AMD 790GX: RV610 For Enthusiasts?

AMD and Nvidia are in the process of playing musical chairs. Earlier this year, both vendors unveiled integrated chipsets loaded with features that far surpassed anything seen before in the onboard graphics market.

AMD’s own solution went right for the mainstream — in our opinion, the smartest place to aim if you also happen to be selling mid-range processors. Its 780G opened the door to modest 3D performance in older titles and a reasonable Vista experience. Best of all, it powered motherboards priced as low as $60. Add a sub-$200 quad-core processor to the mix and you’re talking about a surprisingly beefy hardware combination.

On the other hand, Nvidia’s offering reached right up into the enthusiast space, where gamers cared less that its 780a SLI platform included a “motherboard GPU” and more that a pair of GeForce 8800s in SLI could be turned off to save power while idling on the Windows desktop. We’re not sure how many folks were willing to spend more money now with the hope of saving a few bucks per month in energy, but a $200 board paired to a $200 processor just doesn’t have the same ring to it (especially when Intel’s Core 2 Duos and Quads are laying down better performance numbers).

Role Reversal

Nvidia wasted no time in launching a 780a SLI follow-up able to better compete for mainstream attention. Its GeForce 8300 chipset flies right in the face of AMD’s 780G, delivering compelling performance and more advanced storage functionality from a single-chip platform. Of course, GeForce 8300-based motherboards are also much more affordable than anything employing 780a SLI.

Despite its entry-level billing, the GeForce 8300 includes a lot of the same value-added functionality introduced with 780a SLI — the two headline features being GeForce Boost and HybridPower. Of course, GeForce Boost lets you drop a low-end GPU into an available PCI Express x16 slot and run a quasi-SLI configuration. As it pertains to Nvidia’s integrated enthusiast chipset, GeForce Boost makes no sense whatsoever. But as part of the GeForce 8300, it’ll probably see a little more action as budget-conscious buyers add GeForce 8400 GS and GeForce 8500 GT cards for a moderate pop in frame rates.

HybridPower, however, is more exciting. Briefly, the feature employs intelligent display routing to power down discrete cards during idle periods, instead using the integrated core’s output circuitry. A gamer running a couple of GeForce 9800 GX2s, for instance, could cut back on a lot of power consumption, heat, and fan noise by going that route. Granted, the GeForce 8300 chipset only supports a single x16 PCI Express 2.0 link, so HybridPower will only work with one card.

AMD Goes For The Gold

With aspirations beyond “this chipset is great for casual gamers and small businesses,” AMD has revisited some of the criticisms leveled at the 780G and is now looking to take a bite out of a more discerning slice of the market with a brand new integrated chipset called 790GX.

Notice that the platform shares its model designation with AMD’s flagship 790FX chipset. Clearly, the company feels that this northbridge, coupled with a reworked southbridge, is capable of taking a relatively mainstream set of features to a place where enthusiasts play.

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  • kitsilencer
    Great review, and it's good to see that AMD is at last able to target more enthusiast markets competitively.
    6
  • cangelini
    kitsilencerGreat review, and it's good to see that AMD is at last able to target more enthusiast markets competitively.


    Thanks for the feedback Kit.
    0
  • eklipz330
    ^^^iseriously thought that was sarcasm, until i saw the authors name
    1
  • waffle911
    So... why does a page 15 and 16 of this article exist if there is no page 15 or 16 to the article?
    Take a closer look. What happened?
    0
  • YYD
    PCMark seems Intel biased, please read this:
    http://arstechnica.com/reviews/hardware/atom-nano-review.ars/6

    Please change this benchmark suite or check if PcMark Vantage is unbiased.
    2
  • cangelini
    waffle911So... why does a page 15 and 16 of this article exist if there is no page 15 or 16 to the article?Take a closer look. What happened?


    That was strange. Should be fixed now.
    0
  • cangelini
    YYDPCMark seems Intel biased, please read this:http://arstechnica.com/reviews/har [...] view.ars/6Please change this benchmark suite or check if PcMark Vantage is unbiased.


    Fortunately, with no Intel platforms tested, this should be a non-issue for the current situation ;-) In the future, you'll be seeing SYSmark, though.
    0
  • Anonymous
    Seems past page 8 or something the links are corrupt.. can't fully read this article and getting error 404 - page not found.
    1
  • Anonymous
    .. and now the article seems to be removed even from the main page!?!?!
    1
  • cangelini
    lacrits.. and now the article seems to be removed even from the main page!?!?!


    Alright, mystery solved. It's back up, sans the blank page. Thanks for pointing that out lacrits!
    0
  • nickchalk
    Hi, i wanted to ask something aout the article.
    why you use 3470 and 8500 for the tests?
    hybrid crossfire and nvidia boost don't work with faster cards?
    is the performance gain not big with 3870 or 9600gt?
    thanks
    2
  • cangelini
    Hybrid CrossFireX uses alternate frame rendering, as does GeForce Boost, I believe. As a result, both technologies are best complemented by discrete boards evenly matched to the integrated core. In the case of the GeForce 8300, that'd be an 8500 GT. For the 790GX, AMD recommends the 3470. To spend any more money on discrete graphics for either platform would be a waste of money even if you could use faster cards.
    2
  • nickchalk
    thanks for responding so fast.
    so what if i use a 3650 with this board? or why will i buy a quad core and dont spend some more for a 3850?
    1
  • cangelini
    Unfortunately, performance won't scale with the 3650. With that said, you'll still see reasonable gaming performance in Hybrid CrossFireX. The beauty of this board is that you CAN drop in a 3850, 3870, 4850, etc. and then add a second one later for CrossFireX.
    0
  • zenmaster
    cangeliniUnfortunately, performance won't scale with the 3650. With that said, you'll still see reasonable gaming performance in Hybrid CrossFireX. The beauty of this board is that you CAN drop in a 3850, 3870, 4850, etc. and then add a second one later for CrossFireX.


    Nice Review, However I would like to see how well SLI scales on this board using a 4850 and 4870 vs another AMD Board with full Duel 16x PCIE 2.0 Slots.

    I've seen some other reviews where Dual 8x PCIE 2.0 Slots start having scaling issues on the 4850 at are not seen on the 3800 Series.
    0
  • computerfarmer
    Thank you for this excellent article.
    Does the 128mb side-port limit the on board video to that amount of memory? Does this affect Vista Areo?
    1
  • jimmysmitty
    Good article. Phenom can finally OC. I wounder if the mobo makers are going to make them with higher quality voltage regulators so it can support the 9850BE and higher across the selection.
    1
  • cshorte
    good review,

    i have a question why do you recommend ddr1066 over 800? i thought there wasn't a huge difference.

    also im a bit confused about this 16x, vs. 8x 8x...
    if i use a single card (for now) which motherboard (790g, 790gx) will produce more graphixs capabilities?
    1
  • ltcommander_data
    It would have been interesting to see a comparison between the GMA X4500 and the 790GX.

    http://www.hkepc.com/?id=1510&page=5&fs=idn#view

    The GMA X4500 seems to be much faster than the GMA X3500 and within 10-30% of the 780G in actual games. I guess the 790GX was a timely addition and with it being 20% faster than the 780G, that should open up the lead over the GMA X4500 to 30-50%.
    1
  • kenyee
    and which of these upcoming 790GX motherboards are microATX?
    The only one I know of is the DFI one...
    1