It has been a while since we have tested the first board based on GeForce 7050 chipset from Biostar. Meanwhile, we have noticed the low interest of the other manufacturers towards this basically good, though a little late in reaching the market, chipset. In fact, only MSI has planned to release a model based on this chipset, and later it also has become a subject of our review.
In the mean time, NVIDIA apparently has realized that the initial positioning of GeForce 7050 as a more expensive chipset in comparison to AMD 690G appeals neither to the users, nor to the manufacturers. Even without taking into consideration the general availability of boards based on AMD's chipset, which basically come in all flavors from full-size to compact with minimal cost (see our mass testing), and looking only at the chipset test results it turns out that the only NVIDIA chipset's advantage is higher performance in dynamic 3D games in low resolution modes. However, to begin with, the fans of such games do not consider integrated graphics as serious equipment for their entertainment (and rightly so). Secondly, in regards to those in favor of milder game categories (strategies, quests), they can often be quite content with integrated graphics, and support of higher resolutions is important to them. At such resolutions AMD's (and ATI's before that) integrated graphics cores traditionally win over NVIDIA's products due to objective differences in chip architecture. Indeed, in terms of visual perception they provide a more smooth gaming process. In other words, AMD's graphics core has a greater performance margin, which does not let the frame rate drop due to spikes in the load.
Yet, let us reiterate that the main factor is that the desktop users while choosing a board based on an integrated chipset look first of all at the functionality to performance ratio without expecting any game performance records from the integrated core. In regards to multimedia centers, both chipsets are equivalent in terms of aiding the processor in video decoding. However, AMD 690G has a clear advantage for makers of ready-to-use systems. This chipset is included as part of AMD Live! platform, which assumes all the corresponding technical and marketing support from AMD itself, which is quite extensive in Europe, for example.
We are not sure that NVIDIA had followed exactly the same reasoning, but decisive repositioning of the chipset was a clear result. Consequently boards based on GeForce 7050 chipset have appeared in the product lines of most manufacturers. At first glance it is even hard to believe how similar they all look and how modest their packages are. As an example, we have examined a board from ECS, a renowned expert in cheap integrated solutions.
The layout of board's components is overall reasonable. The latches on memory slots are not overlapped by a long graphics card. Both PCI slots are also accessible after installing a graphics card with a cooler of any size. The jumpers are easily reachable after the board is equipped with an expanded set of peripherals. Detailed designation of contacts is shown in charts nearby on the board's surface. Only the SATA ports give a formal reason for criticism, because they can be partially blocked by the graphics card cooling system.
A simple heatsink provides chipset cooling with a wide safety margin. Even under load it heats up very little.
All components allowed for by design, except an LPT port and three audio-out sockets for an 8-channel audio codec, are present on the board. This is the only model based on the given chipset in the ECS product line, while the aforementioned missing elements may, probably, be included in the batches produced for OEM orders. The three-channel CPU supply impulse voltage regulator uses 2 field transistors per channel, 6 1800 microfarad Sanyo capacitors and 3 1500 microfarad OST capacitors. The board's form-factor is 244x214 mm (a cut-down microATX). It is mounted to the chassis using 6 screws while the right edge up to the storage sockets remains unsecured.
System Monitoring (ITE IT8726F-S, from BIOS Setup Data):
Ports, Connectors and Sockets on Board Surface
Board's Rear Panel (Left to Right, Blockwise)
click to view the board in 3/4 perspective from the rear panel side
Unfortunately, the packages from ECS are becoming incresingly scarce. This time it has even affected the brand utilities, which before that came in a wide variety even for the most inexpensive boards.
Overall rating: Very good. The implementation of an inexpensive and cut-down in the number of channels HDA codec on this board is quite good. In any case, we were prepared for worse results, which boards with the same codecs have shown previously.
For testing we have used BIOS 07/08/28 version dated 09/02/2007, which was the latest one released. The aforementioned BIOS capabilities are available in the specified version of the BIOS. Non-standard settings were not tested for operability.
This is a more than modest variety of settings. To be exact, ability for overclocking is missing altogether. The section usually responsible for overclocking (frequency and voltage settings) contains a rare abundance of options related to noise suppression (Spread Spectrum). It even allows dealing with spread spectrum interference of the integrated graphics core.
For comparison we have chosen Biostar TF7050-M2, a board based on an equivalent chipset.
It is nice to see that despite the functionality cut-downs of the board itself the graphics core remained "unscathed", and the chipset's performance was not affected. Only the reduction in the number of BIOS settings had an effect on memory subsystem's characteristics. We were unable to set the optimal timing scheme for our RAM, but fortunately its frequency was chosen according to the value specified in the corresponding option (and not automatically, which has become fashionable even among the boards that have the ability to manually set the frequency in BIOS).
It is rather strange to see a Fast Ethernet controller, a single VGA output and a cut-down audio codec on a board with such a chipset. There are plenty of boards based on various chipsets that are similarly equipped starting with VIA and SiS and ending with past generation integrated chipsets by AMD and NVIDIA. Besides, the new product lines contain corresponding models as well (AMD 690V and NVIDIA GeForce 7025). Even if we take into account that NVIDIA has decided to sell this chipset at a very low price, why not make use of its main advantages, which can only add to the final product's appeal? First of all, implement two video outputs (VGA and DVI). Judging from the prices of similar boards based on AMD 690G (and even no less significantly the equivalent of the board being considered from ECS itself) such an addition costs very little. If we look at all models based on integrated chipsets the selection of boards with two video outputs (or at least a single DVI) is clearly a minority in the product line of any manufacturer. Taking into account the low cost of modern LCD monitors it is high time to expand this selection. Anyway, such a board would have seemed like a more logical addition, compared to yet another model with poor characteristics, though based on a modern chipset.
The board was provided for tests by the manufacturer
Dmitriy Laptev (firstname.lastname@example.org)
January 29, 2007
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