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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  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, March 06, 2007 - link

    What's worse is that the G965 scores almost twice as high in 3DMark06... and then falls flat on its face in actual gaming tests. (Well, most of them anyway.) Reply
  • IntelUser2000 - Wednesday, March 14, 2007 - link

    quote:

    What's worse is that the G965 scores almost twice as high in 3DMark06... and then falls flat on its face in actual gaming tests. (Well, most of them anyway.)


    I think it might be combination of Vista too. Half Life 2 can score ~20 fps with G965 at the same settings AT tested at, when using Windows XP. I would also like to see how it performs it in XP. It seems G965 suffers more from Vista then other IGP.
    Reply
  • chucky2 - Tuesday, March 06, 2007 - link

    I think it would be good insurance, given how amazingly late 690G is, to please confirm with AMD that 690G motherboards will definitly support the AM2+ CPU's this late summer/fall.

    And before people remind me that this is already fact, we have not to my knowledge see AMD themselves confirm this...which for something so seemingly simple to confirm, is getting distrubingly telling.

    When AnandTech updates their article and says that they've gone back and confirmed with AMD that all 690G boards being release with support AM2+, or AMD themselves says it, then we'll know for sure. Until then, it's rumor...

    Chuck
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, March 06, 2007 - link

    AMD has not officially stated whether the Agena/Kuma will be drop-in compatible with current AM2 chipsets (or even the AM2 socket). We'd certainly love to know, but we're still waiting along with everyone else. Reply
  • chucky2 - Tuesday, March 06, 2007 - link

    Do they have any idea, and have you specifically put the question to them? I'm sure you have contacts at AMD...

    ...because from what I can tell, if a discrete graphics card is used, this chipset is looking like when Dr. Evil says, 1 million dollars! ...and then everyone is like, Uh, big deal...

    ...this thing should have released in Sept. of last year, and then become the defacto AMD chipset, not be released now - as you point out - with MCP68 right around the corner and the G35 coming also.

    This chipset really looks to me like a could have been. Good work ATI (and then AMD)!!!

    Chuck
    Reply
  • Gary Key - Tuesday, March 06, 2007 - link

    We asked the question Chuck, have not received an official answer yet. While backwards compatibility has always been discussed as possible by AMD, we are still not convinced with any of the current motherboards. One only has to look at the Conroe launch last year and realize that while the chipsets were compatible, the motherboards were not without an update. We just recently saw this again with Kentsfield. We wish this chipset would have been released last fall also. ;) Reply
  • chucky2 - Tuesday, March 06, 2007 - link

    Thanks Guys, that's about all I can ask for.

    I guess now I've got to really sit down and decide what's the best course of action for my godson and also cousins builds. Their both going to be budget builds, but I don't want to build them an AM2 system and basically have it be End Of Lifed in 3-4 months.

    You'd think if AMD wanted to stop the hemmoraging their seeing on the enthusiast side, they'd make a statement about AM2+ compatibility now, rather than wait and just keep loosing more and more. Not that a lot won't go over to the Intel side, but still, tell me 690G and say MCP68 will be the only AM2 chipsets that can take AM2+ CPU's, and now at least I've got a comfortable long term upgrade path.

    Leave me in doubt, I mine as well get a 1333FSB Intel board and go to the dark side...

    Looking forward to that mATX review...you think it'll be out this time next week, or towards Friday?

    Chuck
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, March 06, 2007 - link

    Honestly, the fact that AMD hasn't come out and said the next gen CPUs will work in AM2 speaks volumes in my book. Perhaps they are just trying to keep things quiet so that a bunch of people won't complain that their particular board won't run the new processors (some 939 boards wouldn't work with X2, after all, and there were some complaints saying AMD "guaranteed backwards compatibility). Hopefully that's all it is, but I am seriously concerned that Kuma and Agena will not work in the vast majority of AM2 boards - that's assuming they'll work in any at all.

    If AMD doesn't support older boards with the new processors, they are going to need some really impressive performance to keep people from raising Cain. As it stands, if a reasonably fast X2 5200+ or so isn't good enough for your long-term needs, I certainly wouldn't purchase a new AM2 system with the hope of an upgrade until the truth comes out.

    Final thought: The Quad FX platform has clearly been stated as being forwards compatible with native quad core Barcelona chips. If AMD is willing to make that commitment, why not make a similar commitment with AM2 and Agena/Kuma?
    Reply
  • dmce - Tuesday, March 06, 2007 - link

    Are we going to see some details regarding HD (1080P) playback and whether it can do it comfortable or not. I appreciate you made a small comment about it, but this was lifted from the original look at the 690G chipset a few days ago so no real update in this review. Im just puzzled no sites are taking a closer look at this considering its surely one of, if not the whole point of HDMI being there?

    Im not interested at all in using this for games, i want a 1080p capable machine.
    Reply
  • PokerGuy - Wednesday, March 07, 2007 - link

    I'm considering a board based on the 690G for my new HTPC, but now I see it won't be able to output 1080P? Yipes... even the lowly 6150 can output at 1080P, correct?

    Games are not important with regard to this board, but if it can't output at 1080p, what use would it be in a HTPC??

    Also, any ETA on when the mATX roundup will be released?
    Reply

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