AMD’s 780G chipset

I’ve had a computer hooked up to my television for as long as I’ve had a living room. What would eventually be called a home theater PC had humble beginnings, starting its life tasked with simply playing movies and MP3s before eventually morphing into a personal video recorder and an occasional game box. Before long, living room gaming duties were offloaded to consoles, allowing years to pass with nary an upgrade to my media PC. So long has it been since I last cracked the case that a thin blanket of dust has draped itself across the system’s internals, making the now-vintage hardware look all the more old and decrepit.

The HTPC market has exploded since I last built one. What was once an expensive accessory confined to enterprising geeks and do-it-yourself enthusiasts has moved into mainstream living rooms. And thanks to the relatively modest requirements of multimedia playback and recording, even today’s budget hardware is up to the task—hardware like AMD’s new 780G integrated graphics chipset.

The latest fruit borne of AMD’s purchase of ATI packs a DirectX 10-compliant graphics core pulled from a Radeon HD 2400 graphics card, decode acceleration for HD DVD Blu-ray movie playback, second-generation PCI Express, Hybrid CrossFire, a new SB700 south bridge, and a Phenom-ready HyperTransport 3 processor link. All that’s coming to motherboards that should cost less than $100. Alongside it, AMD is introducing a new energy-efficient Athlon X2 4850e with a 45W TDP and $89 price tag.

On paper, it looks like we have the recipe for a killer home theater PC or mainstream desktop. But has AMD nailed the execution this time around? We’ve run the 780G and 4850e through a grueling array of tests in order to find out.

New hotness all around

The 780G is a new chipset from its integrated graphics processor through the north bridge and all the way down to the south bridge. Of those components, the IGP is perhaps the most exciting. Dubbed the Radeon HD 3200, the integrated graphics core is ripped directly from the RV610 graphics processor that powers the Radeon HD 2400 series—a chip that was released just eight months ago. That’s incredibly quick trickle down from budget GPU to integrated graphics chipset, making this the first IGP we’ve had that’s really in step with the current generation of discrete GPUs.

Because it’s a member of the same graphics family as AMD’s discrete GPUs, the Radeon HD 3200 is also eligible for Hybrid Graphics configurations. The chipset’s GPU can be teamed with a single graphics card—in this case either a Radeon HD 3450 or 3470—to improve performance in 3D applications. Hybrid CrossFire only delivers performance gains when GPUs of relatively similar horsepower are combined, which is why the Radeon HD 3200 IGP will only work in conjunction with the HD 3400 series of discrete GPUs.

Within the integrated Radeon HD 3200 graphics processor lies a unified shader architecture that spreads 40 stream processors across two shader SIMDs. Also included are single texture and ROP units capable of handling four texels and pixels per clock, respectively. The vertex and texture caches are shared to save die area (they’re separate with most other R600-based designs), but the Radeon HD 3200 is still very much a DirectX 10-class part. If you think of the new Radeon HD 3800 series as a V8, the 3200 is essentially a single piston—one that runs at an impressive 500MHz and has access to up to 512MB of system memory.

Thanks to the 780G north bridge chip’s HyperTransport 3 link, which scales up to 1.8GHz with AMD’s current Phenom processors, the Radeon HD 3200 enjoys a very fat pipe to two channels of DDR2 memory at up to an effective 1066MHz. Motherboard makers can also equip the 3200 with dedicated memory of its own, an addition that AMD says can improve performance by 10-15%. Such support for local memory in an IGP isn’t actually new, but it’s a capability rarely exploited by motherboards that show up in retail. AMD claims tier-one mobo makers are, er, onboard to take advantage of it this time around, though.

The 780G block diagram. Source: AMD

HyperTransport bandwidth is apparently so important to the Radeon HD 3200 that AMD recommends a 1.8GHz link—currently available only with Phenom—to make the most of the graphics core. The 3200’s post-processing engine for high-definition video playback actually requires the 1.8GHz HT link that Phenom provides. You don’t need a Phenom to take advantage of the Radeon HD 3200’s other video decoding capabilities, though. The integrated GPU’s enhanced Universal Video Decoder (UVD) block is capable of handling decoding duties for high definition Blu-ray movies, and if you’re a fan of the new Betamax, it’ll do HD DVD too.

High-definition-ness is carried all the way through to the HD 3200’s outputs, which include not only VGA and DVI, but also HDMI and even DisplayPort. HDCP is supported, as well, and the 780G is smart enough to be able to route S/PDIF audio through its HDMI output.

We’ve spent a lot of time on integrated graphics, but it’s not the only element of the 780G’s new hotness. The north bridge also gets 26 lanes of second-generation PCI Express connectivity, should you want to add a discrete graphics card of your own. 16 of those lanes are reserved for an x16 link, while six are distributed across x1 links meant for expansion slots and onboard peripherals. The remaining four links are reserved for the chipset’s north bridge-to-south bridge interconnect.

Follow the interconnect south, and you’re greeted by AMD’s eagerly-anticipated SB700 south bridge chip, which ultimately arrives with a bit of a whimper. The SB700 may be new silicon, but in many ways, it’s just more of the same. Take the chipset interconnect, for example. The 780G has four lanes of PCIe 2.0 reserved for its chipset link, and while the SB700 can match its northern neighbor’s lane count, those PCI Express lanes come from the previous 1.1 generation. This caps north-south bridge interconnect bandwidth at 2GB/s—half of what it could have been with a top-to-bottom PCIe 2.0 implementation.

We quite literally see more of the same in the SB700’s Serial ATA controller. The port count here is up to six, but they’re basically six of the same ports you get on the old SB600. Drives can be configured in RAID 0, 1, and 10 arrays, but RAID 5 remains unavailable. This omission is notable because if you’re a little paranoid about data loss, a three-drive RAID 5 might be a decent solution for a home theater PC.

On the USB front, the SB700 is up to 12 ports, this time with a dual-channel controller AMD says is faster than what can be found in the SB600. A couple of USB 1.1 ports are also included, apparently at the request of notebook makers who use them for various widgets.

The prospect of 780G notebook applications leads us nicely to the chipset’s party piece: its power consumption. A very advanced—at least in chipset terms—55nm fabrication process is used to manufacture the chipset’s north and south bridge components, bringing idle power consumption for the chips down to what AMD claims is less than one watt each.

Gigabyte’s GA-MA780GM-S2H mobo
780G in the flesh

Manufacturer Gigabyte
Model GA-MA78GM-S2H
Price (Street)
Availability Now

The 780G chipset arrived in our labs riding aboard Gigabyte’s new GA-MA780GM-S2H motherboard. You can already find this board for sale online, albeit from only one vendor at the moment. Still, it’s selling for roughly $100, which is quite affordable considering the board’s payload of features and the fact that it’s such a fresh release.

As one might expect, the GA-MA780GM-S2H continues Gigabyte’s tradition of entirely too long and convoluted motherboard names. The board is built for a Micro ATX form factor that will squeeze nicely into smaller enclosures while still providing a couple of PCI and PCI Express expansion options, including an x16 slot if you want to skip out on the chipset’s integrated graphics or take advantage of its Hybrid CrossFire capability.

Gigabyte’s board designers have done a reasonably good job with the board’s layout given the Micro ATX form factor’s restrictive dimensions. Longer double-wide graphics cards will block access to some of the SATA ports, but that’s hard to avoid when there’s limited board real estate to work with.

