Who Says You Need Four Cores?

AMD’s 740G: From Obscurity To Your Desktop

We’re glad that someone at AMD let us know about the 740G chipset ; else it likely would have slipped under the radar. Not that we would have been missing something new—740G is really one part 690G and one part SB700, yielding a mixed platform centering on old technology, but still able to serve up a respectable list of features. The bright side is that 740G-based motherboards are priced anywhere from $55 to $65 dollars.

The 740G Northbridge

AMD’s 740G connects to a Socket AM2 interface by means of its HyperTransport 1.0 interface. If you were planning on building a budget box using an Athlon X2 anyway, the step back from HyperTransport 3.0 won’t affect performance at all. But if you instead use a Phenom X3 or X4, the chipset will force those CPUs to run at a 1 GHz interface speed.

Naturally, because memory support is determined by the processor you choose (and its integrated memory controller), the 740G shouldn’t affect you there. However, it is worth noting that the integrated graphics core—unaided by onboard side-port memory—relies on memory bandwidth performance for gaming. If you drop in an Athlon X2, as we have for our most value-oriented configuration, you’ll top out at 800 MHz DDR2 memory. Swap in a Phenom X4 9850 for comparison and you’ll have the bandwidth of 1066 MHz modules at your disposal instead.

Can the graphics core even do anything with that extra memory throughput ? After all, the 740G is derived from AMD’s 690G, which takes its design cues from the old ATI Radeon X700. It includes four pixel pipelines that satisfy Microsoft’s DirectX 9 SM 2.0b specification—a far cry from the Shader Model 4.0 parts we’ve spent so much time playing with lately. The core runs at 400 MHz, and the BIOS included with our Gigabyte MA74GM-S2 allows manual overclocking of the GPU, though the 80nm part isn’t likely to be as flexible as the 55nm 780G. A pair of independent display outputs (VGA and DVI in the case of our sample) sets the stage for as many as four monitor outputs if you add an inexpensive discrete board.

Remember, this is older technology. So while AMD does include its Avivo video processing engine, it isn’t the Avivo HD block introduced with AMD’s DirectX 10 parts. You do get scaling support, decode acceleration for MPEG-2, and 3:2 pulldown detection. Not part of the package is acceleration of Blu-ray content—a handicap that you’ll see manifest itself in our benchmarks.

The SB700 Southbridge

All there is to know about AMD’s SB700 southbridge is already known. And it’s hardly exciting after the announcement of SB750 alongside the 790GX platform. Nevertheless SB700 is at least a step up from the SB600 component that accompanied 690G. With SB700, you get six SATA 3 Gb/s ports with RAID 0, 1, and 10 support (RAID 5 surfaced with SB750). The I/O controller also enables 14 USB ports, 12 of which are of the USB 2.0 variety. And of course, the southbridge has the same troubles with AHCI as AMD’s other storage components. We tried to get Vista installed with AHCI enabled, just to be sure, and the setup hung before completing.

The Platform

More important than the chipset itself is the platform we’re building with it. Truly a product of penny-pinching in the name of science, we actually put together quite the collection of go-fast hardware.

Swipe to scroll horizontally
MotherboardGigabyte MA74GM-S2
ProcessorAMD Athlon X2 4850e @ 2.5 GHz
Memory4 GB (2 x 2 GB) Corsair Dominator DDR2-1066 5-5-5
GraphicsRadeon 2100 Integrated
Hard DriveSeagate Barracuda 7200.11 500 GB SATA 3 Gb/s

Total cost for the platform, sans optical drive (grab a dual-layer DVD burner for $35) and chassis (InWin’s BK623 with a 300W power supply runs $60) is about $360. With those other components, you’re looking at a $450 machine. Spend an extra $50 on graphics, and the platform becomes even more capable.

The benefits of this setup are clearly upfront cost- and energy-related. Though the CPU runs at 2.5 GHz and sports two cores (each with 512 KB of L2), it’s a 45 W part sitting on a microATX motherboard with integrated graphics. In fact, you could probably shave $75 off the price by stepping back to 2GB of DDR2-800 (we used Corsair’s Dominator modules for the sake of drawing an even comparison to the other benchmarked configurations).

Chris Angelini
Chris Angelini is an Editor Emeritus at Tom's Hardware US. He edits hardware reviews and covers high-profile CPU and GPU launches.
  • Well. It seem like virtualisation was left out as consider multi-core is critical for running virtualise application.
  • apache_lives
    waste of time to read, its been known for years that you dont compare clock speeds (in this case, 2.53ghz) - you compare price points! Wheres an Intel Quad? or a lower end Intel like a E4600 etc? and after all that BS, why the cheap AMD board thats "$10 - $15 less" against that expensive ass intel board? pffftttt
  • The_Trutherizer
    I completely don't get the point of the phenom 9850 in this review. Isn't this supposed to be a comparison of budget, workstation systems with dual core CPUs? Why put it in there? If you put a current Intel quad core in for consideration then it's power consumption would be high as well.

    What exactly are you trying to prove here? In any case. Any idiot knows that currently Intel's Dual core is the ideal processor. Currently of course.

    And what the hell were you thinking with the motherboard? A 740G? You even state in your conclusion that the 780G is a more fair comparison to the G45? Of course it is! Why did you even review the 740G then?

    I mean what a conflicting hodge podge of an article!
  • genored
    If you haven't bought a new computer in 6 years don't do a review about your epic fail of picking computer parts. I mean your just embarrassing....
  • rtfm
    If you give a million monkeys a typwriter, one of them will write a T.H article... Seriously, most of the readers of this site are well informed, this king of waffle is no good
  • curryj02
    so quad isn't worth it now... what about in six years. just as Hyper Threading has kept his P4 going so long, going quad will have the same effect. Quad doesn't scale now, but in six years? dual core will seem like single core is now - quad core = new dual core. Just my two cents
  • addiktion
    I currently run a Q6600 (3GZ OC) and it has done wonders for me. Take it I do a lot of Adobe Photoshop, gaming, coding, and generally have about 20-30+ windows open at one time which I would consider my "business" & "entertainment" use.

    If you add virtualization into the mix the quad core definitely has saved me. I don't experience any hiccups and now that I've migrated to 64 bit I've noticed a subtle gain in overall computing too.

    I think the highest I've hit on all my cores with extensive testing is 60-70%. This was running a few browser windows + 4 scanning programs at the same time and I did get some slow down due to my hard drive read/write speeds maxing out but nothing from the CPU. Which to me leaves plenty of room for what I actually do.

    Eventually when more software actually catches up to using 4 cores it'll be better utilized I suppose but for the most part I'm happy with it and I think you'll be happy with a dual or quad core.
  • fepple
    Running HL2:EP2 as a benchmark is pretty silly when its only single threaded

    "shocking news! new super car max speed only 30mph in residential areas"
  • monsta
    What a bunch of whiney old ladies you are! LOL
  • jitpublisher
    Nothing surprising, interesting, or useful about this. Am I missing something, was the article incomplete and posted early? Just don't get it.