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Updated: AMD 785G: The Venerable 780G, Evolved


Ed.: After discussing with AMD earlier today, it would seem that eight-channel LPCM is not one of the features present in 785G. As a result, we've made a couple of edits to the original story, while you'll find on this page, and page three. Overall, our assessment of 785G does not change. However, true HTPC enthusiasts will likely want to reconsider 785G if software-decoded Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD MA is a buying requirement.

Since the beginning of last year, integrated graphics processors (IGPs) have become a lot more exciting. Consumers now have solid options from all of the major players, including AMD’s 780G/790GX, Intel’s G45, and Nvidia’s 8200/9300/9400. All of these components have their respective strengths and weaknesses, but compared to past offerings, these chipsets are light-years ahead.

Now, AMD is bringing a new product to the table, and the fresh 785G chipset is an evolution of the 780G; certainly not revolutionary. It was created to address some of the features that the 780G lacked, such as eight-channel LPCM audio over HDMI, picture-in-picture video acceleration, ATI Stream technology support, DirectX 10.1, and Windows 7 compatibility. In addition, AMD promises lower power usage with the 785G. None of these features represent a "killer app" for the company, especially since the competition already offers most of these capabilities in their existing products. But taken as a whole, the 785G is a very positive step in the right direction. That is, of course, assuming it can deliver the goods, which our testing will flesh out.

The State of IGP

While Intel's G45 for Socket 775 is over most of its teething problems and can playback a Blu-ray disc in a competent fashion, it isn't very impressive in the graphics department. Nvidia's 8200 for Socket AM2+ isn't much better when it comes to 3D horsepower, but Nvidia has addressed that weakness with its GeForce 9300/9400 chipsets for Socket 775. As far as AMD’s portfolio goes, the 780G is a fantastic low-budget chipset, and the 790GX is a solid midrange offering. With these products leading the IGP segment when it comes to price/performance superiority, why change the 780G now?

Perhaps AMD's best reason to introduce the 785G chipset isn't the chipset itself, but its new Phenom II-based processors that can be used with it, including the Athlon II. While the original Phenom was somewhat anemic compared to Intel's Core 2 offerings (and was stigmatized early on for its TLB issue), the Phenom II sports a more refined architecture that has returned AMD to price/performance leadership with some of its parts.

With this in mind, there probably isn't a better time to re-introduce the improved 785G as an alternative to Nvidia's 9300/9400, and to highlight the 785G's strengths over Intel's G45.