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AMD 690 Chipset Update: More Power, More Performance
Date: Aug 02, 2007
Author: Marco Chiappetta
Intro, Specs & Related Information


Back in February of this year, we took a look at the AMD 690 series chipset and praised it for its affordability, power efficiency, and strong performance relative to its competition.  Since then, the 690 series chipset has gone on to be somewhat of a success for AMD with over 35 different motherboards based on various flavors the chipset currently and more on the way.

Not content with the status quo, engineers at AMD have taken the 690 series chipset and optimized it further through some BIOS and software level enhancements that result in marked performance gains in a number of situations and also introduce some new features.  We've got a motherboard from Gigabyte on the test bed that feature the latest updates and thought we'd compare its performance to the unaltered board we evaluated when the chipset was first introduced in an attempt to see just how much the platform's performance has changed.

The AMD 690G/V Series Chipset
Features and Specifications

CPU Support:

  • AMD Sempron, AMD Athlon 64, AMD Athlon 64 X2 Dual-Core and AMD Athlon 64 FX

PCI Express Interface:

  • 1 - x16 Graphics
  • 4 - x1 PCI Express links

2D Acceleration Features:

  • Highly optimized 128-bit engine, capable of processing multiple pixels per clock.
  • Supports a maximum resolution of 2048x1536 @ 32bpp
  • Game Acceleration including support for Microsoft's DirectDraw

3D Acceleration Features:

  • Full DirectX 9.0 support
  • 3D Texture support, including projective 3D textures
  • Anti-aliasing using multi-sampling algorithm with support for 2, 4 and 6 samples
  • New generation rendering engine provides top 3D performance
  • Support for OpenGL format for Indirect Vertices in Vertex Walker

Motion Video Acceleration Features:

  • Enhanced MPEG-2 hardware decode acceleration
  • MPEG-4 decode support
  • Hardware acceleration for WMV9 playback
  • Supports top quality DVD and time-shifted SDTV/HDTV te levision playback with low CPU usage

TV Out:

  • Integrated TV encoder from ATI's Xilleon products with on-chip -DAC with integrated AVIVO engine
  • Supports Macrovision 7.1 copy protection standard (required by DVD players)
  • Supports the formats of YPbPr component out


  • SurroundView feature allows support for up to three independent monitors for systems equipped with an additional ATI discrete graphics card

Multiple Display Features:

  • Dual Independent displays including two digital outputs
  • Resolution, refresh rates, and display rates can be completely independent for the two display paths
  • Both display controllers support true 30 bits per pixel throughout the display pipe
  • Supports both interlaced and non-interlaced displays
    Integrated HD Audio controller for HDMI audio data

Display Support:

  • Supports a maximum resolution of 2048x1536 @ 32bpp


  • Supports a TMDS interface, enabling DVI or HDMI 1.2
  • 1650 Mbps/channel with 165MHz pixel clock rate per link
  • HDCP 1.1 support on data stream with on-chip key storage
  • Supports HDMI audio together with Realtek's driver providing single control for user on all audio adjustments
  • Supports HDMI audio enhancements, such as equalizer, 5.1 channel, surround sound effect, karaoke and head phone virtualization

Universal Connectivity:

  • A-Link Xpress II i/f to AMD Northbridges; providing high bandwidth for high speed peripherals
  • 10 USB 2.0 ports
  • SATA Gen 2 PHY support at 3.0Gb/sec bandwidth
  • 4 ports SATA AHCI controller supports NCQ and slumber modes
  • ATA 133 controller supports up to UDMA mode 6 with two drives (disk or optical)
  • HPET (high precision event timer), ACPI 3.0 and AHCI support for Windows Vista
  • UAA (Universal audio architecture) support for High Definition Audio and MODEM
  • PCI v2.3 (up to 6 slots)
  • LPC (Low Pin Count), SPI (New Flash Bus), and SM (System Management) bus management and arbitrations
  • Legacy PC compatible functions, RTC (Real Time Clock), interrupt controller and DMA controller

We've already gone into detail on the AMD 690 series chipset, so we won't cover many of the specifics again in this article.  If you're unfamiliar with the platform, however, we suggest taking a look at our launch coverage for the necessary background information.  And while you're at it, we recommend you check out these articles as well for details on the other components that make up AMD's current desktop PC platform:

Chipset Updates and Gigabyte's MA69GM-S2H


There were few technical details available as to the nature of the optimizations AMD has made to the 690 chipset, but the slide below illustrates the three main points the company is trying to get across.

