AMD 690G: Performance Review

by Gary Key on March 6, 2007 8:00 AM EST
The AMD 690G/690V chipset was officially launched about a week ago. This is AMD's first integrated graphics platform and in our initial testing proved to be a serious competitor to the NVIDIA 6100 series and the Intel G965 in video performance. We have had a little extra time to work with the chipset and feel confident enough in the chipset and drivers to publish our first performance results today. While our initial results will concentrate on video, media, and audio application performance from a chipset level, we will be looking in-depth at each 690G board in our upcoming mATX roundup that features over ten boards from four different chipset suppliers.

We actually have had the MSI K9AGM2-FIH in our labs for several weeks and the initial performance results were somewhat disappointing based upon our expectations of the chipset (not the board). However, through the release of new BIOS code and driver updates from AMD, the board has turned into quite the performer in several areas. Of course the previous statement should be tempered to a certain degree as AMD's first IGP is competing against an NVIDIA chipset that has been out for close to 18 months and an Intel chipset that continues to disappoint us at just about every turn.

Our opinions about the basic performance level of current IGP solutions are not kind as we feel like the continued minimum functionality in such solutions creates issues with developers looking to move forward but who must always have a foot in the grave to ensure their products run on the lowest common denominator platform. To a certain degree, that platform has historically been Intel based as they are the world's largest graphics provider. This is a position that breeds frustration when the overall performance and feature sets are so low that one wonders why they even bother to update their IGP chipsets targeted to the home user.

Of course the introduction of Vista will ultimately benefit consumers and developers as it forces a certain base feature set and performance requirement for graphics hardware. However, even with DX9 functionality required for the full Vista UI, the performance and compatibility of current games with Intel hardware under Vista is dismal at best. All of this sounds like a lot of doom and gloom, and in some ways it is but such is the life of an integrated graphics platform in the hands of even the most casual gamer today. This is why we are always looking forward to seeing new integrated chipsets as competition drives innovation, no matter how small the improvements might be at times.

This is not to say that the AMD and NVIDIA solutions are that much better than the Intel G965; they are to a certain degree, but without earnest competition from Intel these solutions do just enough to stay ahead without actually encroaching on the discrete GPU market. However, at least these solutions provide a much higher degree of compatibility and performance with most games and applications. While running the latest games such as Oblivion or Supreme Commander require a resolution of 1024x768 or under with medium-low quality settings, at least a user has the chance to play the game until they can afford a better video solution although the experience will not be a pleasant one with the latest game releases.

Let's take a quick look at the specifications of the AMD 690G/690V chipsets and its performance against the other major IGP solutions.

Chipset Overview
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  • chucky2 - Wednesday, March 7, 2007 - link

    BlingBlingArsch of the AnandTech forums linked to some pictures of the board, and there's one of the back panel I/O:">

    Looks like there's definitely no Firewire... :( :( :(

    What are these manufacturers thinking (or rather not thinking) not including Firewire on this boards? These would be totally complete solutions, especially this Abit with the optical out it has, if they'd only have Firewire on them...

    ...and the expansion is so limited, putting in an add-in Firewire basically kills for TV tuner, capture, etc. additions. about something that's almost perfect that gets ruined by either a poor design decision or a poor bean counter decision... :(

  • Myrandex - Wednesday, March 7, 2007 - link

    "The 6150 performs okay considering the age of its core and we will see the new 6150SE and older 6100 chipset performing a few percent better overall but not enough to catch the 690G."

    How would the 6100 be a few percent better when it is clocked lower?
  • Renoir - Tuesday, March 6, 2007 - link

    The review over at">Bit-tech.netsays the 690G supports dual-link DVI and confirmed as much by sending 2560x1600 over DVI to the dell 30incher. This review however says "Larger 30" flat panel monitors won't be able to run at native resolution" and the technology overview article says "The digital outputs use TMDS transmitters that run at 165MHz". What's the deal?
  • Gary Key - Wednesday, March 7, 2007 - link