At least the board’s chipset coolers won’t get in the way. Low-profile heatsinks cover the chipset’s north and south bridge components with nary a fan in sight, which bodes well for this motherboard’s suitability for silent desktops and home theater PCs. Such modest cooling also reflects well on the 780G’s power consumption.

Around the port cluster, the Gigabyte board packs an impressive array of video outputs. You won’t find any DisplayPort goodness here, but VGA, DVI, and HDMI ports are all present. There’s also an S/PDIF audio output courtesy of one of Realtek’s swanky ALC889A codec chips. The ALC889A is about as high-end as Realtek’s HD audio codecs get; it actually supports DTS Connect encoding that allows users to pass multi-channel audio over a single digital connection.

Firewire and External Serial ATA connectors make an appearance in the port cluster, as well, with the latter fed by the same SB700 south bridge the powers the internal SATA ports. Four USB ports are also provided, alongside onboard headers for eight more. And, of course, there’s a single Gigabit Ethernet port. Since the 780G lacks integrated networking, GigE duties are handled by a Realtek 8111C networking controller that happily sits on the PCI Express bus.

One more thing

To coincide with the 780G chipset launch, AMD is taking the wraps off its new Athlon X2 4850e processor. Fabbed on a 65nm process, the 4850e has the same 2.5GHz clock speed and 1MB L2 cache as the Athlon X2 4800+, but with a TDP of just 45 watts.

The 4850e isn’t available online just yet, but AMD says the chip will sell for only $89. That’s essentially the same price as the existing Athlon X2 4800+, so the new chip’s lower power consumption won’t cost you any extra. AMD is adamant that performance is consistent between the two chips, as well.

Asus’ P5E-VM HDMI motherboard
Introducing the G35 Express

Manufacturer Asus
Model P5E-VM HDMI
Price (Street)
Availability Now

With Nvidia’s next-gen GeForce 8200 integrated graphics chipset not quite ready for prime time, the 780G’s primary competition will come from Intel’s G35 Express. This latest IGP chipset from the blue team features a GMA X3500 graphics processor with a unified shader core whose roots can be traced all the way back to the GMA X3000 found in the G965 Express chipset. Like the X3000, the X3500 has eight scalar shader execution units and a 667MHz core clock speed. The X3500 is DirectX 10-compliant, too, with support for Shader Model 4.0 and OpenGL 2.0. This IGP also packs a Clear Video decode engine that can offload some elements of the HD video playback process.

The G35 Express is more of a refresh than a brand new chipset, though, and it shows. Digital video outputs like DVI and HDMI are only supported through auxiliary sDVO (Serial Digital Video Output) chips, and PCI Express is limited to gen-one connectivity. Intel’s block diagram for the G35 even calls for the chipset to include south bridge components from the old ICH8 family.

Asus has been a little more enterprising with its G35-based P5E-VM HDMI, pairing the G35 Express north bridge with the very same ICH9R south bridge chip you’ll find on high-end P35 and X38 boards. The result is a Micro ATX motherboard with many of the bells and whistles one might expect from a full-size ATX model.

The P5E-VM uses a much larger north bridge cooler than we saw strapped to the 780G, but it’s still a fanless and therefore silent design. Asus favors PCIe over PCI, equipping the board with a pair of PCIe x1 slots and only a single PCI slot. That actually makes sense given the fact Asus is now making PCI Express sound cards.

Installing a double-wide graphics card will cost you one of the x1 slots, though. Longer double-wide cards will also interfere with a number of the board’s SATA ports—apparently par for the course within the Micro ATX form factor’s relatively cramped proportions.

In fact, the board is so crowded that Asus has moved a handful of components onto a little riser card that sits just above the top PCIe x1 slot. This card houses an ASMedia Technology ASM4136 chip, which according to what little information is available on the wide world internets—and then mostly in speculative forum discussions—is some sort of video processing decoder likely tied to the board’s HDMI output.

You won’t find quite the bounty of ports on the P5E-VM that we did on the Gigabyte board, but there’s plenty to like here, including VGA and HDMI video outputs. DVI output is supported, as well, although only through an HDMI-to-DVI adapter that Asus includes in the box. The board has a full range of analog audio outs and a coaxial S/PDIF output courtesy of Realtek’s budget ALC883 codec.

As one might expect, the P5E-VM features Gigabit Ethernet, but through an PCIe-based Atheros L1 networking controller rather than more common chips from Marvell or Realtek. Firewire and USB make the cut, as well, but External Serial ATA is conspicuously missing.

What’s in a Micro ATX BIOS?

Micro ATX models are rarely revered for their tweaking and overclocking options, so we poked around the BIOSes for our Asus and Gigabyte boards to see what we could find. Much to our surprise, these boards are pretty well equipped if you want to get your hands dirty and fiddle around.

Asus P5E-VM HDMI Gigabyte GA-MA78G-S2H

Bus speeds
FSB: 400-800MHz in
1MHz increments
FSB strap: 200, 266, 333MHz

PCIe: 100-150MHz in 1MHz increments

DRAM: 533, 667,
800MHz

HT:
200-500MHz in
1MHz increments
HT Link: 200MHz-2.6GHz in 200MHz increments

PCIe: 100-200MHz in 1MHz increments

VGA core: 150-1100MHz in 1MHz increments


Bus multipliers
CPU: 6x-10x (Pentium E2180) CPU: 5x-25x (Phenom 9600 BE)

DRAM controller frequency: 5x-16x

DRAM: 2,2.66,3.33,4,5.33

Voltages CPU: 1.1-1.7V in 0.0125V increments

DRAM: 1.8-2.44V in 0.02V increments

PLL: 1.5-1.8V in 0.02V increments
FSB termination: 1.2-1.5V in
0.02V increments
NB:
1.25-1.71V in 0.02V increments
SB: 1.05, 1.2V

CPU: +0.025-0.6V in 0.025V increments

DRAM: +0.1-0.3V in 0.1V increments

NB: +0.1-0.3V in 0.1V increments


Monitoring
Voltage, fan
status, and temperature monitoring
Voltage, fan
status, and temperature monitoring

Fan speed control
CPU, chassis CPU

Both offer all the usual memory timings with a decent array of overclocking options, to boot. Front-side bus and HT clock speeds are available in ranges that should be more than ample for most folks. You can even tweak CPU and chipset voltages, although there are more overvolting options on the Asus board than on the Gigabyte.

Temperature-based processor fan speed control is really a must-have feature for home theater PCs, so it’s good to see it making an appearance in both BIOSes. The Asus board offers temperature-based fan speed control for its system fan header, which is a nice little perk. Neither board exposes BIOS-level control over target temperatures or fan speed profiles, though.

If you’re planning on plunking a Phenom into the GA-MA78GM-S2H, you’ll be happy to know that its latest F3C BIOS revision includes a switch to disable AMD’s TLB workaround. AMD has instructed motherboard makers not to include such a switch in their BIOSes, but Gigabyte and others don’t appear to be heeding that request, which suits us just fine. You should also be able to disable the TLB patch using AMD’s OverDrive software, which is fully compatible with the 780G chipset.

Specifics on specifications

To cover all the little details we haven’t had the chance to discuss yet, I’ve compiled a handy spec sheet that sums up the Asus P5E-VM HDMI and the Gigabyte GA-MA78GM-S2H.

