Final Words

There is not a perfect IGP at this time. Maybe the upcoming NVIDIA Intel chipsets will change our opinion - though not completely, as the product is evolutionary rather revolutionary. This is not to slight the product before the official announcement; it's just we think something revolutionary should contain features or provide performance that is not available in today's chipsets. When thinking about the perfect IGP solution, we have several ideas.

We would like AMD HD 4670 video performance along with 8-channel HDMI audio output that not only offers LPCM capability but the ability to bitstream Dolby True HD and DTS-MA HD audio formats. 1080P/24 fps playback that just works would be exciting, as would not having to utilize third party programs to configure EDID information to get various monitors and chipsets to work together. A single chip solution in a low-power design that supports quad-core (for video/audio encoding duties) processors and is ITX friendly is something we would drool over. Of course, we want it today.

While there are numerous ideas on the hardware side, we think an even more important aspect of our perfect IGP solution is stable, bug-free, and optimized driver support to bring all of this together. We have had our fill of half-baked driver sets, features promised but never delivered, and enough incompatibilities at launch to make one wonder if anyone remembered to check if the hardware and software actually work together before shipment.

As for the chipsets we looked at today, it is difficult to declare a true winner at this time, especially given the fact that the new NVIDIA chipsets are launching shortly. However, if we had to choose one chipset for primary HTPC usage, it would be the NVIDIA GeForce 8200. The GF8200 offers 8-channel LPCM output, no hassle 1080P/24 fps playback capabilities, modest pricing, and a relatively low power envelope when paired with an appropriate processor such as the Phenom X3 8750 or Phenom X4 9350e.

This is a difficult decision as the AMD 780G is a better balanced chipset offering improved casual gaming performance, equal video quality, similiar power requirements, greater availability, and better pricing. The performance of certain 780G motherboards can equal or nearly match those of the 790GX with some creative mGPU overclocking, and most models come in a space saving uATX form factor. Also, depending on the motherboard, DVI-D dual-link is supported with resolutions going to 2560x1600, something the GF8200 and G45 do not support.

The drawback for us is the lack of multi-channel LPCM HDMI audio output and not so great 1080P/24 fps playback capabilities. If these items are not important to you, then the 780G would probably be at the top of our list. Of course, these problems can be solved with an inexpensive HD 4550 or HD 4670 video card but that completely throws off the price advantage over the Intel platform; however, you end up with a significantly improved platform offering balanced performance for the HTPC, casual gamer, or SOHO user.

That leaves the Intel G45. If you are an Intel fan, this is your only real IGP choice... for the next few days at least. The G45 is acceptable for an HTPC platform as it offers excellent video quality and 8-channel LPCM output. However, we have no idea if implementation of 1080P/24 fps support will occur. Speaking of driver quality and features, this is one area where Intel is behind AMD and NVIDIA. In addition, platform cost is a problem when looking at the mid to lower range processor market compared to AMD. This is something we will look at shortly as it pertains to the IGP market.

As for the motherboards we tested for this overview article, the Zotac GF8300 offered very good stock performance but is a no-frills board with a layout that we would like to see improved. Their GF8200 version of this board just hit the retail market for under $70 and we suggest you take a look at it if the items we discussed are not a deal breaker. Zotac builds a high quality budget board with excellent stability; it’s just not flashy or exciting.

The Biostar TF-8200 A2+ is a feature rich ATX board that offers excellent stability, compatibility, and performance for the price. There are a couple of minor problems that are BIOS related and we hope Biostar offers a new BIOS soon. Otherwise, consider this board when looking at other GF8200 alternatives.

The ASRock A780GXE/128M is a unique product offering. Based on an ATX form factor this board offers a BIOS designed for overclocking and a feature set that puts it in direct competition with the more expensive 790GX motherboards. To date, the board has provided very good performance, stability, and compatibility with a wide range of peripherals.

There is stiff competition in the IGP sector between ASUS, MSI, Gigabyte, Biostar, ASRock, Jetway, ECS, and others. We will be back shortly to look at further 780G/GF8200/790GX offerings along with budget discrete GPU comparisons. We might even have time after that to show the performance differences between 10 different CPUs on these platforms. Before then, we have a new chipset in the market that NVIDIA will be offering shortly....

