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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  • Gary Key - Tuesday, March 11, 2008 - link

    The 790GX features the HD 3300, which is a slight upgrade to the HD 3200 on the 780G. We are told the IGP performance differences will be slightly improved, but until we have the chipset and drivers, it will be difficult to determine if those improvement are meaningful or not. At this time, AMD is quiet about actual specs and capabilities of the 790GX. If you are a very casual gamer, Sims2/UT2004/CoH type of games then Hybrid CrossFire is a decent solution up to 1280x1024 resolution. If you want to run upcoming games and Crysis at an acceptable rate, then discreet graphics is the way to go.

    At this time, if you want an uATX form factor, the 780G is the best AMD chipset for discrete graphics performance. I have not found any real difference in performance between it and a 770X board with a HD 3870 installed. You need to go up to the 790FX for the best performing chipset with an AM2+ CPU right now. I will update this if we get a performance oriented BIOS for the GeForce 8200 board which may or may not changes its performance capabilities.
    Reply
  • Genx87 - Monday, March 10, 2008 - link

    Maybe it is late.

    What is the expected cost and release date of this motherboard?

    Reply
  • Gary Key - Tuesday, March 11, 2008 - link

    The reader who responded basically answered the supply and price question. :) NewEgg was running a special on the ECS board this week for %59.99 with a rebate. Our information is that all of the launch partners for this board should have supply in the channel by the end of March or early April at worst. The feature sets will determine the prices but AMD was shooting for an average street price of $75 on the 780G. The 780V will be a white box or OEM only SKU for now.

    The J&W board will not be available in the US or Canada at this time. It is the only board we have in-house that offers the SidePort memory option and with the latest 8.3 drivers, it makes a 5%~10% difference in a few games. AMD is telling us the final 8.4 drivers should allow this option to assist in lowering CPU utilization by a few percent also.
    Reply
  • goinginstyle - Tuesday, March 11, 2008 - link

    The Gigabyte, ASUS, and ECS boards are available (if in stock) in the Americas at prices ranging from $69 to $99. In Europe and APAC, the J&W boards (along with the others) are available currently. The J&W will be our choice for the more performance oriented user. We expect to see boards from Biostar, abit, MSI, and Foxconn shortly at prices under $100, average MSRP for this chipset should be around $80 once supply is plentiful. Reply
  • goinginstyle - Tuesday, March 11, 2008 - link

    Hit the enter button too soon but that information is from another website that will not be mentioned just in case it is a violation of the rules here. I bought the Gigabyte board from NEWEGG last week for $95 and found out today that the 780G chipset shows ENG0752 on it. Any comments on your boards having ENG chipsets? Reply
  • eches - Monday, March 10, 2008 - link

    BUT sadly almost useless to me since all my HTPC builds run Linux. It would be VERY interesting to see a comparison in terms of Linux to Windows playback quality/performance since the drivers are bound to make a huge difference here.

    Also some interesting comments - my Linux HTPC runs an XP2600 (OC to 2.1 Ghz) and only just manages to handle 720p MKV playback. Can a Sempron at 1.8Ghz really manage 720p under Windows? Might be time for an upgrade *grin*
    Reply
  • phusg - Tuesday, March 11, 2008 - link

    Your hardware should be plenty to playback 720p video. If only something as efficient as CoreCodec's CoreAVC was available for linux. What do you presently use to playback? Is the playback totally smooth?

    It's also a shame the hardware acceleration of HD video on the newer AGP cards isn't available on the linux side, that would be another cheap way to stretch your hardware :)
    Reply
  • eches - Wednesday, March 12, 2008 - link

    Smooth at 2.13Ghz, but with some sound sync issues - this is with Xine and all de-interlacing/post-processing disabled (and minimal background processing). And indeed I am awaiting the CoreAVC player for Linux (yes, I could patch MPlayer but I'm also trying to keep the HTPC low maintenance) since this is a quick and cheap way of making the most of this old hardware.

    And cheers Gary! I look forward to the Linux article with GREAT interest - will you also be taking a look at NVidia cards and doing a quality comparison?
    Reply
  • Gary Key - Tuesday, March 11, 2008 - link

    We just shipped a 780G board to one of our upcoming Linux editors to test. We should have some initial results in the next couple of weeks. I have not had a pleasurable experience with the Sempron 3400+ doing encoding/decoding work on this board under Vista. It is something I am still working on for a future HTPC article, one that we will recommend/show just how low you can go with the new IGP boards and still have a "well performing" system. Does a Sempron 3400+ and a HD 3450 card for a total outlay of $85 offer better performance on this board than a 4850e CPU only for the same price. This is something we are trying to answer with Intel, NVIDIA, and AMD hardware. Reply
  • eches - Wednesday, March 12, 2008 - link

    Sorry I had tacked on a "cheers" at the end of the reply further down - GREAT stuff!

    "How Low Can You Go?" eh? Sounds very interesting but complex if done properly (i.e. Tests on Vista, XP and Linux; and a need to cover quite a few players in order to do quality/performance comparisons). A look at power consumption would also add an interesting slant - *possibly* putting XP/Vista in a different light when once considers TCO and Linuxs often poor power management.

    Personally I was surprised to get a XP2600 to play 720p content and could probably get it smooth without an OC if I used CoreAVC and a dedicated sound card. Given we're talking 6 year old 'junk' hardware here, a free OS etc. thats pretty low!
    Reply

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