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AMD 690G/690V: Integrated Chipsets With HDMI Support For AMD64

April 4, 2007






You can read about peculiarities of positioning this modern AMD platform here:

Part 1. Official presentation of AMD 690 integrated chipsets

Let's proceed directly to the technical stuff.

AMD 690G/690V + SB600




Along with the graphics core, Northbridge is responsible for PCI Express support. There are 24 lanes all in all, 16 of them are used for the graphics port, 4 lanes can be used for expansion cards or integrated controllers (network controller in the first place, because ATI chipsets have been lacking MAC adapters for a long time already), the other 4 lanes are used to connect Northbridge with Southbridge. The graphics core supports DirectX 9.0. It's similar in 3D functionality to Radeon Xpress 1150. It also has four pixel pipelines, vertex shaders support is emulated by the driver and processed by a CPU. Its frequency is increased from 325 MHz to 375—400 MHz (in different motherboards). The top version (690G) supports two independent digital display controllers. Thus, a motherboard can accommodate VGA, DVI and HDMI jacks in any combinations. The only difference of the junior model (690V) is that it lacks digital output (only analog VGA). Both modifications have integrated TV-out. The integrated video core can work together with a video card to connect three or four monitors.

We are already familiar with SB600 Southbridge:

  • SATA-II AHCI controller (backward compatible with IDE) for 4 x SATA300 (up to 3 Gbit/s)
  • RAID support for all SATA ports: 0, 1, and 1+0
  • One PATA channel for two ATA133 devices
  • 10 × USB 2.0
  • PCI bus (up to 6 bus master devices)
  • HD Audio
  • AC-Link interface to connect AC’97 (2.3) audio codecs and MC’97 modem

We can note several common features — what concerns bundles, even 690G-based bundles do not outscore GeForce 6150-based models. Economic (and even deliberately cut-down) designs are prevailing. Only two jacks on the rear panel, including an indispensable digital jack (often HDMI) reflect advanced functionality. Thus, AMD has kept its word and left the segment for demanding users to NVIDIA (however, the company may still launch less popular models with DVI+HDMI, for example). The chipset is scarcely equipped with heatsinks. For example, you may even see nothing on Southbridge, and Northbridge uses very compact heatsinks. In fact this chipset demonstrates record-breaking heat release. Even lengthy tests without additional cooling of the chipset did not raise Northbridge temperature above 45°. It's a very useful property for motherboards designed to be used in media centers, barebones, and integrated solutions. AMD 690G is already announced in such solutions, for example by Shuttle, Albatron, and MSI.

Performance tests

Testbed configuration:

  • Processors: AMD Athlon 64 X2 4000+ (2.0 GHz) and Intel Core 2 Duo E6600 (2.4 GHz)
  • OS: Windows XP SP2
  • Motherboards:
    • MSI K9AGM2-FIH on AMD 690G
    • MSI K9AGM2-F on AMD 690V
    • ECS AMD690GM-M2 on AMD 690G
    • ASUS M2NPV-VM on NVIDIA GeForce 6150
    • Gigabyte 965G-DS3 on Intel G965

  • Memory: 2 × Kingston KHX7200D2K2/1G (DDR2-800, 5-5-5-15-1T)
  • Discrete video: ATI Radeon X1900 XTX, 512 MB GDDR3
  • HDD: Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 (SATA-II, 7200 rpm)
  • Power supply unit: Chieftec CFT-560-A12C

Software:

  • OS and drivers:
    • Windows XP Professional SP2
    • DirectX 9.0c
    • ATI Catalyst 7.2
    • NVIDIA ForceWare 93.71
    • Intel Chipset Drivers 8.1.1.1001

  • Test applications:
    • 7-Zip 4.10b
    • XviD 1.0.2 (29.08.2004) codec
    • Doom 3 (v1.0.1282)
    • FarCry (v1.1.3.1337)
    • Unreal Tournament 2004 (v3339)
    • Windows Media Player 11
    • CyberLink Video/SP Decoder 6.02.2086 from PowerDVD 7

Test results

As the spread of results of 690G/690V-based motherboards is insignificant, we'll publish results of only one motherboard (ECS AMD690GM-M2). As always, we'll start with several computation-intensive tests to make sure that there are no errors in BIOS settings of contenders. We'll also find out how much the integrated video core slows down memory performance.


