With the all-night benchmarking sessions and ensuing story on AMD’s new 790GX chipset out of the way, I sat down this morning to read what others on the Web had to say about the platform.
The company’s latest performs well, no doubt about it. The integrated graphics is most definitely faster than 780G and the inclusion of SB750 is a real life-saver on motherboards slated to cost somewhere around $150. Without ACC, it’d be incredibly difficult to justify the extra cost tacked onto 790GX boards versus 780G—and it might just be worth it to hold off until 790FX boards with SB750 are priced out.
Geoff over at TechReport came to a similar conclusion on pricing in his story, adding a tidbit on AHCI support on the SB750 southbrdge that I wasn’t able to test. Apparently the new I/O controller forces enthusiasts to jump through the same hoops to get AHCI support as its predecessor—something we’d hope would be changed by now, but apparently hasn’t been. I did have the opportunity to try adding a RAID array to an existing single-drive configuration. And while it was no problem to incorporate a pair of 500 GB drives, set them up for RAID 0 operation, and keep my boot drive separate, the simple act of switching to RAID mode meant the already-configured drive with Vista on it wouldn’t boot.
In his conclusion, Marco over at HotHardware had less of an issue with 790GX’s price tag and instead focused on an important point that seems to really be propping up AMD’s processor line up right now: the idea of a platform. Intel used to own this concept, selling its processors, chipsets, motherboards, networking controllers, RAID cards (the list goes on and on) in a package that was assumed to work better together because it all came from the same company. Just look at Centrino. Same sort of idea adapted for the mobile space. I remember when AMD launched the 760 chipset—the first Athlon platform with DDR support. It was determined to get out of core logic as soon as its partners had jumped on board the DDR train. Now the company can’t get enough of platforms, and we’ve seen several good ones as a result. Truly, though, 790GX is the first chipset to tie the platform and processor together with ACC. Previously, CrossFireX was the best reason to match AMD CPUs and AMD chipsets (and that was dubious at best since Intel supports CrossFire as well on platforms boasting faster CPUs). Now it’s ACC. Hopefully we see more of that platform message.
Unrelated to the 790GX, but interesting nonetheless, AMDZone’s Chris Tom worked some Intel G45 numbers into his coverage of AMD’s newest chipset. While the platform’s integrated core is still the slowest out there, it looks to be significantly faster than anything Intel has ever offered before. In fact, a couple of Chris’ benchmarks show G45 edging past Nvidia’s 780a SLI. We were also hoping to include G45 scores, but had to cut the testing short when we ran out of time. We are working on a comparison between G45 and a lesser-known AMD platform, though.
Perhaps more pressing for folks planning on picking up 790GX right away was Gary Key’s preview on AnandTech. In it, Gary recounts a number of issues he experienced with the initial batch of 790GX boards, including CrossFire with 4800-series Radeons, HDMI resolution problems, and trouble between OverDrive and the Phenom X4 9950 BE (AMD’s 2.6 GHz, 140 W model). His observations may help explain why we weren’t able to get our hands on the MSI and Foxconn boards in time for the chipset debut (we’ve already spoken to Asus and our problem with its board is unrelated to the issues Gary describes).
Based on Gary’s detailed list of outstanding quirks, it might be a good idea to either 1) hold off on 790GX until the board vendors iron out its wrinkles (see the story for specifics on where exactly you can expect to see issues today) or 2) simply wait until the 790FX/SB750 platform of your choosing becomes available. After all, enthusiasts building more powerful platforms will probably want to forgo the integrated graphics anyway in favor of more discrete connectivity.
Our conclusion on the 790GX still stands. The integrated platform is impressive, offering better graphics performance (albeit from a piece of silicon that isn’t new), more overclocking headroom, and new storage functionality. We’re still on the fence regarding the target audience, since 790GX boards will cost much more than 780G and are missing the HybridPower-like functionality that’d make them a solid win for power users. Nevertheless, it’s interesting to see what others are saying and experiencing with similar hardware.
If you’ve seen any other 790GX stories with interesting scores, unique features, or unexpected twists, let me know in the comments section and I’ll add my impressions. And to all who contributed feedback on our own coverage, thanks for making your voice heard.