We normally do not get giddy about the thought of reviewing another low budget integrated graphics platform. All right, some of us do, as we are eternal optimists that eventually a manufacturer will get it right. Guess what: AMD got it right - not exactly right, but for the first time we actually have an IGP solution that comes very close to satisfying everyone’s requirements in a low cost platform. Why are we suddenly excited about an integrated graphics platform again?

The legacy of integrated graphics platforms has historically been one of minimum functionality. With Intel as the number one graphics provider in the world, this can pose a problem for application developers looking to take advantage of the widest user base possible. Designing for the lowest common denominator can be a frustrating task when the minimum feature set and performance compared to current discreet solutions is so incredibly low.

The latest sales numbers indicate that about nine out of every ten systems sold have integrated graphics. We cannot understate the importance of a reasonable performance IGP solution in order to have a pleasurable all around experience on the PC. IGP performance might not be as important on a business platform relegated to email and office applications. However, it is important for a majority of home users who expect a decent amount of performance in a machine that typically will be a jack-of-all-trades, handling everything from email to office applications, heavy Internet usage, audio/video duties, and casual gaming.

Our opinions about the basic performance level of current IGP solutions have not always been kind. We felt like the introduction of Vista last year would ultimately benefit consumers and developers alike as it forces a certain base feature set and performance requirements for graphics hardware. However, even with full DX9 functionality required, the performance and compatibility of recent games under Vista is dismal at best. This along with borderline multimedia performance has left us with a sour taste in our mouths when using current IGP solutions from AMD, NVIDIA, and Intel for anything but email, Internet, basic multimedia, and Word; a few upgrades are inevitably required.



We are glad to say that this continual pattern of "mediocrity begets mediocrity" is finally ending, and we have AMD to thank for it. Yes, the same AMD that since the ATI merger has seemingly tripped over itself with questionable, failed, or very late product launches - depending upon your perspective. We endured the outrageous power requirements of the HD 2900 XT series and the constant K10 delays that turned into the underwhelming Phenom release; meanwhile, we watched Intel firing on all cylinders and NVIDIA upstaging AMD on the GPU front.

Thankfully, over the past few months we have seen AMD clawing its way back to respectability with the release of the HD 3xxx series of video cards, the under-appreciated 790/770 chipset release, and what remains a very competitive processor lineup in the budget sector. True, they have not been able to keep up with Intel or NVIDIA in the midrange to high-end sectors, but things are changing. While we wish AMD had an answer to Intel and NVIDIA in these more lucrative markets - for the sake of competition and the benefits that brings to the consumer - that is not where the majority of desktop sales occur. 

Most sales occur in the $300~$700 desktop market dominated by IGP based solutions and typically targeted at the consumer as an all-in-one solution for the family. Such solutions up until now have caused a great deal of frustration and grief for those who purchased systems thinking they would be powerful enough to truly satisfy everyone in the household, especially those who partake in games or audio/video manipulation.

With that in mind, we think AMD has a potential hit on its hands with their latest and greatest product. No, the product is still not perfect, but it finally brings a solution to the table that can at least satisfy the majority of needs in a jack-of-all-trades machine. What makes this possible and why are we already sounding like a group of preteens getting ready for a Hannah Montana concert?

Enter Stage Left; it’s not Hannah, but AMD’s latest edition to their ever-growing chipset portfolio, the 780G/780V chipset. The chipset nomenclature might make one think the 780G/780V is just an update to the successful 690G/690V product family. While the 780G product replaces the 690G, it is much more than just an update. In fact, the 780G is an all-new chipset that features a radically improved Northbridge and a slightly improved Southbridge. 

So let’s take a look at the chipset specifications and delve into the multimedia output qualities of the 780G chipset.

Details and More Details...
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  • derek85 - Tuesday, March 11, 2008 - link

    You certainly don't know anything about multimedia.

    With a 780G + Phenom + 2ch DDR2-667 or 800 you are getting almost full HDHQV scores; with 8300GS the memory on those cards are severely limited to single channel DDR2-800 and you are not getting ANY HDHQV features, the image quality would be very poor in comparison, and there is no way to remedy that no matter how powerful your CPU is.

    You said Phenom is not a good overclocker, and I agree with that, but what you got wrong is the market that 780G is aiming at. At this price point most people would never look at overclocking their PC, heck the average joe out there probably don't even know what's actually inside their computer case. The 780G will make a very good platform for everyday as well as a HTPC, and I'm sure it will be a good pick for OEMs.
    Reply
  • derek85 - Tuesday, March 11, 2008 - link

    Guess I hit enter button too soon...

    What I was trying to say is 780G excels in multimedia and will make its way into a damn good budget PC. You are looking at $50-60 saving in an entry level discrete graphics card, and probably $20-30 more on the motherboard at current running price for 780G. 780G will also do just fine in light gaming and usual productivity tasks. It can score 1600+ in 3DMark06, and a 8400GS is not going to do any better than that.
    Reply
  • gochichi - Tuesday, March 11, 2008 - link

    OK, so I'm excited for AMD. This kind of makes them really feasible again. I mean, for the price of a cheap video card... they throw in a free (and pretty decent) motherboard.

    I once read that some AMD official (maybe even the president, don't remember) thought that things are so tight in the CPU industry that it's a lot more profitable to make CPU cooling.

    Well??? C'MON! There is currently no mainstream HTPC system. AMD could really sell these IF they could sell it even more as a platform. Why leave it up to so-far so-chintzy 3rd parties to make something decent.

