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Bitstreaming, Eyefinity Power Consumption, And Zotac's Mini-ITX

CPU Charts, An ATI Update, And Zotac's Mini-ITX Board
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With that said, I have a couple more ATI-related bits to talk about.

First is the much-anticipated official arrival of Dolby TrueHD/DTS-HD Master Audio bitstreaming support over HDMI in CyberLink’s PowerDVD 9. I had been working with CyberLink to troubleshoot beta support since the Radeon HD 5870 launched more than two months ago. However, access to this functionality was limited to members of the press (and somewhat awkwardly, too—you had to choose HD audio output after starting video playback). Build 2320 officially lets you send the encoded signal to your stereo receiver, where the lossless audio track can be decoded and played back. If you’re lucky enough to own a Radeon HD 5000-series board and use PowerDVD 9, make sure you grab the free update. The only issue we encountered was the software forgetting to leave Aero enabled during Blu-ray playback—a feature the new Radeons are supposed to support.

Second, I got a report from our German office that Radeon HD 5800-series owners (and indeed, owners of Nvidia graphics cards as well) were claiming that running in a multi-monitor configuration caused idle clocks to change, increasing power consumption from the levels reported in my initial reviews.

I tested on a Radeon HD 5850 and a 5750. Sure enough, adding a second monitor to either card caused idle clock rates to jump from 157 MHz core / 300 MHz memory to 400 MHz core / 1,150 MHz memory. Idle system power consumption on the 5750 box increased from 133W to 147W, taking the card’s idle power from a cited 16W up to 30W. Purportedly, this is necessary in order to maintain a stable display output. While that’s still impressively low, you’re still looking at almost two times the power consumption in a multi-monitor configuration. Overall, not horribly impactful, but good to know.

Two monitorsTwo monitors

One monitorOne monitor

Finally, I noticed that ATI enabled the much-anticipated Drag and Drop transcoding feature via Windows 7 in its latest Catalyst software release. Though this is Very Cool on ATI’s part, I’m at a loss as to actually using the functionality, and Microsoft is eerily quiet on the matter—strange, considering this is supposed to be an early example of DirectCompute making life easier through simplified transcoding. I wasn’t surprised when my iPod Touch shut me down, but was downright amazed when my Zune HD showed no sign of supporting this native Windows 7 capability. Hopefully we’ll hear more on this soon.

Zotac Refreshes A Classic

Just before taking a couple of days off for Thanksgiving, I received a package from Zotac containing its GeForce 9300-ITX WiFi Rev. 2, which is beefed up with three SATA 3 Gb/s ports, one eSATA port, and RAID 0, 1, 0+1, and 5 support. It also includes Wake-on-USB support and a number of expanded voltage options. Finally, the integrated GeForce 9300 GPU is overclocked to match the specs of Nvidia’s GeForce 9400 (580 MHz core, 1,400 MHz shaders).

Now, bear in mind that I’ve had a few GeForce 9300-based experiences up until this point: Zotac’s own mini-ITX Ion platform rocking an Intel Atom processor and HP’s Mini 311, which I purchased—again—with an Atom. At no point have I ever really found the combination to be suitable on the desktop (even as an HTPC). I’d been meaning to rebuild my initial mini-ITX effort using the first revision of Zotac’s LGA 775-equipped board. But now that there’s a second revision available, keep an eye out for a follow-up with much stronger performance potential paired to a low-power Pentium, Core 2 Duo, or Quad.

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  • 4 Hide
    csuwrx , December 1, 2009 4:17 AM
    Altough love the idea of low idle consumption of 5800 series, I´ll stick with my HD4870X2, still kick ass in games, don't really need more power right now, I'll wait maybe six or eight more months until I go to 5800 series. apart from that congrats to all who can find a brand new HD5800 :D 
  • 4 Hide
    tester24 , December 1, 2009 5:54 AM
    I was really hoping to see Toms have the i7 860 instead of the 870. Honestly who cares about a $500+ CPU!? Most people would get the 750, 860 or 920 because of their lower price points and their capabilities. 870 not that much better to warrant the higher price point.

    Sure it's stock speed and turboboost is set higher but it's clock range is the same between the 860 and 870, 660Mhz and 670Mhz respectively.

    Now I know a few people will say that if this is true then the performance numbers should be the same but viewing some of the numbers on other sites they are a little different but I would like to see Toms do it because they are a little more thorough.
  • 0 Hide
    one-shot , December 1, 2009 5:57 AM
    I agree. With a lot of games being developed on console and ported to PC, there isn't too much of a reason to upgrade GPUs. I run 2 GTX 260 C216s in SLI and don't regret adding another two months before the launch of the 58XX series.
  • 0 Hide
    cangelini , December 1, 2009 6:48 AM
    tester24I was really hoping to see Toms have the i7 860 instead of the 870. Honestly who cares about a $500+ CPU!? Most people would get the 750, 860 or 920 because of their lower price points and their capabilities. 870 not that much better to warrant the higher price point. Sure it's stock speed and turboboost is set higher but it's clock range is the same between the 860 and 870, 660Mhz and 670Mhz respectively.Now I know a few people will say that if this is true then the performance numbers should be the same but viewing some of the numbers on other sites they are a little different but I would like to see Toms do it because they are a little more thorough.


