AMD and Nvidia Platforms Do Battle

ASRock K10N78FullHD hSLI R3.0

This is the second ASRock motherboard we have received, and the product name focuses on the Hybrid SLI feature, which at this point is more flexible than AMD’s implementation. While AMD can idle a discrete ATI graphics card, Nvidia supports shutting down additional GeForce 9800 or GTX 200 cards to save power.

The tradeoff, at least on our two test systems, was missing support for Display Port in the case of the K10N78FullHD, and the lack of support for Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD; this might be an issue for HTPC applications. Apart from that, the Nvidia chipset proved to be more power efficient, and it provided a bit better graphics performance in Quake 4, Serious Sam 2, Unreal Tournament 2004 and Supreme Commander. AMD beats the GeForce 8200 in 3DMark06, and we did not even try more demanding games such as Crysis, for performance reasons. However, we will follow up with hybrid graphics benchmarks soon.

The board, which can be found for less than $100, comes well equipped, starting with a 5-phase voltage regulator array instead of four phases with the AMD 780G motherboard. A Firewire controller is optional, but wasn’t installed on our test sample.

There are six SATA/300 ports with Command Queuing and RAID 5 support, and one UltraATA/133 port for up to two legacy ATA devices. The x16 PCI Express 2.0 slot accepts all graphics card, supports Hybrid SLI for Nvidia GeForce 8400GS and 8500GT cards, and Hybrid Power for GeForce 9800 and GTX 200 cards. If you install any other card, the integrated graphics unit will switch off. There is one more x1 PCIe slot and two 32-bit PCI slots.

Six USB 2.0 slots can be found on the back panel; four more are available once you purchase additional adapters to route the ports from the headers to the front or back of your PC. HD audio and Gigabit networking are mandatory today; both are part of the GeForce 8200/8300 mGPU. This motherboard uses the 8200 version, which runs the stream processors at slightly slower clock speed than the 8300 (1.2 vs. 1.5 GHz).