AMD and Nvidia Platforms Do Battle


Both chipsets have reached a level of integration, performance and efficiency that is far above what most of us associate with the term “integrated chipset”. The AMD 780G and Nvidia’s GeForce 8200/8300 include all features and interfaces for a modern desktop solution, multimedia system or HTPC.

They don’t deliver less performance than high-end chipsets, and they even come with decent graphics engines, which are excellent for office and multimedia, and for playing HD video from Blu-ray in FullHD resolution. Finally, they allow users to create low-power, high-performance multimedia and HTPC solutions based on AMD Athlon X2 dual core and Phenom X3/X4 triple and quad core processors. All of that comes at price points of less than $100. Differences between AMD and Nvidia are small, but they are there.

Video: AMD Wins

Although Nvidia showed slightly less CPU utilization when playing FullHD video from Blu-ray, the AMD 780G required less overall system power when taking on this task. It remains difficult to assess whether AMD Avivo HD or Purevideo HD is the better processing solution, as we did not have unlimited time for this analysis.

Graphics: Nvidia Wins

The GeForce 8200 graphics unit provided much more performance in 3DMark06, but it did not deliver this promise in the games we selected; the games weren’t the latest titles, because they would kill both graphics solutions. Nvidia did well in the 3D graphics section of the SYSmark 2007 Preview benchmark suite, though this isn’t the reason why we prefer the Nvidia solution.

In fact, Nvidia’s Hybrid SLI currently is more advanced than the implementation of Hybrid Crossfire X. While we will look at hybrid graphics performance and power efficiency in a separate article, we found that AMD mainly uses the hybrid buzzword to accelerate its integrated Radeon HD3200 graphics by running Crossfire X mode with an additional Radeon HD3450.

Nvidia, on the other hand, extends the hybrid idea beyond doing the same with a GeForce 8400GS or 8500GT card. Hybrid Power will switch off compatible Nvidia graphics cards when you don’t need 3D performance and when displays are run through the integrated graphics. We liked this feature, as it makes a lot of sense and doesn’t cost performance.

Efficiency: No Winner

Our performance per Watt-hour analysis on SYSmark 2007 Preview resulted in a mere 1% advantage of the GeForce 8200 chipset over the AMD 780G. The idle power difference of 2W and 9W peak power difference isn’t sufficient to declare one the winner, as a different motherboard design with more or fewer voltage regulator phases or a different number and type of motherboard components could change the balance of power.

Overall: You Decide

Whether you go for one of these sub $100 solutions or purchase a $300 high-end motherboard won’t make any difference for standard Windows usage or CPU-intensive applications — all Socket AM2+ boards can run a quad core AMD Phenom X4 processor. This makes the AMD 780G vs. Nvidia GeForce 8200 choice a really difficult one.

If you don’t specifically want to run dual, three-way or quad graphics, or need more sophisticated platform features such as hardcore overclocking options, these motherboards do in fact suffice — and they still provide a nice upgrade path for graphics. Nvidia was more consistent in executing its platform strategy with Hybrid Power, while AMD offers better video features (Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD, Display Port) and FullHD video decoding efficiency.

Performance differences can be found in SYSmark 2007 Preview, which utilizes many professional applications. However, we won’t judge these feature-rich all-rounders’ platforms by performance differences that could easily be too narrow to be relevant to the majority of users.