    I'll pass your feedback on to the team working on charts.
  • -1 Hide
    netsql2 , December 1, 2009 7:46 AM
    I'd love a good Mini-ITX build, how cheap can one make a hulu + 3d gaming box + skype w/ Ubuntu 64, blue tooth, wifi-n (no need for dvd/blue ray, just download).
  • -4 Hide
    netsql2 , December 1, 2009 7:46 AM
    I'd love a good Mini-ITX build, how cheap can one make a hulu + 3d gaming box + skype w/ Ubuntu 64, blue tooth, wifi-n (no need for dvd/blue ray, just download).
  • 2 Hide
    caamsa , December 1, 2009 11:43 AM
    You all need to add some new games to the charts to keep things fresh.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , December 1, 2009 1:24 PM
    I'm waiting for the low-profile 5650/5670 to stick into my HTPC for Dolby Digital TrueHD or DTS HD Master Audio.
  • -1 Hide
    bigght , December 1, 2009 2:28 PM
    ATI/AMD You have dropped the ball again as far as availability issues with your HD5000 graphics and then to make matters worse, you are jacking up the prices on the cards. But without any competition from Nvidia, you can afford to do this, or can you? Long standing ATI supporters have waited for you to address the demand vs supply issue and "mums the word". Lets hope this ploy does not backfire. I am in need of an upgrade for my present ATI card, but hell if I am going to pay for HD5850 graphics card that increases by $$60 since it was released a few months ago.
  • 5 Hide
    Anonymous , December 1, 2009 3:43 PM
    bigght you need to relax, ATI did not jack any of the prices up on their cards. The people who are responsible are the vendors who sell the cards, since the supply is low they jack the price up for the demand. Do not misdirect your anger for the price hike at ATI they did nothing but come out with a very competitive and fantastic card with great features.
  • -2 Hide
    Anonymous , December 1, 2009 4:48 PM
    About Zotiac:
    I think it's bull $hit saying that the Atom powered desktops don't perform!
    For years we've been using 1,6Ghz processors and lower,and never even mentioned the system was in some respect slow!
    In fact, today I still use an EeePc701, booting winXP, with a 630Mhz core, and it works pretty ok for most things...
    It even displays 720p video on it's tiny 480p screen (when overclocked to 1Ghz)!
    It does not have the more powerful graphics card the Zotiac system has, and it uses 400Mhz DDR2 RAM. In any way it is supposed to be slower than the zotiac system, yet with a few XP mods, it works like a charm!
    Generally I leave it running @800Mhz, to not have lags with typing and other things, but, come on!
    10 years ago, there where those still using windows 98 with a 166Mhz CPU!
    Though old by the standards of then, if people could do most they needed to do with a 166Mhz processor, how much more with a 1,6Ghz processor?

    Have we become spoiled?
    Is an ION platform by any means lacking for the average user?
    The average user does NOT compress video's!
    He does seldom compress audio.
    He sits behind his PC, to internet, chat, use Excel and Word, and perhaps some stock-market program; he listens to audio, and watches 720p video's, and HD youtube video's. All of which the ION platform is doing a great job, especially now that flash video has been hardware accelerated on the 9300/9400 series graphics card from NVidia.

    OK, you can't game on it, and running Vista sucks. That's a Vista issue, not an Atom issue.
  • 0 Hide
    cangelini , December 1, 2009 5:10 PM
    Spoiled is the wrong word, IMO. Rather, the types of applications enabled by more powerful hardware have evolved. The Atom's clock rate isn't the only specification on which to evaluate its performance, remember. It's a CPU that Intel *designed* to enable mobile Internet devices. Should we be surprised when it underwhelms on the desktop? I certainly don't think so. At any rate, why bother with an Atom-based mini-ITX box when you can get a more apropos desktop architecture in there with the Zotac board? =)
  • 0 Hide
    sstym , December 1, 2009 5:55 PM
    Thank you for the updates, Chris.