    What I would like to see is a "genuine" AMD thin case, with a power supply and a new type of AMD chip that comes with a flatter CPU cooler. All I want is space for one harddrive, and one 5.25" drive... make it as tight and slick as possible, and make it relatively affordable. Why not?

    I mean, I know it won't happen. But it should. This promises tighter integration, and I believe that making this integration visible to the consumer via a slick AMD-branded case (work with Antec, Lian-Li or just AMD) that draws attention to the near console price that you can now build a system with.

    Also, because Vista is so expensive to the people building their own machine. It is critical for them to offer splendid Linux support. If I knew it was plug & play with the next Ubuntu including audio through HDMI... that would sell it to me all over again.

    AMD ALMOST has the price-point going on. Vista messes that up, expensive and UNIMPRESSIVE cases/power supplies messes that up as well.

    Do you people realize that a Mac Min is currently the cheapest slick-form factor computer available??? How can that be? Apple is EXPENSIVE!?! It doesn't need to be ridiculously small... but slicker than the crap that's available.

    Asus makes something like I have in mind but it's ran on Intel and is expensive as all get out.

    AMD... give us the humble little platform that could. You're SO close now.
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, March 11, 2008 - link

    You know, I reviewed an Aopen MiniPC a long time ago. I burned out one fan in the process of a one month review. Okay, sure, I was stress-testing with Folding@Home, but that still gives me pause. Then I got a new fan, finished the review, and about two months later (without stress testing) the second fan gave out! I'd assume the Mac Mini is doing better than Aopen, since I haven't heard any uproar, but then I don't follow Macs much.

    More to the point, going *small* has some potential drawbacks. After initially being impressed by SFF and other small systems, I'm pretty much done with them now. uATX is more or less viable, but if you're looking for long-term reliability and don't want overheating and premature part failures, I would stick with a decent ATX case. The uATX stuff just never seems quite as robust after a couple years of use, IMO.
    Reply
  • gochichi - Tuesday, March 11, 2008 - link

    The Mac Mini wannabe that you're talking about was not what I had in mind. What I am saying is that buying a Mac Mini, and installing Windows Vista for $100.00 is still cheaper than most small/slick form factors.

    Now, Mac Mini is absurdly small (it's very well executed, and reliable as hell, but the slow harddrive etc is absurd IMHO). I'm suggesting something 8 times as big or so (2 mac minis tall, 4 per layer-ish). Just make it slick. It's REALLY not that hard!

    I keep thinking I should just cast an aluminum case from scratch b/c the market is that lame. The few cases that aren't lame are over priced as hell. I suppose the really small HP is fine, (perfect even in terms of size/$/sacrifices). But what about the people that want to buy something from scratch and not undergo armed robbery and chintziness all at the same time.

    AMD is unable to take things to the next level. This new vision of "lets not beat Intel in performance/$" COULD work, but it would need a gimmick. They are definitely missing that gimmick although this new chipset came close.

    The only actual contribution to the world that this chipset has made is that Intel will beat it (or compete with it) and since Intel has stellar Linux support, better CPUs, and better battery life on laptops etc... that will be good. I really only need so much from a graphics card most of the time, and this 780G covers NEEDS.
    Reply
  • phusg - Tuesday, March 11, 2008 - link

    What's wrong with Shuttle SFF PC's? Sure the internal PSU crapped out on me after a few years, but I think mine looks pretty good.

    I do agree with your parent post though that SFF isn't really worth the hassle in a lot of cases. A HTPC is often accompanied by an AV Receiver and TV that are often both easily as big as ATX, so what's the point in going small for the PC component? I'm currently building a recylcled ATX machine as a HTPC to replace my Shuttle and am sure I will love the extra expansion slots, cooler temps and quieter operation. If AMD would just make a decent AGP driver release all will be good again...
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, March 11, 2008 - link

    What's wrong? I suppose it all depends on the TLC you give your computer. I'd *never* recommend overclocking Shuttle - or any other - SFFs. I did that in my early SFF reviews. Some of those systems I kept overclocked (and we're talking mild 10-20% overclocks), and most would fail within a year. Even *without* overclocking, nearly every SFF I've ever used failed in some manner before two years was up.

    Shuttle did better in this regard than others, but the long-term prospects are pretty poor. I had several motherboards fail (will no longer POST at all). I've had fan controllers fail on at least two units - still usable, but now you need to plug into a regular Molex connector and run the fan at 100%. PSUs have failed on maybe 1/3 of the SFFs I've used (within a two year period - most last at least a year).

    The real issue with the above is that all SFFs are proprietary, so when something inevitably *does* fail, you get raped on price a second time. And taking the motherboard or PSU out of an SFF is not nearly as easy as in a uATX/ATX system. If you want the wiring to look nice again - which is actually critical in such a small chassis since it affects airflow - you're looking at many hours of work.
    Reply
  • gochichi - Tuesday, March 11, 2008 - link

    Building a computer on the cheap, doesn't add up anymore.

    AMD would be wise to partner up and make a conveniently priced, conveniently sized, platform. Because if the price is right and it's convenient then their performance deficit is not important.


    Reply
  • sprockkets - Thursday, March 13, 2008 - link

    They could always release a DTX board, like they said over a year ago. Reply
  • panfist - Tuesday, March 11, 2008 - link

    Will it be worth waiting for a 790GX? Or if I want that much performance, just go with discrete graphics that's better than hybrid crossfire anyway?

    What's the best AMD HTPC board that uses discrete graphics?
    Reply

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