Blu-ray Done Right: How Does Your Integrated GPU Stack Up?

Choosing The Hardware: Intel Platforms And Other Components

GeForce 9300 Motherboard: Asus P5N7A-VM

Asus' P5N7A-VM represents the GeForce 9300/9400 motherboards in our roundup. Since the only difference between the GeForce 9300 and 9400 is a slight clock speed increase, we have overclocked the GeForce 9300 to GeForce 9400 specifications in order to see if it is the best possible representation of the series.

Unlike the 785G, the P5N7A-VM motherboard for LGA 775 supports DDR2 memory. But with the lower latencies afforded by DDR2, we don't think there will be much, if any, of a speed handicap in video playback.

This board includes one 16-lane PCIe 2.0 slot, one PCIe x1 slot, and two PCI slots, which is typical of a microATX offering. The back panel features eight-channel audio jacks, Gigabit Ethernet, six USB ports on the back panel (and an additional six mid-board), an optical audio output, and an eSATA port. Not only does the Asus P5N7A-VM have HDMI, DVI, and analog VGA outputs, it also carries the forward-looking DisplayPort connector. The P5N7A-VM can be found online for $110.

Intel G45 Motherboard: Asus P5Q-EM

The Asus P5Q-EM is the only motherboard with an Intel chipset and the second LGA 775 board in our roundup. It also utilizes DDR2 for system RAM and can handle 1,066 MHz overclocked memory speeds. On the back panel you'll find eight-channel audio jacks, Gigabit Ethernet, six USB ports on the back panel, an optical audio output, a FireWire port, and an eSATA port.

Like the other LGA 775 motherboard in our roundup, the P5N7A-VM, this board features HDMI, DVI, and analog VGA outputs, in addition to a DisplayPort connector. Compared to the rest of the competitors, the expansion slots are divvied up uniquely, with one 16-lane PCIe 2.0 slot, two PCIe 1x slots, and one PCI slot. The Asus P5Q-EM can be found for $125 online.

Blu-ray Drive: Lite-On iHES 208 8x Blu-ray Disk Reader and CD/DVD Writer combo

The iHES 208 is a nice drive that sports very fast 8x Blu-ray read speeds. In addition, it also offers the flexibility of Blu-ray reading with dual-layer CD/DVD writing, while the Lightscribe direct-disc labeling feature is a nice bonus.

Operating System: Vista Home Premium 64-bit

As for the operating system, we chose Vista Home Premium 64-bit. We chose the 64-bit flavor of Vista because it as become our standard for benchmarking. For anyone who wants to see a benefit from more than 3 GB of RAM, a 64-bit operating system is a must.

  • Proximon
    Great article. I think maybe the 4650 is a bit overkill, but that's just nitpicking.

    As long as you are talking about HTPC builds though, you might want to mention temps... aren't the 9300/9400 boards very hot?
  • epsiloneri
    Power draw is not interesting because of the electricity bill, it is the generated heat needed to be dissipated with the associated noise levels due to cooling that is critical for an HTPC.
  • HalfHuman
    i don't get it why a home theater would use a 1200w power source. at the same time i don't get why would someone evaluate the power efficency using this kind of power sorce. if you ask me i'd make this crazy ass power supplies illegal. a normal hometheater should not use more than 50w at idle and 100-150w at load. seems that this is what these actually consume. factor in the less than 5% load on the power supply and you get a masterfull 50-60% power efficency. i'd love to see some proper power supply test.
  • falchard
  • falchard
    BTW, I would like to see a "Can it play Crysis" article in the future that runs down every video card and IGP, then determines if it can possibly play Crysis and at what settings.
  • HalfHuman
    the 1200w power supply is green as in blue-green mould green.
    this is in fact an excellent power supply... if you use it. at 100watts load it has a "cool" 76% efficency. if the intel pc uses less than 82watts in load and 66watts in idle you can only imagine the efficency a power supply has at below 5% load. the site suggest around 65% so instead of having a proper power supply using 40watts or less when idle, you get this "green" efficient hummer who swollows 66w. i really like you articles guys but this kind of testing is not the way to go.
  • Efficiency isn't even tested below 20% load i believe But it should still be around 70-80% it is a Thermaltake Toughpower 1200w and all of them(3 listed on their site) are standard 80% eff rated or bronze. Ture a more modest Delta,Seasonic 250w or 300w would be much more appropriate for a htpc.
  • HalfHuman
    20% for this would be 240watts and efficency would still be reasonable.
    i posted some link but i see it's been removed. that review said something about 65% minimum.
  • drew_a
    Uh, guys... you might want to edit this article...
    "For the last CPU utilization test, we will check the capability of these graphic chipsets to accelerate picture-in-picture (PIP) video streams. To do this, we will use the Blu-ray dick Sunshine, which utilizes the H.264 codec and features PIP commentary during playback."

    on page 6
  • icepick314
    "If you are an audiophile, you should know that out of these remaining options, only the GeForce 9300/9400 can handle uncompressed eight-channel LPCM audio over HDMI 1.3."

    i did NOT know this...

    i thought only way to listen to uncompressed audio on blu-ray was using Asus Xonar HDAV 1.3 audio card to bitstream to your receiver...

    it's nice to know that IGP has enough power to handle 1080p while streaming HD audio codec....