Intel and Nvidia both offer integrated chipsets for Socket 775, and the two platforms appear to be very similar at first glance. But they are, in fact, very different when you turn them inside out, when it comes to doing more than just office work. Both are manufactured on 65 nm processes, but the Intel G45 chipset is based on two chips, while Nvidia crammed all of its features into a single piece of silicon. Intel focuses on turning the platform into an all-in-one solution for the office and the digital home, while Nvidia capitalizes on its floating point horsepower, which is provided by the 16 unified shaders.
Intel G45: The Clockwork Chipset
If you browse Intel’s product database at ark.intel.com you’ll find that the G45 chipset is guaranteed to be manufactured for 7+ years, which is a significant factor for corporate users or system builders, who want to support their systems for a long time. This also applies to drivers: even though Intel had a pretty rough start with its G45 platform, the driver support has been steady.
We did not perform a lot of graphics testing, as we don’t believe it makes a lot of sense to treat G45 like a gaming platform when in fact it is not, but you can expect G45 motherboards to deliver a reliable and timely integrated graphics platform. It’s faster than any Intel chipset before it, though it still cannot catch up to discrete graphics solutions.
Nvidia GeForce 9400 mGPU: The Visualist
We found that the GeForce 9400 motherboard by DFI was more power efficient at peak loads than the G45, while providing 2-3x more 3D performance. As a result, the Nvidia platform is considerably superior when it comes to power efficiency under 3DMark Vantage, which we used as a 3D workload. Efficiency in desktop applications and video playback is on par with the G45 and so is performance. If you don’t know what to buy, you can purchase the cheaper solution with confidence, as long as you trust the brand.
However, the Nvidia chipset has two aces up its sleeves: CUDA and PhysX. Chances are good that a more significant number of applications will be adjusted to take advantage of Nvidia GPUs and their massive floating point performance, in order to accelerate workloads such as video or audio transcoding, image rendering, encryption or decryption and so forth. The same applies to PhysX, which can be used to increase behavioral realism in 3D environments.
In the end, we recommend a GeForce 9400 mGPU platform if you’re not sure what to use, if you get a better deal than on a G45 motherboard, or if you are into video and gaming. In these segments, the Nvidia platform is superior to Intel’s offering. The G45 remains the best choice if you’re already working with Intel hardware and intend to stay on familiar ground.