A Scooter with a Rocket Engine?
Last week nVidia shocked the enthusiast market by releasing a top-model chipset with integrated graphics. NVidia knew that no self-respecting enthusiast would actually rely on integrated 3D engines, but that wasn’t the point of its 780a SLI. Instead, the announced primary intent was to provide the entire graphics system a way to drop into low power mode when few 3D calculations were required, such as while surfing the internet.
What sets the 780a SLI apart from the lower-budget GeForce 8000 series chipsets isn’t the 780a SLI MCP, but instead the nForce 200 PCI-Express bridge. This bridge provides PCI-Express 2.0 mode to two full-bandwidth x16 slots, or three x16 slots with two in x8 mode. This is the same component that nVidia used to transform its 680i Intel chipset into the 780i, and we’re almost certain that the 780a SLI MCP uses the same 8000 series core as nVidia’s lower-budget parts.
Yes, the nForce 780a SLI still supports GeForce Boost, which is the major feature of the 8000 series to allow low-cost motherboards and graphics cards to be combined into middle-market performers. We tested that feature last week, and found that it worked well for an 8400GS and adequately for an 8500GT. But we didn’t test Hybrid Power because the motherboard we used died before we got that far.
Our experience with the nForce 780i SLI has shown that the nForce 200 bridge is an adequate part for 2-way and 3-way SLI performance, but other tests have proven that AMD’s current processors simply don’t have the performance needed to properly stress such an extensive graphics system.
We could however compare the 780a SLI to the top competing part, AMD’s 790FX. Will the new nForce-equipped motherboards come out on top?