AMD 780G: ASRock A780GXE/128M
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  • sergev - Monday, January 12, 2009 - link

    A fair comparison? Don't think so! A AMD processor with a 140 Watt TDP and a Intel processor with a 95 Watt TDP?? I wonder why the intel chipsets seem more power efficient? If you are testing the performance, ok seems fair, but power efficiency should be measured with two processors with the same TDP. I am convinced that if you did the same test with a AMD 4850E the AMD would beat the crap out the intel versions on power consumption. But yet again, that would not be fair. So keep in mind that this review is not to be taken al to seriously! Reply
  • axiomhk - Tuesday, October 28, 2008 - link

    Hi, what amazes me is that it seems no reviewers of the AMD IGP chipsets have caught the serious 2D issues referred to here:

    http://forums.amd.com/game/messageview.cfm?catid=2...">http://forums.amd.com/game/messageview....9&th...

    However, the only channel that we consumers / mere mortals have to put pressure on AMD is to send feedback to the Catalyst team. Nothing seems to get done and there is not even any acknowledgement that this issue exists across the HD3200/HD3300 IGPs no matter which manufacturer.

    The 3D performance is hyped up and that's all very well when the chipset has shown that it can deliver, but in fact many users will spend a lot of time on 2D activities which truly suck. This makes a lot of users regret their purchase.

    What the renowned sites such as anandtech and tomshardware can do is try to reproduce the issues, then use their direct contacts to try to see if this issue is being addressed and update the parent article accordingly. Is it possible? Many thanks. GM - Hong Kong.
    Reply
  • Zap - Wednesday, October 15, 2008 - link

    "The keyboard is not available after drive recognition until the Windows startup routine"

    Try a different keyboard, or a PS/2 keyboard. I had the same problem with two MSI 750a boards and some Razer USB keyboards. No keyboard until Windows. I had to fix a BIOS problem and had to borrow a keyboard - Logitech G15 USB keyboard worked fine.
    Reply
  • arjunp2085 - Wednesday, October 15, 2008 - link

    Is this not a bit ODD to Compare a $260 to a Lowly Under performing [B}$173 CPU... Geezs This is Grossly inaccurate

    Think about the BOOST to Post Processing and It differs a Whole Lot to the Post processing capability
    Reply
  • Strid - Wednesday, October 15, 2008 - link

    Yeah, it would have made more sense, IMO, to use lower end processors like AMD 4850E or Intel E5200/7200 which is what most people would use in a HTPC.

    But if you want to do encoding on your HTPC also, I can see the need for a quad core. But not for your average "movie box".
    Reply
  • Staples - Tuesday, October 14, 2008 - link

    Really, this thing came out like 6 months ago it seems and finally we get some video benchmarks on anandtech. I know it has been commented that it did not work right for months because the video drivers were terrible but I can not believe it really took that long. When I had to get a HTPC, I just bought an Athlon BE and a 780G board. Much cheaper and adequate. Which in hindsight the P45 may have performed better, an Intel CPU and a Core 2 CPU would have driven the price up quite a bit. Reply
  • Kreed - Tuesday, October 14, 2008 - link

    Gary, what are you hinting at with the following statement?

    "That leaves the Intel G45. If you are an Intel fan, this is your only real IGP choice... for the next few days at least."

    Are you suggesting that Intel might be releasing a new IGP over the
    Reply
  • Kreed - Tuesday, October 14, 2008 - link

    Oops, i didn't get to finish the comment. Here's the comment in full:

    Gary, what are you hinting at with the following statement?

    "That leaves the Intel G45. If you are an Intel fan, this is your only real IGP choice... for the next few days at least."

    Are you suggesting that Intel might be releasing a new IGP over the next few days?
    Reply
  • Strid - Wednesday, October 15, 2008 - link

    The NVIDIA MCP7A (GeForce 9300/9400 IGP) boards supposedly launches today. They're sockey 775 boards. I'm pretty sure AnandTech will have a review up soon.

    http://www.silentpcreview.com/forums/viewtopic.php...">http://www.silentpcreview.com/forums/viewtopic.php...
    Reply
  • steveyballme - Tuesday, October 14, 2008 - link

    Clearly Nvidia!


    http://fakesteveballmer.blogspot.com">http://fakesteveballmer.blogspot.com
    Reply

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