As you can see, AMD is touting the platform as an HD multimedia solution, now with overclocking capabilities and performance improvements.  We should say that this update is NOT a new revision of the chipset.  AMD has simply made BIOS and driver / software level optimizations that increase the performance of the IGP and increase available memory bandwidth to the system when the IGP is in use.

The motherboard that we'll be using to evaluate these new optimization comes by way of Gigabyte. The Gigabyte GA-MA69GM-S2H is a Micro-ATX motherboard built around the AMD 690G / SB600 chipset, complete with VGA, DVI, Component, and HDMI outputs.





The GA-MA69GM-S2H ships with your basic assortment of accessories, including floppy. IDE, and SATA cables, a custom I/O shield, software for Vista and XP, a user's manual, and a case bracket with S-Video and Component outputs.

Due to the fact that the GA-MA69GM-S2H adheres to the micro ATX form factor, the board is compact and every square centimeter of real estate is accounted for.  All of the board's connectors are situated around the edge of the PCB and the chipset is passively cooled by a couple of aluminum heatsinks.  There are two standard PCI slots on the board, a PCI Express X4 slot, and a PCI Express x16 graphics slot.  We should note that when a compatible, ATI GPU-based graphics card is installed in the PEG slot, you can still use the IGP for support of up to 4 monitors.

The I/O backplane houses a pair of standard PS/2 mouse and keyboard ports, VGA, DVI, and HDMI outputs, four USB ports, a Gigabit LAN jack, a Firewire port, an optical audio output and 6 assorted analog audio outputs.  The Firewire support comes by way of a TI controller, while audio and LAN duties are handled by a couple of Realtek chips.  In case you're wondering, that HDMI output does carry audio signals as well, making this board an ideal candidate for HTPC applications.

The BIOS and Overclocking


Most of the performance optimizations AMD has made to the 690 chipset's BIOS software lie under the surface.  Some motherboards like the Gigabyte GA-MA69GM-S2H, however, will get a fresh assortment of tools specifically designed for overclockers.

Gigabyte GA-MA69GM-S2H - The BIOS
It's Right There Under The Surface



We snapped off a few pictures of the GA-MA69GM-S2H motherboard's BIOS to give you all an idea as to how it was organized.  As you can see, the main BIOS menu options look much like any other 690 chipset-based motherboard that uses an Award BIOS derivative, with options for enabling or disabling the on-board peripherals and tweaking settings related the IGP, among other things.  What different about this board's BIOS are the overclocking tools visible in the last couple of shots.

Gigabyte GA-MA69GM-S2H - Overclocking
It's In There

1.5GHz HT Frequency with an IGP

The GA-MA69GM-S2H gives users the ability to alter the CPU multiplier, memory speeds and timings, and HyperTransport and IGP frequencies.  It does not, however, have any voltage options available.  The lack of voltage options didn't hinder the board's ability to overclock though.  As you can see in the screenshot above, we were able to increase the board's effective HT frequency to over 1.5GHz (5 x 310MHz), which is very good for an IGP-equipped platform.

Our Test Systems and SANDRA


How we configured our test systems: When configuring our test systems for the following set of benchmarks, we first entered their respective system BIOSes and set each board to its "Optimized" or "High-Performance Defaults."  The hard drives were then formatted, and Windows XP Professional (SP2) was installed. When the Windows installation was complete, we installed the drivers necessary for our components, and removed Windows Messenger from the system. Auto-Updating and System Restore were then disabled, and we set up a 1024MB permanent page file on the same partition as the Windows installation. Lastly, we set Windows XP's Visual Effects to "best performance," installed all of our benchmarking software, defragged the hard drives, and ran all of the tests.

Test System Specifications
AMD Chipsets Abound

System 1:
AMD Athlon 64 X2 5200+

Gigabyte MA69GM-S2H
(AMD 690G)

2GB PC24200 DDR2

Integrated Radeon X1250
On-board Ethernet
On-board Audio

WD 74GB "Raptor" DD
10,000 RPM SATA

Windows XP Pro SP2
AMD Driver 7.7
DirectX 9.0c

System 2:
AMD Athlon 64 X2 5200+

(AMD 690G)

2GB PC24200 DDR2

Integrated Radeon X1250
On-board Ethernet
On-board Audio

WD 74GB "Raptor" DD
10,000 RPM SATA

Windows XP Pro SP2
AMD Driver 8.342
DirectX 9.0c


Synthetic CPU and Memory Performance

We started testing with SiSoftware's SANDRA XI, the System ANalyzer, Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant, by running two built-in subsystem tests; CPU Arithmetic and Memory Bandwidth. The memory bandwidth test was run twice, once at DDR2-533 (for comparison with our original article) and once at DDR2-800, the maximum officially supported speed.


