On paper, the G965 Express chipset's GMA X3000 graphics core is a marvel. It's the only integrated graphics core with a unified shader architecture, it supports Shader Model 3.0 with 32-bit precision throughout, and it's loaded with video output options. With a 667MHz core clock speed, the X3000 should offer blistering performance, as well. But by and large, it doesn't. Sure, the GMA does well in 3DMark06. However, in actual games, the X3000 is consistently beaten by the Radeon X1250 in AMD's 690G chipset, and it struggles to keep up with Nvidia's older GeForce 6150 series IGPs. That's if the X3000 can run the games at all. As we saw with Battlefield 2 and Oblivion, Intel still has some very basic compatibility issues to address.
The GMA X3000's problems don't end with 3D performance, either. Intel's Clear Video processing suite also has issues, including choppy 1080p WMV HD playback and lower scores in HQV's DVD playback tests than competing solutions.
Apart from a flaky integrated graphics core, the G965 Express chipset is a solid offering. Performance is good, in part thanks to the platform's Core 2 Duo processor. Boards like the Asus P5B-VM can get you everything you need for an affordable price. Intel is also working to improve the GMA X3000's 3D performance and video playback quality, and future drivers promise to take better advantage of the graphics core's unified shader architecture, so it's possible that element of the chipset will become more appealing over time.
If you're a mainstream user buying into an integrated graphics platform, however, you don't want to fuss around with driver updates, and you don't want to have to wait for games to work. And that just kills it for the G965 Express. If you want to play games or watch video, you're better off with an integrated graphics platform from AMD or Nvidia. Intel may have a superior graphics architecture on paper, and they may even have the better core logic chipset in silicon, but the performance and compatibility issues need to be resolved before we can recommend the G965 Express.
38 comments — Last by ThelvynD at 11:49 AM on 04/08/07
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