Beyond Atom: Exploring Performance ITX Solutions

Article Index

Gaming: Crysis, ETQW & HL2:Ep2

For the gaming benchmarks we decided not to include the Ion reference system since it didn't have the slightest hope of really competing except possibly with the DG41MJ's X4500. However the DG41MJ isn't meant for gaming in the first place so the real attraction here will be how the integrated GeForce 9300 compares with a discrete graphics card. For the purposes of this test we equipped the GF9300-D-E with a Radeon 4850. We chose the Radeon 4850 because you're unlikely to find a ITX case that will fit anything faster, as we saw in our Silverstone SG05 installation.

Crysis v1.21
DirectX 10 Gaming Performance


If you're at all into enthusiast computing, the highly anticipated single player, FPS smash-hit Crysis, should require no introduction. Crytek's game engine produces some stunning visuals that are easily the most impressive real-time 3D renderings we've seen on the PC to date.  The engine employs some of the latest techniques in 3D rendering like Parallax Occlusion Mapping, Subsurface Scattering, Motion Blur and Depth-of-Field effects, as well as some of the most impressive use of Shader technology we've seen yet.  In short, for those of you that want to skip the technical jib-jab, Crysis is a beast of a game.  We ran the full game patched to v1.21 with all of its visual options set to 'Medium'.

Somewhat surprisingly, the GMA X4500 not only launched Crysis, but we were able to complete a whole set of benchmarks. However its performance is barely worth mentioning. The competition between the GF9300-D-E's integrated graphics and the discrete Radeon 4850 illustrates that for any sort of gaming oriented build, you just have to go discrete.

Enemy Territory: Quake Wars
OpenGL Gaming Performance

Enemy Territory:
Quake Wars

Enemy Territory: Quake Wars is Based on an enhanced version of id's Doom 3 engine and viewed by many as Battlefield 2 meets the Strogg, and then some.  In fact, we'd venture to say that id took EA's team-based warfare genre up a notch or two.  ET: Quake Wars also marks the introduction of John Carmack's "Megatexture" technology that employs large environment and terrain textures that cover vast areas of maps without the need to repeat and tile many smaller textures.  The beauty of megatexture technology is that each unit only takes up a maximum of 8MB of frame buffer memory.  Add to that HDR-like bloom lighting and leading edge shadowing effects and Enemy Territory: Quake Wars looks great, plays well and works high end graphics cards vigorously. 

The GeForce 9300 gave a decent performance in Enemy Territory Quake Wars, producing playable frame rates. However, it was still a far cry (no pun intended) compared to a discrete graphics card. For the Radeon 4850, it was a walk in the park. The GD41MJ's x4500 is still essentially useless as with Crysis.

Half Life 2: Episode 2
DirectX Gaming Performance

Half Life 2:
Episode 2

Thanks to the dedication of hardcore PC gamers and a huge mod-community, the original Half-Life became one of the most successful first person shooters of all time.  And thanks to an updated game engine, gorgeous visual, and intelligent weapon and level design, Half Life 2 became just as popular.  Episode 2 offers a number of visual enhancements including better looking transparent texture anti-aliasing. We used a custom recorded timedemo file to benchmark all cards in this test.

The Half-Life 2 benchmark gave some interesting results. For the first time, not only did the X4500 post results higher than 10fps, but it also produced playable framerates, although just barely. The GeForce 9300 had no problem with the test and unsurprisingly the Radeon 4850 didn't even break a sweat.

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