / applications.

    Also, have you transitioned to exclusively testing using Vista?
    Reply
  • blawck - Wednesday, March 07, 2007 - link

    I'm buying a small-form-factor PC with an Intel 965G motherboard (it was the only option), and I'm plugging in an NVIDIA 8800GTX video card. So, I was wondering how these IGP motherboards (specifically this Intel one) perform in general with a vidcard plugged in. Is performance on par with (or at least somewhere close to) that of full-size motherboards? Or am I getting screwed? Reply
  • Gary Key - Wednesday, March 07, 2007 - link

    It depends on the board that you buy. The Gigabyte GA-965G-DS3 allows for a decent level of overclocking (330FSB) and memory options (CAS 3 operation), the overall performance difference will not be noticeable in day to day activities when compared to a more enthusiast level board. A base G965 board will not offer the same overclocking options and a couple of the boards only allow CAS 5 operation at DDR2-800, but once again, the performance delta overall will be less than 5% in most cases, nothing to be concerned about especially given your choice of video cards. Reply
  • blawck - Wednesday, March 07, 2007 - link

    Great, thanks for the quick reply! This is a high-quality site =). The manufacturer is Maingear, and the board they're using for my system is simply identified generically as "Intel 965G Express," but based on your response, I have faith that I am, indeed, not getting screwed =). I've built all my previous machines, but I'm getting old and fat and lazy, so I figured I'd spend a few hundred extra and have someone do it for me. Not too worried about SLI or overclocking at this point...I'll accept whatever resolution I can run Oblivion in, as long as I can run it. Thanx again. Reply
  • chucky2 - Wednesday, March 07, 2007 - link

    For the mATX review, you should include results for the Abit Fatal1ty F-I90HD.

    It's basically the 690G version for Intel CPU's...and that'd allow a direct comparison between Conroe and AM2 CPU's as the chipset would be the same.

    Just a thought...

    Chuck

    P.S. Plus, I'm sure there's a good amount of people that'd like to run Conroe on a cheap but good mATX, and the Abit Fatal1ty F-I90HD looks to be about the best option out right now for that (albiet in limited quantities so far...), just too bad it doesn't have onboard Firewire (at least I don't think it does, didn't list it on the spec page), because then it'd have like everything one could want...
    Reply
  • Gary Key - Wednesday, March 07, 2007 - link

    We should receive that board next week. I will do my best to include in it the roundup. Reply
  • chucky2 - Wednesday, March 07, 2007 - link

    Awesome if you can Gary, Cool if you can't...

    ...March looks like the month of motherboard reviews... :)

    Chuck
    Reply

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