Update: AMD notified us of some slower scores on IGP, sent us a new BIOS to flash our Foxconn board with which helped with some performance issues in addition to setting Sideport memory to "Auto" from a 1:1 interleave ratio. With that fix our 3DMark score jumped 500 points and other game performance improved from 5-15%. Our conclusion remains the same, the 790GX is the fastest integrated graphics on the market and AMD has done a great job with it. If we can see more boards at $100 it should take off quite well.
Earlier this year in March AMD set off a bang with the AMD 780G chipset complimented nicely by the Southbridge SB700 bringing DX10 to integrated graphics in addition to good performance, HD decoding, great overclocking, low power consumption, and more. Nvidia followed it up with not one but two chipsets which while good could not compete with the integrated graphics of the 780G chipset. Intel's G35 wasn't even on the map and just now somewhat released the G45 succesor. ATI's purchase has suddenly seemed to again be the right move and at the very least the brightest spot for the company until it can get it's CPU business together. AMD has not rested though and are back again for another round and the follow up to the 780G, the 790GX.
To pre-face this review we'll let you know we were quite short on time as our board arrived just as we left for QuakeCon and have only had Monday and Tuesday to do all testing. That said taking a sneak peak at other reviews out on the net in the early AM hours we can say without a doubt no one goes as far in testing the integrated graphics performance in games as us in any review we've seen so far. We even have G45 and Hybrid Crossfire numbers to go along with the 790GX to give you a broad picture of what's out there. We did test other features such as AMD's Advanced Clock Calibration and the SB750 chipset but didn't get to test all boards thoroughly and thus will re-visit this at a later time. But these game benchmarks are quite tasty so let's cut to the chase.
The 790GX isn't the revolutionary shift that the 780G chipset was but instead is a new spin on the 780G. The number of stream processors remains the same and the core architecture but you do get a nice 200MHz bump from 500MHz to 700MHz in addition to a number of other tweaks and refinements. Sideport memory that was optional with the 780G is now a requirement also for the 790GX which should free up any memory bandwidth and capacity problems that you might run into with this board. The other major refinement is that Crossfire is now supported in dual 8x modes which lets the 790GX reside in between the 780G and the 790FX Northbridge chipsets quite nicely.
The new SB750 Southbridge sees some fundamental shifts from the SB700 which cured USB woes of previous ATI Southbridge chipsets. As mentioned earlier AMD's new Advanced Clock Calibration is supported by the new SB750 which allows for much better overclocking when it is paired with a Phenom processor. AMD hasn't given the deepest of details on this unfortunately and again we are pressed on time to go over even what we do know but in short in our overclocking experience it seems to work well. We bested our overclocking records we achieved with Nvidia's 780a reaching 3.2GHz on the Phenom 9850BE and 3.4GHz on the 9950BE. Any more was a non-possibility and as always results may vary with overclocking. Here are our CPU-Z screenshots.
The 9950 gave us an 800MHz overclock with the new SB750 and the 9850 700MHz. We'll keep tweaking as time goes on and watch any ACC developments.
AMD 790GX Chipset Specifications with ATI Radeon™ HD 3300 Graphics
Proven ATI Radeon™ Graphics Powering
|Powered by ATI Radeon™ Graphics, DirectX®10 introduces neverbefore-seen detail-rich images and dynamic interactivity for playing the latest DirectX® 10 games|
|HyperTransport™ 3.0 Technology||HyperTransport™ 3.0 more than doubles your CPU communications bandwidth to graphics as compared to HT1|
|PCI Express® Generation 2.0||Double your graphics bandwidth over earlier PCI Express for improved performance|
|Backwards Compatibility||Ensures flexibility to build platforms with previous generation CPUs as well as the latest AMD Phenom™ processors|
|Performance Cache||Performance and power improvements with AMD’s unique side port technology|
ATI Hybrid Graphics1
|Improve your system performance by enabling the ability for both discrete graphics and integrated graphics to render simultaneously|
|ATI CrossFireX™ Technology||Upgrade to even greater 3D performance quickly and easily with plug-and-play ATI CrossFireX™ technology when you use two discrete ATI Radeon™ Graphics cards|
|ATI Avivo™ HD2||
ATI Avivo™ HD is the advanced image and video processing and display technology found in ATI Radeon™ graphics that enables:
|Low Power Design||Designed for power-efficient computing to help lower energy costs|
|AMD Cool’nQuiet™ 2.0||Benefit from power saving features that help reduce power consumption at idle or during low usage|
|Enhanced Digital Display Integration||Supports Display Port interface for the latest displays. Includes a TDMS interfacen that enables dual-link DVI or HDMI 1.2 as well as HDCP 1.1|
|ATI SurroundView™||SurroundView™ feature allows support for up to four independent monitors for systems equipped with an additional Radeon™ discrete graphics card|
|Flexible power saving technologies that ensure optimal power efficiency to help reduce your electricity costs|
|SB750 Southbridge||Support for up to 12 USB 2.0 connections and 6 SATA 2.0 devices, including eSATA devices. Also includes support for RAID 0, 1, 5 and 10|
AMD OverDrive with Advanced Clock Calibration*
|Shift your system performance into next gear with Advanced Clock Calibration that allows you to get the highest overclocking out of your AMD Phenom™ CPUs. AMD OverDrive™ also enables control of the AMD 790GX to easily configure system settings in Microsoft Windows® in real-time|
|Easily configure your RAID setup from remote locations to personalize your media for extra performance or enhanced reliability. Additional RAID 5 support with SB750|
Here is our current test system.