Asus P5E-VM HDMI Gigabyte GA-MA78G-S2H

CPU support
LGA775-based
Celeron, Pentium 4/D, Core 2 processors
Socket AM2+/AM2-based Athlon,
Phenom processors

North bridge
Intel G35 Express AMD 780G

South bridge
Intel ICH9R AMD SB700

Interconnect
DMI (2GB/s) PCI Express x4 (2GB/s)

Expansion slots
1 PCI Express x16

2 PCI Express x1
1 32-bit/33MHz PCI

1 PCI Express x16

1 PCI Express x1
2 32-bit/33MHz PCI


Memory
4 240-pin DIMM
sockets

Maximum of 8GB of DDR2-667/800/1066 SDRAM

4 240-pin DIMM
sockets

Maximum of 16GB of DDR2-667/800/1066 SDRAM


Storage I/O
Floppy disk

1 channel ATA/133 via JMicron JMB368

6 channels 300MB/s Serial ATA with RAID 0, 1, 10, 5 support

Floppy disk

1 channel ATA/133

5 channels 300MB/s Serial ATA with RAID 0, 1, 10 support

Audio 8-channel HD audio via Realtek ALC883 codec 8-channel HD audio via Realtek
ALC889A codec
Ports 1 PS/2 keyboard
1 PS/2 mouse
1 VGA
1 HDMI

6 USB
2.0 with headers for 6 more

1 RJ45 10/100/1000 via Atheros L1
1 1394a Firewire via
VIA VT6308P with header for 1 more

1 analog front out
1 analog bass/center out

1 analog rear out

1 analog surround out

1 analog line in

1 analog mic in
1 digital coaxial S/PDIF
output

1 PS/2 keyboard
1 PS/2 mouse
1 VGA
1 DVI
1 HDMI
1
eSATA

4 USB
2.0 with headers for 8 more

1 RJ45 10/100/1000 via Realtek 8111C
1 1394a Firewire via
Texas Instruments TSB43AB23 with header for 1 more

1 analog front out
1 analog bass/center out

1 analog rear out

1 analog surround out

1 analog line in

1 analog mic in
1 digital TOS-Link S/PDIF
output

There isn’t much to see here, although it is worth noting that the Gigabyte board claims to support up to 16GB of memory. We don’t even want to know how much a 4GB DIMM is going to cost you, though. Suffice to say it’s probably several times that of the motherboard itself.

Notice that Asus and Gigabyte differ in their choice of Firewire providers. Asus chose VIA’s VT6308P, while Gigabyte opted for a Texas Instruments chip. We’ll see in a moment how the performance of these two implementations compares.

Our testing methods

With the 780G and Athlon X2 4850e launching on the same day, we thought it appropriate to test the two together as a low-cost integrated graphics platform. To fill out our G35 Express board, we have a dual-core Pentium E2180 that costs about as much as the 4850e should when it touches down on store shelves. Do keep in mind that our G35-based Asus board, which seems to be the only G35 offering widely available in North America, costs $30 more than Gigabyte’s 780G board. Integrated graphics motherboards based on AMD chipsets have traditionally cost less than those from the Intel camp.

We conducted all of our performance testing with the boards running their integrated graphics. Additional game tests were run with a Radeon HD 3450 graphics card on each board and in a Hybrid CrossFire configuration with the 780G.

All tests were run three times, and their results were averaged.

Processor

Intel Pentium E2180 2.0GHz
AMD Athlon X2 4850e
System bus 1066MHz (266MHz
quad-pumped)
1GHz HyperTransport
Motherboard

Asus P5E-VM HDMI


Gigabyte GA-MA78GM-S2H
Bios revision 0405 F3C
North bridge Intel G35 Express AMD 780G
South bridge Intel ICH9R AMD SB700
Chipset drivers Chipset 8.3.1.1009
AHCI 7.8.0.1012
IGP 15.7.3
Chipset/IGP 8.470.0.0
AHCI
3.1.1540.38
Memory size 2GB (2 DIMMs)
Memory type
Corsair
TWIN2X2048-8500C5

DDR2 SDRAM at
800MHz

Corsair
TWIN2X2048-8500C5

DDR2 SDRAM at
742MHz
CAS latency
(CL)
4 4

RAS to CAS delay (tRCD)
4 4
RAS precharge
(tRP)
4 4
Cycle time
(tRAS)
12 12
Audio codec Realtek
ALC883
with 1.87a drivers
Realtek
ALC889A
with 1.87a drivers

Hard drive


Western Digital Raptor WD1500ADFD 150GB
SATA

OS


Windows Vista Ultimate x86

OS updates
KB936710,
KB938194, KB938979, KB940105

Thanks to Corsair for providing us with memory for our testing. 2GB of RAM seems to be the new standard for most folks, and Corsair hooked us up with some of its 1GB DIMMs for testing.

All of our test systems were powered by OCZ GameXStream 700W power supply units. Thanks to OCZ for providing these units for our use in testing.

Finally, we’d like to thank Western Digital for sending Raptor WD1500ADFD hard drives for our test rigs. The Raptor’s still the fastest all-around drive on the market, and the only 10K-RPM Serial ATA drive you can buy.

We used the following versions of our test applications:

The test systems’ Windows desktop was set at 1280×1024 in 32-bit color at an 85Hz screen refresh rate. Vertical refresh sync (vsync) was disabled for all tests.

All the tests and methods we employed are publicly available and reproducible. If you have questions about our methods, hit our forums to talk with us about them.

Memory performance

Memory subsystem performance doesn’t always track with real-world applications, but it’s a good place to start with integrated graphics chipsets that cannibalize a portion of system memory and therefore bandwidth.

The Athlon X2’s integrated memory controller works wonders here, providing heaps more bandwidth and much lower access latencies than Intel’s G35 Express.

Memory controllers don’t always handle four DIMMs gracefully, so we popped an additional two memory modules into each system for another round of tests.

With a full complement of memory modules installed, the performance picture really doesn’t change much. The 780G platform is way out ahead again, and it actually offers better memory performance with four DIMMs installed than with two. By contrast, our G35 boards offers a little less bandwidth and higher access latencies when we fill its DIMM slots.

The following latency graphs are a little indulgent, so I won’t be offended if you skip them. They show access latencies across multiple block and step sizes, painting a fuller picture of memory controller performance with each chipset. I’ve arranged the graphs in order of highest latency to lowest. Yellow represents L1 cache, light orange is L2, and dark orange is main memory.

Our G35 system’s Pentium E2180 processor may have a bigger L2 cache than the 780G’s Athlon X2 4850e, but as we move to block sizes that spill over into main memory, the AMD platform’s significantly lower access latencies come into play in dramatic fashion.

STARS Euler3d computational fluid dynamics

Few folks run fluid dynamics simulations on their desktops, but we’ve found this multi-threaded test to be particularly demanding of memory subsystems, making it a good link between our memory and application performance tests.

Despite scoring better in our memory subsystem tests, the 780G actually lags behind the G35 Express in Euler3d. Keep in mind, of course, that these rival platforms are backed by entirely different processor architectures.

WorldBench

WorldBench uses scripting to step through a series of tasks in common Windows applications. It then produces an overall score. WorldBench also spits out individual results for its component application tests, allowing us to compare performance in each. We’ll look at the overall score, and then we’ll show individual application results alongside the results from some of our own application tests.

The 780G is two points off the pace set by the G35 Express in WorldBench. Can it steal a win in any of the suite’s individual application tests?

Not through WorldBench’s multimedia editing and encoding apps, which show the G35 Express consistently ahead. The gap in Photoshop performance is particularly striking

However, the 780G makes some headway with WorldBench’s Firefox and multitasking test, topping the G35 twice.