    The 690G supports Dual-Link DVI. We had stated this on page two but not in a separate section. I will reword the 2D paragraph to make this clear. As for the resolution, I am using a Samsung 30" panel and the current Vista drivers limit me to 2048x1536. I have sent a board to Jarred who has the Dell 30" to test on it. AMD still confirms that 2048x1536 is the "current" max resolution although we know the hardware has 2560x1600 capability according to one of our sources.
  • Renoir - Wednesday, March 7, 2007 - link

    Hmmm something's not quite right it seems. Can't see why they were able to send 2560x1600 if you couldn't. Would definitely appreciate Jarred checking it on the dell although I'd be surprised if it was a monitor issue. Who knows without trying. Have asked bit-tech what os they were using to get it to work. An XP vs Vista issue perhaps? The related paragraph in the technology overview article mentions the TMDS's run at 165mhz which I understand is single-link? Have seen the 165mhz listed elsewhere for the 690G so am curious where this info comes from if the chipset is dual-link? Unless I've misunderstood something about "165mhz"?
  • Gary Key - Wednesday, March 7, 2007 - link

    The DVI spec transmits data using the transition minimized differential signaling (TMDS) protocol. The DVI spec calls for each DVI output to have at least one TMDS “link” consisting of three data channels (RGB) and one control channel. The maximum speed at which a single 10-bit TMDS link may operate at is 165MHz, offering 1.65Gbps of bandwidth. In real world terms, this means a single 10-bit TMDS link can drive a display at up to 1920 x 1200 (the actual maximum resolution can vary depending on the panel, spec is 1920x1080). For most displays that’s not a problem, but the 30” Displays have a native resolution of 2560 x 1600, which exceeds the bandwidth a single TMDS link can deliver. So what do you do? Remember that the DVI spec calls for at least one TMDS link, but each DVI port can support up to two TMDS links (the 690G has dual TDMS links), thus doubling the maximum bandwidth and enabling support for a 30" (if driver support is present) display or even some of the new 27" units that can run at 2048x1560.
  • Renoir - Thursday, March 8, 2007 - link

    Thanks for the reply Gary. That was precisely my understanding of the situation which is why I found the following quote from the technology overview article confusing "The digital outputs each use TMDS transmitters that run at 165MHz." This sentence didn't come across as saying the digital outputs had 2 TMDS "links" but rather just 1 running at 165mhz (hence single-link). Perhaps you could reword it to explain that each link runs at 165mhz but that there are actually 2 links in order to support the higher resolutions afforded by dual-link DVI. Don't mean to be picky just think this part could be a little clearer :-)
    As for the resolution cap at 2048x1536 you guys are experiencing the Bit-Tech guys have confirmed they got 2560x1600 working on XP and suggest your problem is an issue with the current vista drivers.
  • Gary Key - Thursday, March 8, 2007 - link

    I have a new Vista driver as of today.

    Here are the specs -
    DVI - Supports dual link up to 2560x1600.

    HDMI - maximum resolution supported is 1920x1080 (using a HDMI-DVI cable
    you can go up to 1920x1200)

    VGA- Maximum resolution support depends on monitor refresh rates and aspect

    2048x1536 @ 85 Hz in 4:3 format
    2560x1440 @ 75 Hz in 16:9 format
    2728x1536 @ 60 Hz in 16:9 format
    2456x1536 @ 60 Hz in 16:10 format

    Hope that helps.
  • Renoir - Thursday, March 8, 2007 - link

    That's cleared that up then (was merely a driver issue). Anyhow 2 questions

    1) Both digital outputs support HDCP but are on separate display controllers. Does that mean they have 2 built in cryptoroms (1 for each controller) given that separate cryptoroms are required for each controller/output? If they do have 2 then why only allow HDCP on one output at a time?

    2) In a related point (upcoming mobile version of chipset) what connection do laptops use internally for their screens? The reason I ask is I'm interested in getting a laptop in future which supports both hdcp for the laptop screen but also via an external digital connection to a larger display.
  • jonman03 - Tuesday, March 6, 2007 - link

    I know its onboard video and stuff, but a 3D Mark06 score of 313? They should be able to better than that, see who can get it into the 1000's first. Although unlikely, it'd be a nice alternative to buying a video card for a basic computing system.">Custom Gaming Computers

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