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Out Of The Chipset Business? Not Yet, At Least

Move Over G45: Nvidia's GeForce 9300 Arrives
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G45: Formidable, at least on paper

Nvidia’s new GeForce 9300 would appear to go toe to toe with Intel’s G45 from a raw specifications standpoint. Both platforms support Core 2 Duos and Quads with front side bus speeds of up to 1,333 MHz. The two chipsets also support DDR2 and DDR3 memory. And while Nvidia’s offering goes a step further by accommodating DDR3-1333 (compared to Intel’s 1,066 MHz ceiling), we have to imagine that most motherboard vendors are going to continue snubbing DDR3 on their entry-level models (indeed, Nvidia confirms that all of the launch boards employ DDR2). Intel and Nvidia both support DirectX 10 through their integrated graphics cores. Likewise, they also support VGA, DVI, HDMI, and DisplayPort outputs. But from there, the onboard graphics engines diverge.

GeForce 9300 Graphics

The GeForce 9300, which Nvidia says is equivalent to the G86 architecture powering its GeForce 8400 GS discrete card, features 16 unified shader processors running at 1,200 MHz. Intel’s G45 boasts 10 shaders running at 800 MHz. Not only does Nvidia wield the advantage in onboard graphics resources, but also clock speed. According to Nvidia, the difference translates to several times the performance of Intel’s solution. But with a benchmark set so low, we’re still wondering if the GeForce 9300 can deliver playable frame rates.

9300: All of that in one 65nm chipset

More certain is the 9300’s ability to serve up smooth video playback through its integrated PureVideo HD video processor, which Nvidia claims is able to offload 100% of movie playback in H.264, VC1, and MPEG-2 formats. This doesn’t mean you’ll realize 0% host processor utilization though, as we’ll see in the benchmarks.

The 65nm mGPU also includes support for Nvidia’s PhysX and CUDA technologies, which will be of limited use to most folks. There is actually a fairly substantial list of titles with PhysX support—it’s just that we’ve never really felt compelled to try out Magic Ball 3 or Ultra Tubes before. Higher-profile offerings include Unreal Tournament 3 and Mass Effect. Similarly, the list of CUDA-enabled applications is also growing. But most of them are purpose-built titles written to handle molecular dynamics, computational chemistry, and holographic microscopy. The more notable mainstream applications include Elemental’s Badaboom media converter and Adobe’s upcoming Photoshop CS4. The Adobe app isn’t available yet, but Will Smith of Maximum PC has an interesting comparison online of Badaboom versus Handbrake 0.9.2 suggestion that while the technology is promising, it’s not quite all the way there yet with regard to quality, even if it does introduce substantial performance gains.

Accelerating all of your Blu-ray formats, according to Nvidia

More Chipset Details

Back to the similarities. GeForce 9300 and G45 both include individual PCI Express x16 slots compliant with the 2.0 specification. On G45, you’d use that slot as a reprieve from the anemic integrated core, replacing it completely with a discrete board. GeForce 9300 gives you two options: either populate the slot with a high-end card and shut off the integrated core altogether, or add a discrete GeForce 8400 GS/GeForce 8500 GT card to enable GeForce Boost. We’ve covered the basic functionality of GeForce Boost already. In short, it works similarly to SLI, leveraging the mGPU and a discrete GPU cooperatively. Of course, the 790GX board in this comparison goes a step further, enabling true CrossFire support through a pair of x16 PCI Express 2.0 slots wired to run in a x8 mode when they’re both populated.

For the rest of G45’s base functionality, you have to move away from the Intel’s memory controller hub and down to its ICH10 controller—the southbridge in any other language. A 2 GB/s interface connects the two components. Although it’s loaded down with 12 USB 2.0 ports offering 480 Mb/s of throughput each, six PCI Express x1 slots able to move 500 MB/s apiece, Gigabit Ethernet, six SATA 3 Gb/s ports, and a High Definition Audio controller, Intel apparently doesn’t see there being any issues with bandwidth.

Nvidia circumvents that challenge altogether by using a single-chip design. The same component hosting the GeForce 9300 graphics and memory controller also delivers four PCI Express x1 slots (2.0 versus Intel’s 1.1), six SATA ports, Gigabit Ethernet, 12 USB 1.0 ports 7.1-channel LPCM HD Audio, and five standard PCI slots. As with Intel, Nvidia’s storage subsystem supports RAID 0, 1, 0+1, and 5 arrays, too.

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  • 4 Hide
    Ryun , October 15, 2008 2:47 PM
    Good article but I feel compelled to say that I don't understand your choice for pitting the 790GX (~$140 board) and a 5400+ (~$80) with an the E7200 (~$120) and the G45 (~$100).