And twice more through WorldBench’s 3ds max tests. Here we get our first look at integrated graphics performance, with the 780G finishing the DirectX test in nearly half the time it takes the G35.

Nero and WinZip favor the G35 platform, though. These tests have shown themselves to be more sensitive to disk controller performance than the others, suggesting that SB700 may have to shoulder some of the blame here.

Gaming

We’ve had more than one game developer decry integrated graphics as the bane of their existence, and it’s easy to see why. With today’s latest titles, you have to back off most in-game detail levels and drop the resolution way down to get frame rates that are even close to what we’d consider playable. Crysis just isn’t the same with a low graphics detail setting, and the others don’t look so hot, either.

But I suppose it’s impressive that an IGP can run such recent titles at all. Even the G35 Express managed to slog through Crysis without obvious visual artifacts, although it inexplicably wouldn’t launch the multiplayer component of Call of Duty 4 necessary to run our custom timedemo. The P5E-VM had problems with CoD 4 with a Radeon HD 3450 graphics card, as well, and not even reinstalling the game would get it to launch in Vista.

Note that we have several sets of results here. Naturally, we’ve tested the 780G and G35 with their integrated graphics. Both platforms were also tested with a discrete Radeon HD 3450 graphics card. The 780G was also tested in a Hybrid CrossFire configuration with the Radeon. Finally, we’ve thrown in some results with the 780G’s integrated graphics backed by the 1.8GHz HyperTransport link offered by a Phenom 9600.

The first thing to take away from these results is just how completely the 780G’s integrated graphics core outclasses the G35 Express. Settings that deliver reasonably playable framerates on the 780G reduce the G35 to little more than an embarrassing slideshow. Throw in a Radeon HD 3450, though, and the 780G and G35 are well matched. At least until you enable Hybrid CrossFire.

When we use Hybrid CrossFire to combine the integrated graphics processor’s abilities with the Radeon’s firepower, the 780G’s performance rises by a modest margin in most games.

Integrated graphics performance does improve if we add a Phenom to the equation. However, it’s hard to say how much of the framerate boost is due to the Phenom’s faster HyperTransport link rather than its additional computational prowess.

HD Video playback

With HD DVD essentially dead, we confined our video playback tests to Blu-ray movies with the highest bitrates we could find for each of the format’s three encoding types. For MPEG2 encoding, we settled on Nature’s Journey, which is packed with ridiculously gorgeous loops of nature scenes. On the AVC front (otherwise known as H.264), the highest bitrates we could get our hands on came with the fast zombie flick 28 Days Later. We had to scrape the bottom of the barrel for VC-1, eventually settling on Click. For whatever reason, an Adam Sandler comedy is encoded with a higher bitrate than other VC-1 movies.

We used PowerDVD 7.3 for playback and enabled hardware acceleration within the application. CPU utilization was logged for 60 seconds of playback with each movie, and the results were averaged. Movies were played back in fullscreen mode with the desktop resolution set to 1920×1440 to make things as difficult as possible for the IGPs.

In addition to providing results for the 780G and G35 Express, we’ve also thrown in some numbers from a Radeon HD 3450 running on the 780G platform. That should give us a good idea of how integrated solutions compare to a discrete graphics card with full decode capabilities.

Between our integrated graphics platforms, the 780G exhibits much lower CPU utilization than the G35 Express. More importantly, the AMD chipset’s playback was buttery smooth throughout. The same can’t be said for the G35 Express, whose playback of MPEG2 and AVC movies was choppy enough to be unwatchable. We only observed smooth video playback on the G35 with VC-1 content, which not-so-coincidentally also delivered the lowest CPU utilization for the Intel platform.

While the 780G’s playback prowess is no doubt impressive, we actually expected lower CPU utilization—something along the lines of what we saw with the Radeon HD 3450. Swapping in a Phenom reduced CPU utilization by a little more than half, but that’s to be expected since Phenom also doubles the number of processor cores.

HQV video quality

The HQV benchmark is a DVD designed to test the image quality of televisions, monitors, and DVD players with a series of specific feature tests. It can also be a handy tool to evaluate how a graphic’s card’s video processor handles tasks like de-interlacing, motion correction, antialiasing, and film cadence detection. We tested the standard definition version of HQV using PowerDVD 7.3.

AMD scores a perfect 130 here, nailing each and every one of the HQV tests. The G35 Express doesn’t fare as well, managing a score of only 70. I’m not entirely happy with how that score reflects the G35’s actual performance, though. HQV’s tests rely on arbitrarily subjective scoring, and in many of its tests, flickering problems on the G35 that degraded the overall viewing experience didn’t actually meet the criteria for a lower score.

Serial ATA performance

The Serial ATA disk controller is one of the most important components of a modern core logic chipset, so we threw each platform a selection of I/O-intensive storage tests using a Western Digital Raptor WD1500ADFD. Testing was conducted with the SB700 running in AHCI mode, which is necessary for Native Command Queuing, using the latest drivers supplied by AMD.

AMD’s older SB600 south bridge had numerous problems running in AHCI mode. It required a Vista hotfix to work properly, and you’d need an external storage controller to get the operating system installed. The hotfix fortunately isn’t required with the SB700. However, if you want to get Vista running in AHCI mode, you have to first install the OS in IDE mode, then swap the hard drive to an auxiliary storage controller running on the same system, switch the SB700 to AHCI mode and install the necessary drivers, and then move the hard drive back to the south bridge. It’s ridiculous to ask users to jump through hoops just to enable AHCI. AMD should have worked closer with Microsoft to prevent a documented problem with an old south bridge chip from afflicting the new SB700.

IOMeter

We’ll begin our storage tests with IOMeter, which subjects our systems to increasing multi-user loads. Testing was restricted to IOMeter’s workstation and database test patterns, since those are more appropriate for desktop systems than the file or web server test patterns.

The SB700’s Serial ATA controller really is more of the same. Like the SB600 before it, the SB700 appears to have problems scaling performance as the number of simultaneous I/O requests increases. We only tested with a single driver revision here, but it’s the latest one. Clearly, our G35 Express board’s ICH9R south bridge is doing a much better job handling IOMeter workloads.

As you can see, response times are much lower on the G35 than with the 780G, particularly as the number of simultaneous I/O requests scales up.

At least CPU utilization is reasonable for the 780G, although given its poor throughput, that’s not saying much. We’ve seen driver revisions that fix the SB600’s performance scaling problems have a detrimental impact on CPU utilization, and since the two share essentially the same SATA underpinnings, we’d expect similar results from the SB700.

HD Tach

We used HD Tach 3.01’s 8MB zone test to measure basic SATA throughput and latency.

HD Tach doesn’t hammer drives with multiple I/O requests, which suits the 780G just fine. Burst and read speeds are pretty close between the 780G and G35, with the latter pulling out ahead in the average write speed test. The write speed test is an interesting anomaly, since we’ve seen numerous chipsets that correctly support Native Command Queuing exhibit performance similar to the G35’s with our Raptor hard drive.

The 780G is a hair quicker than the G35 in HD Tach’s random access time test. We’re talking tenths of a millisecond here, so make that a fraction of a hair.

CPU utilization results are within HD Tach’s margin of error in this test.

USB performance

Our USB transfer speed tests were conducted with a USB 2.0/Firewire external hard drive enclosure connected to a 7200RPM Seagate Barracuda 7200.7 hard drive. We tested with HD Tach 3.01’s 8MB zone setting.

