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Only a few years ago, chipset comparisons were true performance shootouts. While this is still the case at the high end, where top-of-the-line core logic has to support multiple-GPU setups, today’s mainstream systems can be equipped with integrated graphics with little fuss. Chipsets are now more often compared in terms of their features and power consumption, since basic performance is typically pretty constant. Given that backdrop, we looked at the two more recent Core 2-based integrated platforms: Intel’s G45 and the Nvidia GeForce 9400 mGPU.
Integrated Chipsets Today
Enthusiasts used to fear the “integrated” moniker, as it generally meant both pathetic performance and inflexibility, regardless of whether the chipset was provided by AMD, Intel, Nvidia, SiS, VIA, or someone else. But those days are now long past. Even the cheapest desktop system you can get today will be fast enough to browse the Web, work on office files, and play multimedia content.
Today’s integrated chipsets not only include relatively flexible graphics units, they also come with quick network controllers, plenty of USB and storage interfaces, and limited--but still available--upgrade paths. Many of them can even be paired with high-performance processors, turning these systems into fairly muscular desktop PCs.
Powering The PC Of Tomorrow
In fact, integrated solutions have a bright future. On the one hand, the majority of PC systems sold has always been based on integrated core logic. On the other hand, increased integration and flexibility move these compact, integrated solutions closer to fully featured ATX boxes, while maintaining lower space requirements and cost.
Using an inexpensive Pentium Dual Core or Celeron, a small amount of RAM, and an ordinary 320 GB hard drive puts our two test systems into the budget price range. In contrast, a fast Core 2 Quad with 4 GB of memory and a fast drive will make these systems as fast as any other enthusiast platform—as long as you don’t look at graphics performance. In such a case, Nvidia has a little advantage over Intel, as the Hybrid SLI feature lets the system team its motherboard GPUs with an additional, low-cost graphics card. It still won’t give you competitive 3D performance, but it’s a step in the right direction.