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GeForce 8200: Hybrid SLI Saves Power, Boosts Performance

AMD and Nvidia Platforms Do Battle
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HybridPower and GeForce Boost

Let’s first talk about GeForce Boost. The GeForce 8200/8300 mGPU is capable of enabling Hybrid SLJ mode if you plug in a GeForce 8400GS or 8500GT graphics card. It will then render 3D graphics using both 3D units, which is very much what AMD’s 780G chipset does as well with Hybrid Crossfire X. Up to here, there is not much of a difference from a hybrid graphics standpoint.

However, the GeForce 8200/8300 comes with an additional feature, which we couldn’t find on the AMD 780G motherboard: Hybrid Power. Nvidia goes a step further and allows switching off an additional, discrete Nvidia GeForce 9800 or GeForce GTX 200 graphics card if 3D acceleration is not required. In addition, Hybrid SLI can be enabled with low-end cards.

Hybrid SLI with Power Savings

This sounds rather complex, but selecting your desired operating mode is very straightforward. Once an additional GeForce 8400GS or 8500GT card is installed, the system allows you to enable Hybrid SLI mode. Now it becomes important where you plug in your monitors: if hooked up to the integrated graphics, the GeForce 8200/8300 solution can not only activate GeForce Boost with the discrete graphics card, but it will also enable HybridPower, which will shut down the discrete graphics card when it isn’t needed. If you hook up your display(s) to the discrete graphics card, though, HybridPower cannot be enabled.

Should you connect displays to each of the graphics units (discrete and integrated), then neither GeForce Boost nor HybridPower can be enabled, as the system will be in multi-display mode.

By the way, two discrete graphics cards in SLI mode will also be treated like an individual one by the integrated graphics. This means that attaching the display only to the integrated graphics unit will disable both SLI graphics cards to save power when there is no 3D performance demand.

Connectivity

There are some limits to the single chip design, although these are not significant: Nvidia offers only one UltraATA channel instead of two, 12 USB 2.0 ports instead of a potential 14 (AMD has two USB 1.1 ports for industrial applications) and there are only three x1 PCI Express lanes.

However, Nvidia integrated its Gigabit Ethernet unit, which technically helps to save cost on the motherboard, and which follows the integral platform approach idea. As a consequence, Nvidia doesn’t have to use a PCIe lane for networking.

Like any other solution available today, the GeForce 8200 offers six Serial ATA/300 ports with command queuing support. Unlike AMD, Nvidia supports RAID 5, even though this feature remains interesting only on paper for low-cost platforms.