AMD has done well bolstering the SB700’s USB performance. The new south bridge is a little slower than Intel’s best in our burst and sustained read speed tests, but much quicker when it comes to writing, with competitive CPU utilization.

PCI Express performance

We used ntttcp to test PCI Express Ethernet throughput using a Marvell 88E8052-based PCI Express x1 Gigabit Ethernet card.

These two boards’ PCI Express GigE throughput is all but identical, although the AMD platform has an advantage in CPU utilization. The 780G system also has two cores running at 2.5GHz, while G35’s dually is clocked 500MHz slower at 2GHz.

PCI performance

To test PCI performance, we used the same ntttcp test methods and a PCI VIA Velocity GigE NIC.

I’m at a loss to explain this one, folks. For whatever reason, our G35 Express board doesn’t get along with the older VIA networking card we use for PCI throughput testing. This particular card has delivered much better performance on other motherboards that use the exact same ICH9R south bridge, so I’m more inclined to write this off as an odd motherboard incompatibility rather than a flaw in the G35 chipset. Forget about the CPU utilization results, too; with such disproportionate throughput, we can’t draw many conclusions here.

Despite the 780G’s obvious throughput lead, 650Mbps isn’t particularly impressive. We’ve seen this card pushing 730-840Mbps on other platforms, making me wonder if perhaps the SB700 has inherited its predecessor’s pokey PCI performance characteristics.

Power consumption

We measured system power consumption, sans monitor and speakers, at the wall outlet using a Watts Up Pro power meter. Power consumption was measured at idle and under a load consisting of a multi-threaded Cinebench 10 render running in parallel with the “rthdribl” high dynamic range lighting demo. Results that fall under “No power management” were obtained with Windows Vista running in high performance mode, while those with power management enabled were taken with Vista in its balanced performance mode.

Our 780G system consumes much less power at idle than its G35-based rival, particularly when Cool’n’Quiet is free to throttle the processor’s clock speed. That alone drops power consumption by eight watts, slipping our 780G rig below the 50-watt mark, and more importantly, 20 watts below the best our G35 Express platform can do. Crank up a combined CPU and GPU load, though, and the G35 Express sips five fewer watts than the 780G.

Motherboard peripheral performance

Core logic chipsets integrate a wealth of peripherals, but they don’t handle everything. Firewire and audio are farmed out to auxiliary chips, for example, and so is networking. To provide a closer look at the peripheral performance you can expect from the motherboards we’ve tested today, we’ve complied Ethernet, Firewire, and audio performance results below. We’ve used motherboard rather than chipset names here because these performance characteristics reflect the auxiliary peripheral chips used on each board rather than the performance of the core logic chipset.

NTttcp Ethernet performance

Throughput (Mbps)

CPU utilization
(%)

Asus P5E-VM HDMI

941.340

21.53

Gigabyte GA-MA78GM-S2H
944.293 18.72

GigE throughput is pretty close, with the Gigabyte board holding a small advantage in CPU utilization. Keep in mind that we’re talking about the utilization of two completely different processors.

HD Tach
Firewire performance

Read burst

speed (MB/s)


Average read

speed (MB/s)


Average write

speed (MB/s)


CPU utilization

(%)


Asus P5E-VM HDMI
32.8 28.9 21.7 0.3

Gigabyte GA-MA78GM-S2H
42.1 37.6 24.2 2.7

The Gigabyte 780G board’s Texas Instruments Firewire chip proves much faster than the VIA controller on the Asus G35 board. Burst and sustained read speeds aren’t even close between the two boards.

RightMark Audio
Analyzer audio quality

Overall score

Frequency response

Noise level

Dynamic range

THD

THD + Noise

IMD + Noise

Stereo Crosstalk

IMD at 10kHz

Asus P5E-VM HDMI
4 5 3 3 3 1
3
4
3

Gigabyte GA-MA78GM-S2H
3 5 1 1 3 1 3 4 3

RightMark Audio Analyzer favors the Asus board, although only slightly. A poor showing by the Gigabyte in RMAA’s noise level and dynamic range tests drags down its overall score.

Conclusions

AMD’s 780G integrated graphics chipset lives up to its potential, delivering an incredibly complete platform for mainstream desktops and home theater PCs within a surprisingly modest power envelope. With a little help from an energy-efficient Athlon X2 4850e, the 780G’s idle power consumption is nothing short of a revelation. And it’s not like the chipset has sacrificed features and performance in the name of power efficiency. The 780G packs in a DirectX 10-class integrated graphics core, PCI Express 2.0, loads of expansion ports and display output options, and a very impressive video decoder capable of smooth 1080p Blu-ray playback in any format, with even a budget CPU.

In addition to its potent video decoding capabilities, the 780G’s Radeon HD 3200 graphics core offers the best 3D performance we’ve seen from an IGP—not that we expected any less from what is essentially an eight-month-old budget GPU squeezed into the 780G’s north bridge. Never before has integrated graphics come this close to delivering the kind of experience you get with a discrete graphics card.

That said, the experience still isn’t close enough if you want to play the latest games and have them look even remotely like they’re supposed to. We had to drop resolutions all the way down and scale in-game detail levels way back just to get playable frame rates. Hybrid CrossFire helped, but it didn’t do enough. The 780G’s graphics core may beat Intel’s GMA slideshow by miles, but if you want to really experience games, we recommend biting the bullet and buying a proper graphics card.

The 780G’s case is further helped by Gigabyte’s excellent implementation in the GA-MA78GM-S2H. You get a lot of board for only $100, including passive chipset cooling, a great array of expansion ports, a fast Firewire chip, and surprisingly decent BIOS tweaking and overclocking options. Gigabyte even throws in a switch to disable AMD’s TLB erratum patch should you wish to drop a Phenom into the board without incurring a severe performance penalty.

The 780G isn’t perfect, though, and our enthusiasm for the chipset is tempered by an SB700 south bridge that feels more like a die-shrunk SB600 than a brand new chip. The fact that AMD has allowed AHCI problems that afflicted the SB600 to persist in the SB700 comes across as more than just a little sloppy, particularly given the hoops one has to jump through just to install Vista in AHCI mode. Mainstream desktops and home theater PCs may see little benefit from the Native Command Queuing support that AHCI mode provides, but it’s a feature that should work properly. And it just doesn’t.

Even through it falls short of perfection, AMD’s 780G is still the best integrated graphics chipset we’ve ever tested and a perfect platform for do-it-yourself home theater PCs. Intel’s integrated graphics performance just doesn’t measure up, and while Nvidia’s upcoming GeForce 8200 should provide stiffer competition, it’s not ready yet. You can buy Gigabyte’s 780G board today.

Comments closed
    • pmshah
    • 10 years ago

    This might be a bit late for this particular thread but this is the problem I encountered under Windows XP SP3.

    I have a USB connected 4 port KVM switch. Keyboard and mouse are PS2. On a MSI – K9A2GM-FIH motherboard sporting SB700 chipset, invariably either the keyboard or the mouse are not recognised. Quite often neither is recognised. I have to resort to resetting the KVM to gain access to the PC.

    Another problem I face is using a 16GB Kingston Traveler pen drive. It ALWAYS gives an error, even in reading.

    MSI is clueless in finding a solution to either of the problems.

    Both work flawlessly with via and nVidia chipset motherboards. I had to plug in a via chipset USB 2.0 addon pci card to get over these problems. Would appreciate suggestions from anyone who has found solution to these problems.

    • mattsteg
    • 12 years ago

    Due to the massive WAF of htpc stuff, I’ve got one on-order.

