Power and Conclusion
A chipset with built-in graphics capabilities is really going to shine through when it comes to both value and power consumption because it keeps you from having to buy a discrete video card. Now, the 780G is slightly different in that it can be enhanced through the use of a discrete card. But even then, you’re talking about a 55nm chipset said to top out under the 20W mark and a passively-cooled add-in board. There’s also a benefit to be had in connecting your display to one of the 780G’s outputs, allowing the discrete card to power down when the platform is in an idle state.
Power Consumption Tested at the Outlet
Testing the 780G involved running power from the wall, through an Extech power analyzer, and to the Gigabyte board. We turned on Cool’n’Quiet support in the motherboard’s BIOS and set Vista’s power management scheme to Balanced in the interest of throttling the system down during idle.
AMD’s platform effort is apparent here. When you combine the 45W Athlon X2 4850e and the new 780G chipset, you’re treated to an idle load that hovers under 80W. When adding the Radeon HD 3450 board to the mix, consumption jumped by about 9W. Because we were connected to the Gigabyte board’s VGA output, there’s a fair chance that AMD’s software isn’t yet powering down the discrete card completely since we’d expect to see lower power numbers at idle. Even still, the combination is still more energy-efficient at idle than Intel’s G35 driving integrated graphics and a Pentium E2200 CPU.
Under load, the 780G and G35 run neck in neck, eating a little less than 130W. The Hybrid Graphics configuration leaps up to 155W. Even still, we’ve seen CPUs that nearly eat up that much juice, so an entire gaming-capable platform sitting around the 150W level isn’t bad at all.
It almost seems silly to remind everyone that integrated graphics catch a bad rap. “No kidding,” you say. “I wouldn’t be caught dead trying to game on a motherboard that features an onboard GPU.” In an environment where price matters most, though, integrated graphics solutions are in many cases very necessary.
AMD’s 780G very effectively addresses the pain points to which most cost-driven customers are sensitive. The chipset is inexpensive—in this case we’re seeing it on a very fully featured motherboard priced well under $100. It’s also energy efficient. We’ve now tested a complete 780G-based platform that idles under 80W and runs under full load at 155W. But then AMD adds an element much less common in the integrated world: great performance, regardless of whether you’re executing threaded audio encoding software, the latest gaming titles, or even a simple file compression routine. Inclusion of AMD’s full UVD gives the chipset real video decoding chops, too.
That the 780G platform then goes and adds an option for Hybrid Graphics, ratcheting up gaming performance, and enough display connectivity for four monitors is just icing on the cake. When an integrated chipset is able to hang with $500 workstation cards, you can’t help but admire how quickly technology has been pulled from the high-end down to the mainstream level.
Of course, the 780G as we tested it today is made all the more impressive by AMD’s Athlon X2 4850e processor. We’re not entirely bowled over by the new naming convention; however, the chip dishes out the performance at 2.5 GHz and still manages to duck in under 45W. Throughout testing, the CPU’s cooler never spun up beyond the speed it started at boot. Don’t forget that you’ll see even bigger gains from the 780G if you spend a little more and pair it up with a Phenom chip. The faster HyperTransport connection gives the Radeon HD 3200 integrated graphics engine significantly more bandwidth, which turns into markedly better benchmark numbers.
Today is a good day for AMD. The company is demonstrating how well its CPUs and chipsets complement each other. Businesses and home users alike should take notice—the platform message that has always made Intel’s products so attractive is being embraced by AMD and transformed into exciting new hardware.