SiSoft SANDRA: CPU Arithmetic @ 2.6GHz, Memory @ DDR2-533, Memory @ DDR2-800


SANDRA didn't report any major changes in regard to CPU performance, but the memory bandwidth test conducted at DDR2-533 did show a marked advantage for the updated Gigabyte motherboard we used in the article. When we first looked at the 690-chipset, it managed about 4.9GB/s of bandwidth when using the IGP (results available here).  This time around, however, it put up about 5.3GB/s.

PCMark05: CPU and Memory


For our next round of synthetic benchmarks, we ran the CPU and memory performance modules built into Futuremark's PCMark05 suite.


Futuremark PCMark05
Synthetic CPU and Memory Benchmarks


"The CPU test suite is a collection of tests that are run to isolate the performance of the CPU. The CPU Test Suite also includes multithreading: two of the test scenarios are run multithreaded; the other including two simultaneous tests and the other running four tests simultaneously. The remaining six tests are run single threaded. Operations include, File Compression/Decompression, Encryption/Decryption, Image Decompression, and Audio Compression" - Courtesy FutureMark Corp.


The updates AMD made to the 690 chipset software and BIOS had no impact on processor performance according to PCMark05's CPU performance module. The two 690-based boards we tested performed almost identically here.

"The Memory test suite is a collection of tests that isolate the performance of the memory subsystem. The memory subsystem consists of various devices on the PC. This includes the main memory, the CPU internal cache (known as the L1 cache) and the external cache (known as the L2 cache). As it is difficult to find applications that only stress the memory, we explicitly developed a set of tests geared for this purpose. The tests are written in C++ and assembly. They include: Reading data blocks from memory, Writing data blocks to memory performing copy operations on data blocks, random access to data items and latency testing."  - Courtesy FutureMark Corp.

PCMark05's memory performance module did report a slight advantage for the newer Gigabyte 690-based motherboard.  The difference is less than 30 points, but we did expect the updated board to exhibit somewhat better performance here considering its advantage in the SANDRA memory benchmark on the previous page.

LAME MP3 and Cinebench R9.5


In our custom LAME MT MP3 encoding test, we convert a large WAV file to the MP3 format, which is a very popular scenario that many end users work with on a day-to-day basis to provide portability and storage of their digital audio content.

LAME MT MP3 Encoding Test
Converting a Large WAV To MP3

In this test, we created our own 223MB WAV file (a never-ending Grateful Dead jam) and converted it to the MP3 format using the multi-thread capable LAME MT application in single and multi-thread modes. Processing times are recorded below. Once again, shorter times equate to better performance.


Both of the boards finished right on top of each other in our custom LAME benchmark. The updated Gigabyte board did finish 1 second faster in the multi-threaded test, however, likely due to its somewhat better memory performance.

Cinebench 9.5 Performance Tests
3D Modeling & Rendering Tests

The Cinebench 9.5 benchmark is an OpenGL 3D rendering performance test, based on the commercially available Cinema 4D application. Cinema 4D from Maxon is a 3D rendering and animation tool suite used by 3D animation houses and producers like Sony Animation and many others.  And of course it's very demanding of system processor resources.

This is a multi-threaded, multi-processor aware benchmark that renders a single 3D scene and tracks the length of the entire process. The time it took each test system to render the entire scene is represented in the graph below (listed in seconds).


Once again, we had a virtual dead heat.  Both of the boards put up the exact same score in the multi-threaded test, but the updated board managed to pull ahead by 1 second in the single-threaded test.

3Dmark06 and F.E.A.R.