    • GodsMadClown
    • 12 years ago

    The Official Gigabyte GA-MA78GM-S2H RS780 mATX Thread
    §[<http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showthread.php?t=987960<]§ For people interested in the A/V aspects of this board...

    • RambodasCordas
    • 12 years ago

    In the HQV tests why did the AMD solution score 130 and the Intel 70 and in this website is the exact opposite, any theory why they get distinct results ?

    §[<http://www.bit-tech.net/hardware/2008/03/04/amd_780g_integrated_graphics_chipset/10<]§

    • Bold
    • 12 years ago

    Is this the video chipset for my new HTPC? Low power: check! Low CPU utilization by hardware (UVD) HD decode: check! Smooth playback of H.264 encoded 1080p video: check!

    But what about HD (post processing) video quality?

    Previous reviews showed that even discrete UVD graphics cards like the Radeon HD2400 and HD3450 do not obtain a full HD HQV quality score, contrary to the HD2600 and HD3470 cards. So I cannot imagine that the 780G will. (as it is based on the HD2400 core).

    So may we still compromise here on HD video quality?

    Unfortunately, this review only discusses the SD HQV score and not the HD HQV score, which can be completely differend!!!!

    Sources:
    §[<https://techreport.com/articles.x/12843/11<]§ §[<http://www.hardocp.com/article.html?art=MTQ1MSwsLGhlbnRodXNpYXN0<]§ (slide 15)

      • Tuanies
      • 12 years ago

      It’s missing the ability to output multi-channel LPCM audio for high-resolution audio in HD DVD/Blu-ray formats. The G35 and GF8200 will do that 🙂

    • slot_one
    • 12 years ago

    Very impressive chipset. Over at Tom’s hardware, they were even able to get a Sempron 3200 to play BDs with 60% average CPU utilization. Under Vista. That impressed me. 🙂

    • Hattig
    • 12 years ago

    Nice review, and good to see that AMD is staying strong on the platform. This is a compelling product – cheap, low power, but decent. I think you’d be mad to buy anything else for a dedicated HTPC setup unless games were a strong requirement, simply because you don’t need the discrete graphics card at all, and you will still have excellent performance.

    I would have liked to have seen overclocking results, seeing that I have read so many comments about 780G overclocks to around twice the standard speed, albeit with a more active cooler.

    Looking forward to seeing boards with on-board graphics memory, and how Phenom + Crossfire performs too.

      • gerryg
      • 12 years ago

      +1 on Phenom + Crossfire. Would have been easy to add to the gaming tests, I would think, and Phenom could have a significant effect on the Hybrid Crossfire numbers, probably more than the 4850 to 9600 jump, which was itself a nice little boost.

    • Rectal Prolapse
    • 12 years ago

    I’m very surprised that you guys didn’t test if PCM 7.1 is passed through the HDMI interface to an HDMI receiver.

    How come hardware reviewers NEVER test this. They will test a multi-thousand dollar nitrogen-cooled setup, but completely ignore a simple PCM HDMI test using a cheap $300 HDMI receiver…

    • yehuda
    • 12 years ago

    It’s disappointing to hear that AMD has still not sorted out the AHCI issue. I’d feel much more comfortable getting a 780G board if I knew AHCI would be handled by Microsoft’s generic msahci.sys driver as it should be. That’s one less third-party driver to keep track of.

    “Mainstream desktops and home theater PCs may see little benefit from the Native Command Queuing support that AHCI mode provides, but it’s a feature that should work properly. And it just doesn’t.”

    I think you’ll also need it for the onboard eSATA port, or it will not support hot plugging. This makes AHCI a conern for a far broader audience.

    • Holy Smoke
    • 12 years ago

    Sigh, yet another in a long line of ‘perfect for me’ boards with no coax-out. It’s pain enough having both my 360 and XBMC competing for the single (!) optical port on my receiver but the coax keeps going unused.

    I would be about to crack, and just get a Mac Mini instead, but it’s only got an optical port.

      • yehuda
      • 12 years ago

      I don’t know if it helps, but you may want to note that this board has an SPDIF_IO header and you can use it if you can obtain a Gigabyte “S/PDIF In and Out Cable (Part Number: 12CR1-1SPINO-11/R)” from your dealer or otherwise work out a coax connector by yourself.

    • Rza79
    • 12 years ago

    §[<http://www.hothardware.com/articles/AMD_780G_Chipset_and_Athlon_X2_4850e_Preview_/?page=11<]§ This chart is a bit clearer in showing the real difference between HT2 and HT3.

    • crazybus
    • 12 years ago

    Anyone know if you can use the HDMI and DVI outputs at the same time? Previous integrated graphics boards have been limited to a single digital video output.

      • Dissonance
      • 12 years ago

      AMD says the 780G can do DVI and HDMI at the same time, but also that Gigabyte’s implementation in the GA-MA78GM-S2H doesn’t allow for it.

        • yehuda
        • 12 years ago

        Are you sure that 780G can do that? I know that 690G could. I also know that Asus was the only manufacturer who implemented this support the right way in the M2A-VM HDMI. Here’s a “dual display” table from the user’s manual:

        §[<http://hardforum.com/showpost.php?p=1031260518&postcount=8<]§ The reason I'm in doubt as to whether 780G retains this feature is the fact that even Asus' own M3A78-EMH HDMI apparently lets go of it. You can get the manual here: §[<http://support.asus.com/download/download.aspx?SLanguage=en-us&model=M3A78-EMH%20HDMI&type=map&mapindex=8<]§ I'm saying "apparently" because Asus wasn't, unfortunately, consistent enough to include a dual display table this time, and it does not state explicitly that simultaneous output over DVI-D and HDMI is not supported. But if you read between the lines you can learn that this is so. Take for example the HDJ1 jumber block (p. 28) that lets you "switch between HDMI and DVI features."

    • credo
    • 12 years ago

    I thought these chipsets would be able to boost higher end cards’ capabilities to a small extent, like crossfire on training wheels. But I guess this makes sense too, frequency being the delimiting factor.

    • JustAnEngineer
    • 12 years ago

    That’s great work, Geoff. I have really been looking forward to this chipset and an excellent TR review. AMD/ATI has really nailed the northbridge features and performance. This has got to be the new recommended chipset for all budget non-gaming builds. Considering that Gigabyte’s implementation is already $30 cheaper than the competing G35 motherboard, it’s a heck of a value.

    With flawless 1080p performance from the integrated chipset, you can safely put your HTPC into a low-profile case and not worry about needing an add-in graphics card.

    The performance boost from the fast HT speed of the Phenom may make this a good platform for the cheaper tri-core versions of that CPU.

    One minor nit-picky comment about the review presentation: the two-point bar charts on page 11 could be clearer if the AMD and Intel chipset kept the same position (top or bottom for all of the two-point charts) and used different colored bars.

      • mattthemuppet
      • 12 years ago

      I agree with the 2 part bar charts – I find it easier to keep the axis labels the same, that way it’s much easier to scan the charts.

