Nvidia leads off its marketing material with “good enough is no longer good enough.” The combination of DirectX 10 graphics, CUDA technology, video decoding, PhysX, and GeForce Boost is said to push the GeForce 9300’s capabilities beyond merely ample. And while the chipset successfully stomps Intel’s G45 in all things 3D, it still sports a built-in graphics engine based on discrete GeForce 8400 GS/9300 GS technology, consisting of 16 unified shaders, eight texture mapping units, and four ROPs. When it comes to a majority of modern games that you’d want to see at reasonable quality settings, integrated graphics still cannot be considered good enough. You’d want at least an add-in GeForce 8500 GT in order to realize GeForce Boost mode. And even then, with as many compelling $100-and-lower cards out there, an inexpensive graphics upgrade is really the only way to fly.
With the idea that Crysis is going to look good on an integrated chipset set aside, Nvidia’s GeForce 9300 is actually welcome competition to Intel’s G45. When you put MSI’s P7NGM-Digital and Intel’s DG45ID next to each other, the platforms seem quite similar. Superficially, Nvidia enables parallel ATA. But buried inside the silicon, you also get hardware-accelerated PhysX through compatible games, CUDA support in the tiny number of applications optimized for it, seemingly more mature Blu-ray playback, and competitive platform performance. Intel had an excellent opportunity with its G45, but with GeForce 9300 available, budget buyers seem to have a better mainstream platform to complement Intel’s Core 2 processors.
To top it off, the MSI board is cheaper, too. Just bear in mind that you do get what you pay for. The P7NGM-Digital does not include a dual-link DVI port—a decision Nvidia says is up to each motherboard vendor. In a desktop environment, we’d recommend looking for another board able to take full advantage of Nvidia’s display output capabilities. But if you are using it as the foundation for a home theater PC, HDMI would likely be your interface of choice anyway.
How about GeForce 9300 versus AMD 790GX? So far, AMD’s exceptional entry-level chipsets have been the biggest reason to build Phenom-based boxes. The 790GX remains the most exciting thanks to its overclocking-friendly SB750 southbridge. However, AMD’s 780G is still a viable option when price is of principal importance. Nvidia’s GeForce 9300 serves up faster 3D overall, though. Yes, AMD scores a handful of wins in titles not optimized for GeForce Boost, but the GeForce is paired to Intel’s Core 2 CPUs, which make a big difference in productivity tests.
Nvidia’s GeForce 9300 might not be powerful enough to make real gaming possible, but the chipset, taken as a whole, is strong enough to shore up Intel’s position against AMD at the entry-level—a previous 780G stronghold. Just do yourself a favor and find a board with dual-link DVI and an optical audio output, two features that were missing from MSI’s P7NGM-Digital.
At the request of several of our forum members, we went back and installed a Phenom X4 9600 into the AMD platform. Bear in mind that the 9600 is a rev. B2 processor that dissipates 95W compared to the Core 2 Duo’s E7200’s 65W. However, it’s priced about $110, bringing the total price of the AMD configuration to $260.
So, for an extra $40, 30W, and one TLB fix, does the quad-core Phenom do anything for the platform’s overall performance? Let’s check it out.
|Benchmark||Core 2 Duo E7200||Phenom X4 9600||Athlon 64 X2 5400+|
|Photoshop CS3 (min:sec)||2:07||3:03||2:33|
|Grisoft AVG (min:sec)||3:26||2:16||3:57|
|Crysis (8x6, 10x12, 12x10)||18.4, 14.1, 9.59||18.4, 13.3, 8.89||17.0, 12.1, 7.98|
|World in Conflict (8x6, 10x12, 12x10)||21, 17, 13||22, 17, 12||19, 14, 9|
To begin, it’s clear that mixing dual- and quad-core processors in these tests makes it much more difficult to evaluate the platforms themselves since we’ve introduced another huge variable: the degree of software threading.
However, with numbers for both the 2.3 GHz Phenom and the 2.8 GHz Athlon 64, it becomes clear that when you run software optimized for, at most, two threads, the Phenom gives up significant performance by virtue of its slower clock. When you run threaded software, the Phenom greatly enhances performance thanks to an extra two cores.
As far as gaming goes, we do pick up extra frames in Crysis and WiC, though not enough to enable any resolution that wasn’t playable previously.
Though interesting, these results don’t change the conclusion of the story at all. It’s a review of Nvidia’s GeForce 9300, and the fact remains that Nvidia has a compelling integrated platform on its hand able to outclass Intel’s G45 and rival the 790GX/780G chipset from AMD. If you’re willing to spend an extra $40 on the admittedly very-affordable Phenom X4 9600, there will be situations where the AMD processor outperforms Intel’s dual-core offering. But this is less a reflection of the motherboard/chipset and more a statement about the current CPU market.
Wouldn't it have made more sense to pair up similarly priced components, such as the 780g and 5400+ vs a E2180 and G45? Maybe someone could explain the reasoning?
I think that the 780g platform is more analogous to the 9300. I would have liked to seen either a 8650 or a 6000+ competing on that than a 5400 on the 790GX, many of its features are not being used here. That being said I still think the Nvidia/Intel platform would fair better. It seems to me that this article is at some points aimed at gamers and at other home theater enthusiasts. I think the article would have been better suited focusing on either one, not both.
Cheapest G45 board is around $109 from Intel (discarding ECS) on newegg. G31 is outdated.
$100 730i board would be pitted against G45 board directly.
780G boards are slightly cheaper and still more capable then NVIDIA MCP7x and any Intel IGP solution. JetWay is offering JetWay HA07 790GX/SB750 board for $90 on newegg at the moment.
Can you please explain that one?
I would hardly put a 5400+ in a HTPC either ... I'd throw in a low power dual core ... bet that would make mincemeat out of the Intel systems and still give quality playback and much smoother graphics up on the screen.
Plus we all know the NVidia Graphics chips in this iteration are defective ... why buy a defective mobo to begin with?
It might not last very long.
Doesn't make good purchasing sense.
Even Apple are publicly stating that all current GPU's have defective substrates causing bonding issue, reducing the lifeltime of the GPU largely based on thermals I guess.
The E7200 is a good performer ... very good in fact.
I would like to add that a phenom (8450?/9550?) processor should have been used because of the higher hyper transport speed advantages and also to check if the power consumtion is different.
Hopefully TomsHarware will update the figures including scores for phenom processor and also nvidia 8200/8300 chipsets for amd processors, just for completeness sake.
Not true. Don't believe anything comes out from Charlie Demerjian until proven.
The Intel- and AMD-based platforms both add up to $220. Assuming all other components are the same (memory, HDD, PSU, etc), you end up with two machines that cost the same amount of money.
You're right on the money about the 790GX's support for CrossFire. I'll look for a place in the piece to add mention of that. The 790GX chipset isn't going to add anything to overclocking in this particular comparison, though, since it's not a Phenom in the socket, but an Athlon 64 X2.
I believe this platform is best suited to an HTPC crowd, but I couldn't ignore Nvidia's insistence that gaming is good here as well. And to that end, I'd still recommend an add-in board under $100 like AMD's Radeon HD 4670.