Performance Comparisons with 3DMark06 v1.0.2
Details: www.futuremark.com/products/3dmark06/

3DMark06 is the latest addition to the 3DMark franchise. This version differs from 3Dmark05 in a number of ways, and now includes not only Shader Model 2.0 tests, but Shader Model 3.0 and HDR tests as well. Some of the assets from 3DMark05 have been re-used, but the scenes are now rendered with much more geometric detail and the shader complexity is vastly increased as well. Max shader length in 3DMark05 was 96 instructions, while 3DMark06 ups the number of instructions to 512. 3DMark06 also employs much more lighting, and there is extensive use of soft shadows. With 3DMark06, Futuremark has also updated how the final score is tabulated. In this latest version of the benchmark, SM 2.0 and HDR / SM3.0 tests are weighted and the CPU score is factored into the final tally as well.


Although performance is relatively low in the 3DMark06 benchmark, the updated Gigabyte 690-based motherboard does show a marked improvement here.

Performance Comparisons with F.E.A.R
More Info: www.whatisfear.com/us/

One of the most highly anticipated titles of recent years was Monolith's paranormal thriller F.E.A.R. Taking a look at the game's minimum system requirements, we see that you will need at least a 1.7GHz Pentium 4 with 512MB of system memory and a 64MB graphics card in the Radeon 9000 or GeForce4 Ti-classes or better, to adequately run the game. Using the full retail release of the game patched to v1.07, we put the graphics cards in this article through their paces to see how they fared with a popular title. Here, all graphics settings within the game were set to their maximum values, but with soft shadows disabled (Soft shadows and anti-aliasing do not work together currently). Benchmark runs were then completed at a resolution of 1024x768, with no anti-aliasing and anisotropic filtering.


Once again, performance was relatively low in comparison to discreet graphics cards in the F.E.A.R. benchmark, but the updated Gigabyte board was faster.  One frame per second may not seem like much, but it equates to an increase of 12.5% in this situation.  We should also note that we ran the game with low quality settings at this same resolution as well, and the Radeon X1250 put up an average framerate of 33 FPS.  Not bad for an IGP.

HQV and HD Video Playback


Next up, we have the HQV DVD video benchmark from Silicon Optics. HQV is comprised of a sampling of SD video clips and test patterns that have been specifically designed to evaluate a variety of interlaced video signal processing tasks, including decoding, de-interlacing, motion correction, noise reduction, film cadence detection, and detail enhancement.


DVD Video Quality: HQV Benchmark with PowerDVD 7

As each clip is played, the viewer is required to "score" the image based on a predetermined set of criteria. The numbers listed below are the sum of the scores for each section. We played the HQV DVD using the latest version of Cyberlink's PowerDVD, with hardware acceleration for AVIVO extensions enabled.


For all intents and purposes, the updated 690-based board (Radeon X1250 After) performed at the same level as the older board.  We gave the updated board a 3 in the first 'jaggies' test pattern, but it was right on the edge in our opinion.

HD Decode Acceleration
AVIVO Performance Explored

To illustrate CPU utilization while playing back HD content, we used the Performance Monitor built into Windows XP. Using the data provided by Windows Performance Monitor, we created a log file that sampled the percent of CPU utilization every second, while playing back the 1080p versions of a an HD video clip encoded using H.264.  This was NOT a protected disc, but rather a freely available HD clip available for download from the QuickTime HD gallery. 


We ran this test with both with an without hardware acceleration enabled in PowerDVD with identical results.  The average CPU utilization for both configurations was about 48%.

Our Summary and Conclusion


Performance Summary: The updates AMD has made to the 690 chipset software and BIOS had a measurable impact on performance.  The synthetic memory benchmarks clearly showed a performance advantage for the Gigabyte GA-M69GM-S2H we used for testing, that resulted in slight gains in gaming and application benchmarks.  The new BIOS features also gave us the ability to overclock the board's HyperTransport link to over 1.5GHz, which was an increase of approximately 50% over "stock" which is very good for an inexpensive chipset with an IGP.


AMD's 690 chipset update takes an already attractive IGP-equipped platform and makes it just that much better.  When we first took a look at the 690 chipset, we liked the facts that the IGP performed very well in comparison to its competition and that motherboards based on the chipset were affordable.  Well, motherboards based on the chipset are even more affordable now and the IGP and platform's performance as a whole have been increased; good news all around.  And if you've already gone out an purchased a 690 chipset-based motherboard, don't fret - the performance updates will likely be coming to your board as well via a BIOS update. The overclocking options, however, won't be universal.


  • Good IGP Performance
  • Overclocking
  • Increased Performance
  • Updates to older boards on the way
  • High CPU Utilization During HD Playback
  • No Voltage Options

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