        • Turd-Monkey
        • 12 years ago

        /[

    • lordy
    • 12 years ago

    for the multiplayer component of COD4, there have been many people having it crash before it would even load. plugging in a microphone and selecting mic in the auto port detect thingy seems to fix the problem. its a very strange fix but seems to have worked for many people, based on posts on random forums

    it seems to be attributed to COD4 itself and realtek drivers

    overall, interesting review but was hoping AMD would get it together with SB700 especially with the SATA performance and AHCI issues, although it does look like the USB performance and cpu utilisation is much more comparable to intel’s solution now

    • smilingcrow
    • 12 years ago

    I’m not sure why the G35 system consumed so much power at idle! 66W at idle is very poor as I managed the same using a G33/Q6600/2GB DDR2-667/500GB at stock settings.
    I recently bought my parents a Dell Vostro 400 G33/E4500/2GB DDR2-667/250GB and it consumes 46W at idle. I know the TR system used a Raptor and DDR2-800 but 20W difference still seems a lot unless it’s purely down to the Dell having a very efficient power supply.

    47W for the AM2 system is very impressive especially since it uses a Raptor. With a WD GP hard drive and lower rated power supply which should be more efficient at lower loads you should manage below 40W at idle.

    • Stefan
    • 12 years ago

    For HTPC, decent 5.1 audio would of cource have been a big plus! Well, maybe we can get that from a different motherboard manufacturer.

      • GodsMadClown
      • 12 years ago

      Did you see that the onboard audio can transcode to DTS on the fly? I imagine that would bypass the budget analog output stage, and pipe the sound directly to the DTS capable receiver that a decently equipped HT should have.

        • yehuda
        • 12 years ago

        I’m not aware of anyone who got DTS Connect to work on the ALC889A. This feature might be on Realtek’s to-do list for when the ALC889A is officially launched but in the meantime there’s no support for it.

          • GodsMadClown
          • 12 years ago
            • yehuda
            • 12 years ago

            Thanks for the link. This is absolutely weird, though — I’ve only been able to find one more report of it working. And both of them came from people using the P35-DS4 model. Here’s a 2nd link:

            §[<http://forums.bit-tech.net/showthread.php?t=147242<]§ l[

            • GodsMadClown
            • 12 years ago

            It could very well be that only a subset of boards that have the ALC889A will do the DTS thing.

            From P 51 of the driver README PDF file (ftp://202.65.194.211/pc/audio/R188_Readme.pdf):
            q[< Driver Package R1.21 ... For New architecture: 1.) Customization. >>2.) Support DTS Encoder and DTS Neo for special version codec.<< <]q (the emphasis is mine) I don't have one of these chips, mind you. I'm a stereo PCM man myself.

            • yehuda
            • 12 years ago

            Thanks, noted.

      • yehuda
      • 12 years ago

      (edit)

      You may want to check bit-tech’s results for this board. They did not encounter a noise issue with their sample.

      §[<http://www.bit-tech.net/hardware/2008/03/04/amd_780g_integrated_graphics_chipset/6<]§

      • ew
      • 12 years ago

      If your playing DVDs or any other source that already has AC3 or DTS encoded audio then you don’t need this feature. Any standard digital out would work just fine. If your playing back video that has stereo sound then you also don’t need this.

      This only would help for games that usually can only output 5.1 audio through the analogue jacks.

    • todd
    • 12 years ago

    I really enjoyed this review. Sure it could have been a little more in depth for some. But it was a pleasure for me to read. I was particularly grateful for the south bridge, sata controller, and network chip testing. Well written.
    I’ve built my last two main rigs thinking they would someday end up as htpc’s. A 6150 and a 690g.
    Believe I’ll wait on nvidia’s new chipset after reading about the sb700 failure. Which is just as well as I’m deadset on a quadcore, and the phenom is still too pricey, considering it’s issues, for my taste. Hopefully the quads will be more reasonable by the time the nvidia boards are reviewed.
    I really like gigabyte boards, but that south bridge is a dog.
    Considering I already own that dog, via the 690 g. I’ll wait.

    • MattMojo
    • 12 years ago

    I have a 690 coupled with a 8600GT for my HTPC and love it —- I will mark this guy (780G) as my next upgrade — AMD sure has pulled it out for the HTPC the last year or so!!

    And with-out the need for add-in cards (8600GT) I can make a micro sized case for that micro-atx board!!

    Mojo

    • enzia35
    • 12 years ago

    Finally AMD released the SB700 for me to lust after.

    • lex-ington
    • 12 years ago

    I like the fact that it’s Gigabyte that brought out the board. I’ll probably get one and replace the 690G in my HTPC – which is only used to watch movies, listen to music online, and access the net to settle a dispute amongst 10 rowdy drunken friends.

    I’ll replace the nforce 6100 board in the Linux machine with the 690G board, also by Gigabyte. The I’ll replace both processors with Phenoms and get ready to update my main rig.

    Lovely times ahead.

    • PRIME1
    • 12 years ago

    These poor motherboards are starting to be loaded down with more graphics ports than accessory ports.

    Pretty soon they will have to add Displayport. will they ditch VGA?

      • bdwilcox
      • 12 years ago

      DIsplayPort will replace all of them because it can emulate all of them with different adapters. That includes HDMI, DVI, VGA, etc.

      From: §[<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Displayport<]§ /[

        • GodsMadClown
        • 12 years ago

        That DVI port on the board looks like it has the analog signal pins too, yet there’s still a VGA D-sub connector on there too. I tend to doubt that displayport will subsume DVI or VGA anytime soon.

        • sigher
        • 12 years ago

        Emulate eh, but what about output lag?

      • yehuda
      • 12 years ago

      Just saw this:

      Intel preparing a mini-ITX G45 mobo
      §[<http://en.expreview.com/2008/03/06/intel-preparing-a-mini-itx-g45-mobo/#more-292<]§ Looks like VGA was the first port to go. Fear not, though, the analog signal is still waiting by the DVI-I port. :-)

    • Voldenuit
    • 12 years ago

    Nice review. As flip mentioned, comparing to G35 was a nice touch.

    I’ve got that ASUS P5E-VM HDMI board myself, and I’m suffering from problems where the Atheros LAN would just die on me, needing a reboot to fix. This can happen once a week, or 4 times a day, or not at all. Reading on forums, it seems I’m not the only one having problems with ASUS boards and Atheros LAN controllers. Hope this can be fixed in software, although the fact that ASUS has not acknowledged this issue is not encouraging.

      • derFunkenstein
      • 12 years ago

      That’s what sucks about Atheros LAN…if I was running a distributed computing app, it had all kinds of weird networking issues. No more ASUS boards for me, if only for that reason.

    • derFunkenstein
    • 12 years ago

    If it wasn’t for that accursed Supreme Commander, I could do everything I wanted to on a PC that uses less than 100W. That’s awesome.

    • bu1137
    • 12 years ago

    Does the gigabyte board support undervolting the cpu?

    • alex666
    • 12 years ago

    Maybe not a perfect implementation yet, but this is really a very good leap forward for AMD and maybe more clearly than ever underscores the advantage of AMD and ATI together. Remember, it’s been less than 2 years.

    BTW, THG has an extremely positive review and talks about how well you can oc the gpu.

    Finally, with all the discussion re. how many people have HTPC, does anyone know how to define objectively HTPC? Is HTPC just connecting a computer to a large HDTV? Hell, if that’s the case, then I’ve got one, but it’s just a pretty good gaming machine (8800gt with zalman cooler, e6750 at 450 X 8, raptor, LG combo blu-ray/HD-DVD player and DVD burner) connected to our 47″ LG HDTV. But man, do games look awesome and I can play blu-ray and HD-DVD through it using XP Home.

    • Usacomp2k3
    • 12 years ago

    Does the Hybrid work any better with a phenom in there as opposed to the 4850?

