AMD 780G changes the graphics game
Integrated graphics grow up
By Charlie Demerjian in Hannover
: Wednesday, 05 March 2008, 9:00 AM
AMD RELEASED THE 780G
chipset yesterday, and it is going to change the graphics game. The firm has done the seemingly impossible - made an integrated graphics part that does not immediately draw ridicule from all sides. It is actually good.
The main trick AMD pulled out of the hat is to change the specs on what an IGP (Integrated Graphics Part) is. In the past, you took the lowest end of your last generation GPU and cut it in half to make the IGP. Gaming was awful, it barely got out of it's own way, and was on the receiving end of howls of laughter from anyone involved.
780G made the laughs stop. AMD decided to take a full GPU and put it on the chipset, so what you have is a full Radeon HD24xx (RV620) on board, video acceleration, 3D and all. In the integrated GPU world, this means that the chips will blow all comers out of the water. In my testing, they do, handily, but more on that in a bit.
There are two variants, 780G and 780V, with the V standing for Value, or lower-end part. The graphics core on the G is labeled Radeon HD 3200, the V is the 3100. The main difference between the two is the clock speed, G is 500MHz, V is 350.
Both have enough features to choke a horse, 12 USB2 ports, six SATA with eSATA support, HDMI, DVI and display port, along with 22 PCIe2 lanes. The G has UVD and Hybrid Crossfire
as well, the V has those fused off. The one thing lacking is RAID5 support, and that comes in Q2 with the SB750, the replacement for the SB700.
The 780G does very well in the checkbox feature list, it basically hits them all, but if performance is a dog, so what? Luckily, 780G is a performance monster. We have one, a Gigabyte GA-MA78GM-2SH to be exact, and it looks like this.
This one has it all, including the up-and-coming display port. My setup included 2G of Corsair XMS2 DDR2/1066 and the new AMD 45w 4850e CPU. On the accessories side, we have a Lite-On DVD-R, a Western Digital 500GB RE2 HD and it was powered by a PC Power and Cooling Silencer 750W PSU in ATI red of course.
Due to the limited time before CeBIT, there were only a few tests we could run, some of which fell flat. Sadly, due to AMDs decision to make all the cool new features, Hybrid and CrossfireX, Vista only, these could not be tested. All testing was done on XP SP2, the broken, malware-infested OS was not used.
The 780G on my workbench
How well did it do? Right out of the box, no tuning at all, it hit 1197 on 3DMark06. Before you sniff that you can beat that with a 8800GTX, well, keep in mind that this is a $89 CPU on a sub-$100 board. Think about that, four-digit 3DMark06 scores for under $200, that is amazing.
Swapping out the 4850e with a Black Phenom 2.3, the score jumped to 1535. This particular CPU was able to hit 2.8 pretty easily, so with a bit of tuning, that score would go way up. By way of comparison, the 4850e with an HD3450 GPU plugged in, no Hybrid, hit 1739.
All of the combos played several HD-DVDs including the Dolby sampler and Serenity through Cyberlink PowerDVD Ultra without a hint of stutter or problems. The 780G + 4850e is about the cheapest way to HD we have come across in a long time.
One of the most important questions on anyones mind lately is power, and the flip side of that, noise. The 780G does very well here, it is 100 per cent passively cooled so it is totally quiet, only HD noise and case fans to disturb your pe ace.
Power draw is commendably low. One technical caveat though, the PCP&C PSU I have is a fairly high efficiency model, one of the best ones we have used. That said, PSU efficiency is not just related to the PSU, but also to utilisation. The closer to 100 per cent load you are, the higher the efficiency. At low loads, the efficiency of any PSU is pretty bad.
Because the PCP&C PSU is a 750W version, the wattages shown below are going to be pretty heavily skewed by PSU losses, a normal occurrence. All numbers were measured at the wall with an Exetech power meter, with max draw seen listed. If you put in a much lower draw PSU, these numbers would all drop significantly.
Back to the parts, how well did the 780G do? At idle with a 4850e, it pulled 50.1W. Adding a 3450 took it to 67W, and a the Phenom brought the total to 76.1W. These numbers are among the lowest we have ever seen.
For 3DMark06, basically full load, they drew 99.5W, 119.1W and 162W respectively. Under HD-DVD playback, the entire system not including the external MS HD-DVD drive drew 98.2W, 100.7 and 128.6W respectively.
The 3DMark numbers are insanely low, sub-100W for four digits of score is simply unheard of. The HD-DVD numbers however are too high. This is not to say they are bad, far from it, just that there was a problem with my testing. The best explanation we have is a driver problem, the UVD/Avivo did not seem to be working on the 780G GPU but it did work with the 3450.
This caused high CPU utilization, 80-90 per cent on the 4850e and 20 per cent on the Phenom. Normally we would question if it worked at all, but several other testers we talked to did not have the same problems we did, so this seems to be our problem, not ATIs.
With a more efficient PSU and the driver problems worked out, you could get perilously close to 50W under full HD playback. If so, that puts it at or around the power draw of a stand-alone player, and is quite possibly cheaper as well.
Moving back to performance, there is much more to the 780G than just stock numbers. Most integrated chipsets are roundly laughed at by anyone with a clue, and flat-out ignored by OCers. The 780G is not one that you would be wise to ignore.
It is supported by the ATI overdrive utility, so OCing is a simple proposition for almost anymore. 780Gs will OC like mad, 1GHz is not out of the question with a simple fan on the northbridge. We have seen one hit almost 1100MHz with no exotic cooling, and if you can't hit 800, you aren't trying.
At those dizzying speeds, the 780G will hit almost 3000 in 3DMark06, with a non-OCed 3450 beside it, you can hit 4500. Think about that, under $250 for 4500 in 3DMark, low-power use and full fanless HD playback. What more an you ask for?
In the end, AMD did right with the 780G. It set the bar so high that Intel does not have a prayer of a chance to catch it with the G35/45 - not a chance. Intel may have the CPU speed crown, but on the platform side, AMD creams them.
If you look at the total system, the 780G + 4850e is one **** of a media centre box. If you pick the right mobo, there is little this chipset can not do. You can run it fanless, put in a fanless 3450 GPU for light gaming, and get it all for a pittance.
If you are looking for a media centre, this combo should be at the top of your list, it really is that good. The only problem is a lack of Linux drivers for the media acceleration side of things, but with luck that will come soon. In the meantime, there's not a better all-round box for your living room. µ