So what are current integrated platforms good for? The same they have always been good for: putting a 2D image on your screen. For 3D gaming, neither the Intel X3000 nor the ATI Radeon X1250 was able to deliver something "worthwhile" that even entry-level gamers would enjoy. Adding an inexpensive card upped the ante on gaming performance but still lacked what makes PC gaming great: big graphics and really feeling the game play. If you have a limited budget, the MSI NX8500GT was the better card in this comparison Compare Prices MSI NX8500GT Video Cards. However, the gamer in me tells you to save a few more pennies and go for a better card for gaming. The Radeon X1950 Pro is still a nice card for gaming and if you double down you can get a GeForce 8600GTS.
On the other side, the integrated chipsets did alright for standard DVD playback. They had issues with noise reduction in broadcast and mixed formatted content but overall it was no worse than some home systems I have watched. HTPCs still deliver all-in-one applications for recording, playback and storage of content, and can be used for other purposes. If you wanted an HD DVD playback system from a motherboard, the Gigabyte GA-MA69GM-S2H with AMD's latest version of 690G and Radeon X1250 can handle it. Based on the tests we ran on the integrated and the discrete graphics processors, you ended up with almost the same performance. For $200, you get the same performance in DVD and HD DVD playback without the extra $75 for a stand-alone piece of graphics hardware.
Personally I am still waiting for discrete graphics hardware to develop video content playback. There is so much computational horsepower in the shader core alone but it takes the right programming to make it work well. It looks like the same processing techniques hindered the integrated and discrete processors from AMD/ATI. In my own opinion, the Nvidia scenes shown on the 8500GT just looked blurry and some of the text seemed to skip a beat. All three companies have come a long way with video playback as well as integrated graphics hardware but they still have a long way to go. Perhaps this is what Fusion and the next round of chipsets will provide. One can only hope.