    Are you guys planning on adding CPU/GPU charts for laptops in the future?
    It is currently kind of hard to find decent information about how laptop GPUs and CPUs stack against each other. I, for one, would love to see how ULV cpus (mainly SU4100, SU2300, SU7300) fare against regular Cpus and maybe the lowly Atom.
    I would also love to see a comparison between mobile GPUs (9400M, GT2X0M, Radeon HD 4XX0, and even Intel 4500MHD)

    A lot of people are looking to buy a netbook or an ultra-portable, and relevant charts would be very helpful.
  • 0 Hide
    cangelini , December 1, 2009 6:03 PM
    I'd certainly be interested in hearing some feedback on this sstym. The main challenge, I suspect, is the number of different hardware configurations that can't be matched. So, if you were to review x GPU from one vendor, it'd be almost impossible to find an identical hardware platform with y GPU to compare it against. This is the reason our mobile CPU charts are out of date--while it used to be possible to build desktop versions of mobile architectures, we've seen fewer vendors doing these. Any suggestions would be awesome! =)
  • 0 Hide
    cangelini , December 1, 2009 6:04 PM
    BTW, tester, expect to see the 860 on the charts next month!
  • 0 Hide
    agnickolov , December 1, 2009 6:25 PM
    Core i7 950 is 3.06 GHz, not 3.2 GHz - that would be Core i7 960, which is sadly still missing. Considering the negligible difference with Core i7 965 EE (also at 3.2 GHz) this is not a big loss, however.
  • 0 Hide
    sstym , December 1, 2009 6:27 PM
    cangelini Any suggestions would be awesome! =)


    I certainly see your point. The SU4100 is almost always paired with either an intel 4500M or an intel 4500MHD
    The SU7300 is almost always paired with a 4500MHD or (in the case of an ASUS UL50) an nVidia GT210M.
    How about cross charts with CPU/GPU combos?
    You would run benchmarks on different machines and come up with an average on, say, a specific game or benchmark (I'm thinking video playback tests) for a specific CPU/GPU combo, and then you'd build a chart for that game or benchmark with the CPUs on the X-axis and the GPUs on the Y-axis, with the understanding that some of the cells would be empty.
    While the result would not be as unbiased and accurate as a benchmark run on a custom built desktop, it would provide some helpful hints for the potential buyer.



  • 0 Hide
    cangelini , December 1, 2009 6:40 PM
    agnickolovCore i7 950 is 3.06 GHz, not 3.2 GHz - that would be Core i7 960, which is sadly still missing. Considering the negligible difference with Core i7 965 EE (also at 3.2 GHz) this is not a big loss, however.


    Good catch, fixed!
  • 0 Hide
    decembermouse , December 1, 2009 8:46 PM
    sstym is right.

    However, instead of a mobile GPU evaluation (which I would love) how about a chipset evaluation? As in, we see:

    -Pentium Dual Core, with 4500
    -Core 2 Duo with 4500
    -Celeron with 4500
    -Turion II with Radeon 4200
    -Sempron(and other single cores) with Radeon 4200

    as integrated chipsets. In each of these, ONLY the processor varies (RAM, HDD, Windows config could be done by you guys to equalize these variables). You could run some benchmark programs or games on these, and for each platform use a variety of CPU's... for instance, Turion II M300, M500, M6X0, etc... all have the Radeon 4200, so which CPU should you get; at which point is upgrading the CPU pointless due to the igp? And the same with the Pentium Dual Core with their little 4500's. Does a faster PDC enable better gaming/media with the same igp?

    I think integrated video is an entirely different matter than a GTX260M (or other dedicated mobile GPU), as it can be paired with a huge variety of mobile CPU's and chipsets. Systems with actual video cards should probably be evaluated on a system level, because there is so much going on. Although you know, if you really wanted to, there are tools that will evaluate just a GPU. There's a portion of 3DMark, I believe, that measures its capacity, and that of the the CPU separately.

    I personally would love to see what's going on in the mobile realm with performance, and not just have to rely on going to Best Buy to see what score Windows 7 gives the components of random laptops, because that is nowhere near exacting enough for me. There are NO articles about how these new platforms perform. Just individual laptops, which all have different crapware on them. Remove the junk, benchark the hardware. It's crazy... we know SO much about how every single desktop CPU, even the ones that your readers probably aren't at all interested in, perform- but nobody bothers to analyze laptop hardware these days. Laptops are becoming more and more popular and some say desktops are dying out. Please, analyze these mobile platforms for us! Nobody else is doing it, and I know you have the capacity. Back in '04 when the Mobility Radeon 9700 hit us, everyone went crazy. We're leagues ahead of that now, and laptops are more popular as well as being used for a much wider variety of tasks, and yet we fail to pay any attention to them.

    Try and find any information about the Mobility Radeon 4200, I dare you. You'll find forum posts speculating on what the core actually is, how many sp's it has, how they enabled DX10.1 or if it was there in the 3200 as well but disabled... but no good info. Nothing solid. And NO performance figures. The mobile version is different than the 785G, obviously- they're related, but that's a desktop platform. Like mobile graphics/chipsets, there is no information on the performance of the Athlon 2650e, L110, M500, any of that. Yet these chips are sold all over the place.

    You guys are my one of my favorite hardware info and review sites- don't fail us in the mobile realm!

    Thanks for all your hard work guys,
    Decembermouse
  • 1 Hide
    cangelini , December 1, 2009 9:07 PM
    Thanks for the feedback guys. I'll see what we can do. Your opinions and suggestions are certainly appreciated!
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