    Wouldn't it have made more sense to pair up similarly priced components, such as the 780g and 5400+ vs a E2180 and G45? Maybe someone could explain the reasoning?
  • 1 Hide
    ricstorms , October 15, 2008 3:24 PM
    I think a better Intel processor for an apt comparison should have been the E5200, which is only about $10 more expensive than the 5400+. Also, no mention was made that the 790GX platform is much more versatile, thanks to its 2 PCIExpress x16 slots (albeit running in x8 mode in Crossfire). Also, I would have liked to see the overclocking results with all three platforms, that is one of the strengths of the 790GX platform. (since AMD processors have fallen from grace, its almost impossible to find good reviews, I didn't see one in a google search for the 5400+ black edition)

    I think that the 780g platform is more analogous to the 9300. I would have liked to seen either a 8650 or a 6000+ competing on that than a 5400 on the 790GX, many of its features are not being used here. That being said I still think the Nvidia/Intel platform would fair better. It seems to me that this article is at some points aimed at gamers and at other home theater enthusiasts. I think the article would have been better suited focusing on either one, not both.
  • 0 Hide
    chaohsiangchen , October 15, 2008 3:26 PM
    I agree with Ryun about the price comparison.

    Cheapest G45 board is around $109 from Intel (discarding ECS) on newegg. G31 is outdated.

    $100 730i board would be pitted against G45 board directly.

    780G boards are slightly cheaper and still more capable then NVIDIA MCP7x and any Intel IGP solution. JetWay is offering JetWay HA07 790GX/SB750 board for $90 on newegg at the moment.

  • -1 Hide
    Reynod , October 15, 2008 3:30 PM
    I still don't understand how you can say the AMD system draws less power at idle then declare the Intel system to be the winner i nthe power stakes??

    Can you please explain that one?

    I would hardly put a 5400+ in a HTPC either ... I'd throw in a low power dual core ... bet that would make mincemeat out of the Intel systems and still give quality playback and much smoother graphics up on the screen.

    Plus we all know the NVidia Graphics chips in this iteration are defective ... why buy a defective mobo to begin with?

    It might not last very long.

    Doesn't make good purchasing sense.

    Even Apple are publicly stating that all current GPU's have defective substrates causing bonding issue, reducing the lifeltime of the GPU largely based on thermals I guess.

    The E7200 is a good performer ... very good in fact.
  • 2 Hide
    Liuqyn , October 15, 2008 3:31 PM
    if they had done that, then they would have had to admit that AMD was still the better value for entry level gaming and HTPC use.
  • -2 Hide
    marees , October 15, 2008 3:42 PM
    I agree perfrectly with Ryun that you cant compare e7200 with ath 5400.

    I would like to add that a phenom (8450?/9550?) processor should have been used because of the higher hyper transport speed advantages and also to check if the power consumtion is different.

    Hopefully TomsHarware will update the figures including scores for phenom processor and also nvidia 8200/8300 chipsets for amd processors, just for completeness sake.
  • 0 Hide
    chaohsiangchen , October 15, 2008 4:16 PM
    ReynodPlus we all know the NVidia Graphics chips in this iteration are defective ... why buy a defective mobo to begin with?It might not last very long.


    Not true. Don't believe anything comes out from Charlie Demerjian until proven.
  • 0 Hide
    Shadow703793 , October 15, 2008 4:23 PM
    Well written! Next time do you mind posting a bit on if the board is capable of OCing a bit?
  • 4 Hide
    cangelini , October 15, 2008 4:31 PM
    ryunGood article but I feel compelled to say that I don't understand your choice for pitting the 790GX (~$140 board) and a 5400+ (~$80) with an the E7200 (~$120) and the G45 (~$100).Wouldn't it have made more sense to pair up similarly priced components, such as the 780g and 5400+ vs a E2180 and G45? Maybe someone could explain the reasoning?


    Ryun,
    The Intel- and AMD-based platforms both add up to $220. Assuming all other components are the same (memory, HDD, PSU, etc), you end up with two machines that cost the same amount of money.
  • 4 Hide
    cangelini , October 15, 2008 4:45 PM
    ricstormsI think a better Intel processor for an apt comparison should have been the E5200, which is only about $10 more expensive than the 5400+. Also, no mention was made that the 790GX platform is much more versatile, thanks to its 2 PCIExpress x16 slots (albeit running in x8 mode in Crossfire). Also, I would have liked to see the overclocking results with all three platforms, that is one of the strengths of the 790GX platform. (since AMD processors have fallen from grace, its almost impossible to find good reviews, I didn't see one in a google search for the 5400+ black edition) I think that the 780g platform is more analogous to the 9300. I would have liked to seen either a 8650 or a 6000+ competing on that than a 5400 on the 790GX, many of its features are not being used here. That being said I still think the Nvidia/Intel platform would fair better. It seems to me that this article is at some points aimed at gamers and at other home theater enthusiasts. I think the article would have been better suited focusing on either one, not both.


    Hi Rick!
    You're right on the money about the 790GX's support for CrossFire. I'll look for a place in the piece to add mention of that. The 790GX chipset isn't going to add anything to overclocking in this particular comparison, though, since it's not a Phenom in the socket, but an Athlon 64 X2.