    • deruberhanyok
    • 12 years ago

    Great article. A few weeks ago I almost updated my HTPC with a 690G setup, then I heard 780G was so close to release I figured it’d be worth a little extra wait. I’m glad I held off.

    • jinjuku
    • 12 years ago

    I have an HTPC and so do two of my friends. This is what I would have loved to have years ago. Low power, low thermal output, easy to run rigged for silence, passively cooled everything. WOW.

    This board is fine for it’s intended market, over clockers and FPS gamers need not apply.

    • My Johnson
    • 12 years ago

    Wow. It’s still teh same southbridge. I have to wonder if it really matters though for a media PC.

    We’ll have to see what Nvidia brings to the table.

    • flip-mode
    • 12 years ago

    I’m really impressed by the northbridge and I’m really impressed by Gigabyte’s implementation. The Asus board is simply outclassed as far as connectivity goes.

    I am extremely disappointed in the SB700. I would honestly honestly rather them not have even bothered. At least if they hadn’t bothered it would not smack of being an abysmal failure. This is the third revision of AMD’s southbridge as far as I know (SB400, SB600, SB700) and such dismal performance should not be. I’m quite simply astounded – how could AMD have failed to address what is/was clearly the weakest link of the platform? It would not be hard to argue that improving on the SB600 was far more important than improving on the already terrific 690G. It’s not the end of the world but it is pathetic. (Disclaimer: I own a 690G / SB600 and it does just fine for me.)

    On another note, the x2-4800e looks pretty darn acceptable. It’s a ridiculous shame that it’s not a K10 based processor being released, but in no way is the 4800e a bad CPU.

    Oh, and a final note: this is the most interesting mobo review I’ve read in a long time – probably since the 690G review. I’m glad you put a G35 in there. Thanks Geoff.

      • ssidbroadcast
      • 12 years ago

      flip-mode is on point. I might add that I’m pretty impressed with the Hybrid Crossfire. Not only does it work (I was skeptical it would) it actually *improves* the performance by a healthy margin, even if the task at hand is relatively modest.

        • Peldor
        • 12 years ago

        Well it’s a healthy 20% margin…if you are pairing it with a graphics card so anemic no one would recommend it for playing games anyway. (800×600? Party like it’s 1999?)

        I think hybrid crossfire is going to be irrelevant once you are looking at a mid-range gaming card or above.

          • ssidbroadcast
          • 12 years ago

          Certainly, but for games/engines with more scalable, modest requirements (TF2, perhaps BF:Heroes, WoW, etc) it might make the difference from “barely playable” to “acceptable.”

            • flip-mode
            • 12 years ago

            The good news is that most of the games on my shelf could probably run comfortably on the IGP at 1280×1024.

      • nonegatives
      • 12 years ago

      /[< (Disclaimer: I own a 690G / SB600 and it does just fine for me.)<]/ And you wonder why they haven't improved it? If it wasn't for benchmarks, would you even have noticed the lower performance of the SB? I want a car that get 80 MPG, but my 25MPG does fine by me, no need to update.

        • flip-mode
        • 12 years ago

        It sounds like you’re saying that because I have an SB600 board that it’s OK for the southbridge to suck. Am I interpreting that correctly? I was essentially forced into this mobo by my budget at the time. I’m happy with the board – it’s stable, it’s feature packed, it was inexpensive. I don’t do a lot of disc intensive stuff with my computer. But I have never felt at peace with the uncompetitive southbridge. I guess I don’t understand why you are looking to excuse AMD from making a competitive southbridge – especially after they’ve had so much time and have known exactly what its weaknesses are. AMD’s platform needs every last advantage it can get given the fact that its CPUs simply can’t compete (at the enthusiast level) with Intel’s.

    • Ruiner
    • 12 years ago

    How hot does that tiny NB HS get when under a video card?

    • Vrock
    • 12 years ago

    q[

      • flip-mode
      • 12 years ago

      Agreed. I don’t know a single person with an HTPC.

        • Saribro
        • 12 years ago

        I know 1, but he’s even geekier than I. 🙂

        • charged3800z24
        • 12 years ago

        I can tell you at least 50 people with them in the dayton area alone. I use to install them. And everyone that has a Media center prefers it over anything else we sold in the audio video relm. For cost, ease of use and whole house A/V. There is a lot you can do, with very little effort if implemented correctly. This Board looks like a good upgrade point to a lot of people who currently use a HTPC.

          • Vrock
          • 12 years ago

          50 people, wow! There are millions of people out there with HD disc players. They still aren’t mainstream. Not by a long shot.

        • Darkmage
        • 12 years ago

        I have one. But I have to agree, an HTPC is by no means mainstream yet. Perhaps in a couple of years.

        • d0g_p00p
        • 12 years ago

        Almost all my friends have a HTPC. Some are pre-builts some are custom and modded XBoxes. For the modded XBoxes most people I know have bought them from craigslist or ebay so they would not have to do it themselves.

        Keep in mind, most these people are non-techies. Just people who have either read about it on the interwebs or have seen someone they know who owns one and wants the same type of deal.

        Then again, I do live in the Bay Area.

      • Flying Fox
      • 12 years ago

      It may still not be up to the million mark as compared to HD disc players, but OEMs like HP sell some “HTPC”-esque models retail/online. So the number is definitely more.

      There are more users out there (even the regular Joes/Janes) who want to play their downloaded media files off their PC on the TV. So while it may still be a smaller market the concept is definitely getting mainstream.

        • Vrock
        • 12 years ago

        It’s. Not. Mainstream. kthxbye

          • Thresher
          • 12 years ago

          I have to agree with this. I don’t think they ever will be, at least not as they are currently configured.

          Using a computer is a singular experience, unless you are watching movies or listening to music. A computer is total overkill for this, there are more focused products like media servers, DVD players, etc. that do this with no fuss.

    • Peldor
    • 12 years ago

    I was REALLY hoping you were going to overclock these systems.

    Also, I wonder what the power numbers would look like with just a CPU load? I would guess the 780G IGP uses more power than the Intel X3500.

    • donkeycrock
    • 12 years ago

    If only they would make a onboard power supply. or maybe a power brick attachment then we are talking.

    Edit :
    where is the over-clocking page?

      • Dposcorp
      • 12 years ago

      Well, it sounds like you almost want a laptop form factor without the lcd.
      You can get pretty close with a Shuttle, or even a 1U/2U SFF Matx case, but then the power supply will be around 200-250Watts.

      Enough for a basic system, but I wouldn’t want it to power a quad core and multiple hard drives.

    • chronic boot failure
    • 12 years ago

    Shouldn’t complaint (Page 1, 3rd Paragraph, 1st Line) be compliant?

    • Dposcorp
    • 12 years ago

    WOO HOO!!!!! New AMD Chipset. About time.
    Off to read the article.
    (Me hopes SB600 issues are history)

    EDIT:
    <sigh> SB700 still causing issues.
    Come on AMD; get that taken care of.
    This is like hitting a triple.

    Next time, If you can get the SB stuff taken care of, and maybe get the IGP closer to a 3850, it will be a home run.
    Toss in a B3 Phenom and it will be a grand slam. Heck, that could almost be the heart of a new console right there.

    Goeff, thanks again; that was a fine, fine article.

      • titan
      • 12 years ago

      I agree with you. Hybrid CrossFire makes more sense when paired with a graphics card that can actually run the current games. So, I can have a 3870×2 in the system, but can use the IGP when I’m just idling at the desktop or watching movies.

      Still, I’m almost considering going with this chipset because of the low power usage…maybe not.

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