|Mother Board||Foxconn A7DA-S, Gigabyte GA-EG45M-DS2H|
|CPU||AMD Phenom X4 9850 Black Edition, Intel Core 2 Q6600|
|Video Card||Radeon HD 3450 512MB|
|Memory||Corsair XMS Dominator 4GB|
|Hard Drive||Western Digital Raptor|
|Display||Samsung 20" LCD Westinghouse W4207|
Since we're dealing with integrated graphics let's start things off with the most popular game of today, World of Warcraft. We used FRAPS in an Elf level where following a repeatable path for this FRAPS capture.
And we're off. Here we see the 790GX come in much higher than the 780G and Hybrid Crossfire with a Radeon 3450 512MB shows phenomenal gains above what we saw previously in HCF with the 780G. The G45 and Nvidia's chipset both do fairly well in this game which isn't too graphically intensive but can't compete with AMD.
Battlefield 2 sits on the edge between a mainstream and hardcore game and is an excellent one to test today's integrated graphics on as it used to push the best graphics cards of a few years ago. One complaint we can see here is lack of Crossfire support though that isn't too surprising with a title this old. AMD's 790GX blows away the 780G here and the rest of the competition regardless though.
Call of Duty 4 is an incredibly popular and modern shooter from Infinity Ward and a title we had to test. Here we see Nvidia and AMD's chipsets clump together with Intel falling behind and meanwhile Hybrid Crossfire again shows a great boost with this newer game. The 790GX still comes out on top though.
What would game benchmarks be without Crysis? Most might know that the 780G is able to play Crysis at low levels so how does 200 extra MHz stack up? Here we see about 5-8 fps gain over the 780G while the G45 absolutely struggles and is full of graphic artifacts.
3DMark is synthetic but a good way to stress a system. Here we see Hybrid Crossfire is definitely enabled.
The 790GX dominates again though Hybrid Crossfire launches ahead. Luckily there is support for Crossfire in CS: Source.
AMD's QuakeLive is basically Quake 3 in a web browser and does a pretty good job of that. No Crossfire support for an older game and again we see trend with games that aren't the latest they seem to run fairly well all around but the 790GX clearly dominates.
UT3 definitely seems to like the 790GX though the Nvidia card is decent Intel just can't keep up.
Again the 790GX comes out on top in the RTS Company of Heroes although the 780a does well. Hybrid Crossfire is also definitely supported here.
The 790GX seems to be a good follow up to the 780G and gives AMD another boost in edge in integrated performance. Hybrid Crossfire was interesting at the 780G launch but here it shows it's real potential and fully kicks in more than doubling performance at times in games that support it. A higher-end discrete card will always come out on top in performance but a 3450 can be had for only $38. Unfortunately as we mentioned we didn't have time to test a lot of new features in the 790GX but we will be visiting ACC, power consumption, and more in the future. ACC definitely has a lot of potential but we want to stress test the CPU and make sure it can handle those higher clocks.
The pricing is a little higher than the 780G with this Foxconn we tested coming in at around $130 on Newegg. Prices should drop in the future though. The 780G can be picked up for under $90 here