    I believe this platform is best suited to an HTPC crowd, but I couldn't ignore Nvidia's insistence that gaming is good here as well. And to that end, I'd still recommend an add-in board under $100 like AMD's Radeon HD 4670.
  • 5 Hide
    cangelini , October 15, 2008 4:47 PM
    chaohsiangchenI agree with Ryun about the price comparison. Cheapest G45 board is around $109 from Intel (discarding ECS) on newegg. G31 is outdated. $100 730i board would be pitted against G45 board directly. 780G boards are slightly cheaper and still more capable then NVIDIA MCP7x and any Intel IGP solution. JetWay is offering JetWay HA07 790GX/SB750 board for $90 on newegg at the moment.


    I didn't want to use a 780G board and then have the AMD enthusiasts in arms because we weren't using the best possible chipset to represent its efforts ;-)
  • 3 Hide
    cangelini , October 15, 2008 4:52 PM
    ReynodI still don't understand how you can say the AMD system draws less power at idle then declare the Intel system to be the winner i nthe power stakes??Can you please explain that one?I would hardly put a 5400+ in a HTPC either ... I'd throw in a low power dual core ... bet that would make mincemeat out of the Intel systems and still give quality playback and much smoother graphics up on the screen.Plus we all know the NVidia Graphics chips in this iteration are defective ... why buy a defective mobo to begin with?It might not last very long.Doesn't make good purchasing sense.Even Apple are publicly stating that all current GPU's have defective substrates causing bonding issue, reducing the lifeltime of the GPU largely based on thermals I guess.The E7200 is a good performer ... very good in fact.


    Reynod,
    Lack of clarification there. It should read Intel holds the edge against our Nvidia comparison platform. AMD does in fact have the edge at idle. I'll fix that.

    I don't have anything indicating that the chipset is defective so I wouldn't make that claim. However, my mailbox is open for business if you have documentation showing that it is!
  • 4 Hide
    cangelini , October 15, 2008 4:53 PM
    Liuqynif they had done that, then they would have had to admit that AMD was still the better value for entry level gaming and HTPC use.


    Hey, I'm still using a 780G/Phenom combination in my own desktop. But you can't deny that a Core 2 Duo + 730i is much more compelling than Intel's position with G45.
  • 4 Hide
    cangelini , October 15, 2008 4:58 PM
    mareesI agree perfrectly with Ryun that you cant compare e7200 with ath 5400.I would like to add that a phenom (8450?/9550?) processor should have been used because of the higher hyper transport speed advantages and also to check if the power consumtion is different.Hopefully TomsHarware will update the figures including scores for phenom processor and also nvidia 8200/8300 chipsets for amd processors, just for completeness sake.


    Marees, I could add a Phenom, but I'd need to update the Intel platform to match--and the results would likely look similar.
  • 4 Hide
    cangelini , October 15, 2008 5:00 PM
    Shadow703793Well written! Next time do you mind posting a bit on if the board is capable of OCing a bit?


    Thanks Shadow, I'll keep that in mind. Didn't expect much interest in overclocking, but I'll work on a roundup of 730i stories for tomorrow that links to some of the other folks' experiences with overclocking to help get you that information.
  • 0 Hide
    Mathos , October 15, 2008 5:02 PM
    cangelini


    I just wish they'd hurry up and get the X2 6500 out, would have been more suited to this comparison than the 5400, mainly due to high hyper transport speed which effects the 780g/790gx. Unfortunately I haven't seen hide nor hair of them yet anywhere. Would of been a good match up against e7200 performance wise too, or at least better than the 5400+.
  • 0 Hide
    bfstev , October 15, 2008 5:02 PM
    I think he was refering to the wide spread heat issues with nvidia's defective batch of GPUs. I'd be surprised if this integrated solution fell into that category as i dont believe nvidia would simply let that slip through to this when they know about the problem.

    Also just wanted some clarification, on the bottom of page 2 you state that the nvidia solution offers upto 12 USB 1.0 ports. just wanted to ask if that was suppose to be 2.0 or not as 1.0 seems to be quite the disadvantage
  • 0 Hide
    Blueridge , October 15, 2008 5:10 PM
    From the price of view, you're right, you get machines that cost the same... but I feel that the performance is a little bi out of balance... Could it have been possible to select a cheaper AMD mobo a little better CPU for this article?
  • 2 Hide
    cangelini , October 15, 2008 5:12 PM
    blueridgeFrom the price of view, you're right, you get machines that cost the same... but I feel that the performance is a little bi out of balance... Could it have been possible to select a cheaper AMD mobo a little better CPU for this article?



    Perhaps, but then AMD wouldn't have looked as good in the games as a result of a slower GPU clock (from a 780G board, for instance). I see the argument in both directions, but sided with graphics over processing.
  • 0 Hide
    warezme , October 15, 2008 5:31 PM
    Looks like a good board for all in one type system. Its to bad they don't bench a little bit older games like HL2. I have a laptop with the equivalent descrete graphics (8400GS)and it runs extremely smooth and very nice looking settings at native res on this type of older but very fun games. I can see how this board at $100 with a cheap CPU is a very good deal.
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