Motherboard Guide

Intel IGP Chipset Showdown - GeForce 9300 mGPU vs. Intel G45

Intel IGP Chipset Showdown - GeForce 9300 mGPU vs. Intel G45



Another False Dawn?

Another False Dawn?

When one mentions integrated graphics, it's usually associated with mainstream PCs that are more than capable of the usual office productivity tasks but which falls short when it comes to applications that require more graphics horsepower. Subsequently, each new generation of chipsets with integrated graphics (IGP) have brought new hopes of ending this dismal record but for all the advances that we have seen from chipset manufacturers, applications have continued to increase their graphical demands and stay ahead of hardware developments.

Given this track record, we did not have our hopes up when we learnt that NVIIDA had a new integrated graphics chipset solution up its sleeves, the GeForce 9300/9400 motherboard GPU (mGPU). That is, until we found that Apple has wholeheartedly embraced the new chipset by choosing the 9400 mobile derivative as the platform for its entire range of notebooks, from its entry level MacBooks to the higher end MacBook Pro.

Despite its still modest market share (albeit growing rapidly in the notebook segment), Apple has an envious brand recognition and loyalty among consumers and this switch from Intel to the relatively unknown (to mainstream consumers that is) NVIDIA is a significant move. There really must be something here about this new NVIDIA IGP chipset. Whether it is the improved GPU performance or the potential use of those NVIDIA stream processors in the upcoming Mac OS X and its general purpose computing technology, OpenCL, only Apple knows.

What we do know is that Intel's own integrated graphics chipset, the G45, has promised full 1080p HD video playback with hardware acceleration, along with support for DirectX 10 and Shader Model 4.0. The integrated GPU inside, GMA X4500HD is also expected to have a significant performance increase over its previous generation. These are all features that NVIDIA too has listed for its own IGP. Hence, let's see how each of these two IGP solutions fares head to head.

To help us in this task, we have two implementations of the competing chipsets, an ASUS P5N7A-VM motherboard using NVIDIA's GeForce 9300 mGPU and the reference G45 board from Intel, the DG45ID. Here are their technical specifications:-

Technical Specifications of the 2 chipsets
  ASUS P5N7A-VM Intel DG45ID
CPU Support
  • Supports all 65/45nm Intel LGA775 processors
  • Core 2 Duo, Core 2 Quad & Core 2 Extreme ready
  • Supports all 65/45nm Intel LGA775 processors
  • Core 2 Duo & Core 2 Quad ready
Chipset
  • NVIDIA GeForce 9300 mGPU / nForce 730i
  • 800/1066/1333MHz front side bus
  • Northbridge: Intel G45
    • 800/1066/1333MHz front side bus
    • PCI Express 2.0 x16 for graphics
  • Southbridge: Intel ICH10R
Memory
  • Supports 4 unbuffered DIMM of DDR2-800 SDRAM
  • Supports up to 16GB memory size
  • Supports 4 unbuffered DIMM of DDR2-800 SDRAM
  • Supports up to 8GB memory size
Storage
  • Chipset inegrated Southbridge (nForce 730i functionality)
    • 5 x SATA 3.0Gbps interface
    • 1 x External SATA port
    • Support AHCI controller with SATA RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 5, RAID 0+1 and JBOD configurations
  • Jmicron JMB368 PATA controller
    • 1 x Ultra DMA 133/100 for up to 2 PATA devices
  • Intel ICH10R Southbridge
    • 6 x SATA 3.0Gbps interface
    • Intel Matrix Storage Technology
    • Support AHCI controller with SATA RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 5 and RAID 10
Audio
  • Realtek ALC1200 HD CODEC
  • Intel High Definition Audio
Networking
  • Realtek RTL8211CL Gigabit LAN (PHY transceiver chip)
  • Intel Gigabit LAN 82567LM
IEEE 1394 (FireWire)
  • Nil
  • LSI L-FW3227-100 chip
  • Up to 2 x IEEE 1394a ports @ 400Mbps speed
I/O Interface
  • 1 x Floppy connector
  • 1 x Ultra ATA IDE connector
  • 6 x SATA connectors (1 external)
  • 12 x USB 2.0 ports (6 x rear, 6 x header)
  • 1 x RJ45 LAN ports
  • 8-Channel Audio I/O ports
  • 1 x Optical S/PDIF Output
  • 1 x PS/2 keyboard/mouse combo port
  • 1 x DisplayPort
  • 1 x HDMI
  • 1 x DVI-I
  • 1 x VGA analog output
  • 6 x SATA connectors (1 external)
  • 12 x USB 2.0 ports (6 x rear, 6 x header)
  • 2 x FireWire-400 ports (1 x header, 1 x rear)
  • 1 x RJ45 LAN port
  • 8-Channel Audio I/O ports
  • 1 x Optical S/PDIF Output
  • 1 x DVI-I
  • 1 x HDMI
Expansion Slots
  • 1 x PCIe x16 slot (PCI Express 2.0)
  • 1 x PCIe x1 slot
  • 2 x PCI slots
  • 1 x PCIe x16 slot (PCI Express 2.0)
  • 2 x PCIe x1 slot
  • 1 x PCI slots
Special Features
  • Express Gate
  • EPU 4-Engine
  • Nil
PCB
  • mATX Form Factor (24.4 x 23.4cm)
  • mATX Form Factor (24.4 x 24.4cm)