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3D performance
Integrated graphics isn't known for exceptional 3D performance, but can the GMA X3000's unified shader architecture surprise?

Yes, at least to start. The G965 turns in an inspired performance in 3DMark06's game tests, and that contributes to a very impressive overall score.

Digging down into the results of 3DMark06's feature tests gives us a few clues as to why the G965 Express fares so well. The GMA X3000 boasts the highest single-texturing fill rate of the lot, although despite its clock speed advantage, multi-texturing fill rate falls short of the AMD 690G's integrated Radeon X1250.

Pixel processing power is clearly X3000's real strength, and it easily whips the competition in 3DMark06's pixel shader test. However, without drivers capable of using the X3000's hardware to process vertex loads, the G965 Express' performance in 3DMark06's vertex shader tests isn't spectacular.

We could have limited our game testing to two- and three-year-old titles that might have been a better match for the horsepower of our chipsets' integrated graphics cores. However, even casual gamers want to play new releases, so we rounded up a series of more recent titles to see how playable they were on the G965.

Things didn't get off to a good start, with the G965 failing to run both Battlefield 2 and Oblivion. The games would load their respective splash screens—briefly—before dumping us back to the desktop. That left us with F.E.A.R., Guild Wars, and Lego Star Wars II. For the latter two, we used FRAPS to log frame rates over 60 seconds of gameplay. Average and low frame rates were then calculated, and we've presented the mean of the averages and the median of the low scores. With F.E.A.R., we used the game's internal performance test, which provides average and low frame rates.

All games were configured with the same in-game detail levels, with the exception of Lego Star Wars II. The G965's graphics options are rather limited in that game, and we weren't presented with the options to enable bump mapping, bloom filtering, and plastic effects. We went ahead and enabled those effects on the 690G and GeForce 6150 chipsets.

Even with lower in-game detail levels, the G965 still gets creamed in Lego Star Wars II. Things don't get much better in Guild Wars, where the X3000 struggles to keep up with the GeForce 6150 SE. At least the chipset's performance in F.E.A.R. is encouraging, though the G965 still can't catch the AMD 690G.