Everything is within the mark. We can note that the graphics core in AMD 690G interacts with memory in a more economic mode than in the preceding model (Radeon Xpress 1150). It's practically on a par with NVIDIA GeForce 6150 in this respect. However, it's hard to find applications (except for archivers and synthetic tests) to illustrate this difference.

Let's proceed to game tests. They will also include the competing platform - considering that performance in this case has been limited by GPU for a long time, performance differences between Athlon 64 X2 4000+ and Core 2 Duo E6600 must not affect test results even in low resolutions.

According to DOOM 3, AMD 690G hasn't gone far from its prototype. It's still outperformed by GeForce 6150 in tests with minimal resolution and quality. So, the layout of forces hasn't changed for AMD chipsets. Intel G965 is indeed an outsider.

The situation in FarCry is similar, but the absolute fps rate is higher, so you can actually play it in non-test modes as well.

The layout of forces remains the same for AMD representatives in Unreal Tournament 2004. The updated core is always faster than its predecessor, which is especially noticeable in high-quality modes. But this is not the head-and-shoulders-above advantage. Anyway, the integrated video in AMD 690G probably justifies the new index (Radeon 1250). What concerns comparison with the top chipset from NVIDIA, the conclusion about nForce 6100/6150 and Radeon 1150 holds true.

We can just repeat it. From the practical point of view, NVIDIA chipsets look better for active network games, when reducing a resolution and graphics settings is the only way to get maximum response times. But ATI provides better support for "quiet" games — RTS, quests, etc. And considering that AMD 690G-based motherboards (especially, 690V) promise to be much more popular than GeForce 6150-based models (including cheap models, which will compete at least with GeForce 6100, if not with VIA chipsets), integrated video in the AMD chipset is very good for its class. If we take into account the difference in heat release (or even absolute values, without any comparisons - just touch Northbridge heatsink during tests), you will be surprised.

Intel G965 tried to rehabilitate itself in UT2004, but its achievements are modest to say the least. Even if we ignore the fact that this chipset leaves GeForce 6150 far behind in terms of heat release (and prices).

Let's proceed to video decoding tasks. This time we used only CyberLink decoder from PowerDVD, it's used in the AMD/ATI player. In order to estimate CPU time during video playback, we used standard information from Windows Task Manager — View/Select Columns/CPU Time. It's very easy to calculate the average CPU load in traditional percents (in our diagrams), if you know duration of each video file.

We can hardly expect an intrigue to appear in the simplest MPEG2 decode task, CPU load is minimal in all cases. But Radeon Xpress 1150 has caught up with the NVIDIA chipset.


You can choose any other test, they all demonstrate absolutely identical results (to within seconds of CPU time) for Radeon Xpress 1250 and 1150 in terms of media decoding. There is one reservation, of course - AMD 690G has advanced video output features owing to HDMI support (but that's another pair of shoes). This conclusion is by no means a reproach. There is no practical necessity to improve anything here, the integrated video from AMD/ATI copes well with well-spread formats and it intends to keep it up.

Conclusions

Socket AM2 has got an expected reinforcement — an inexpensive, economic chipset with decent performance and a good proprietary option — HDMI support. However, many users will be just as pleased with VGA + DVI in many inexpensive motherboards (this combo used to be available only in a few models on GeForce 6150). What's important, AMD 690-based models will be manufactured by all major motherboard makers, so users will have a good choice of such models available in stores.




Dmitry Laptev (lpt@ixbt.com)
April 4, 2007


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