AMD 780G Chipset and Athlon X2 4850e Preview

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We generally don’t use integrated graphics. You might not use integrated graphics. But there are more motherboards with integrated graphics sold than discrete cards, according to data published last year by Jon Peddie Research. That means you probably have friends and family buying systems with built-in graphics engines.

Guess what happens when the work day is done and you take them into battle with you through a little Enemy Territory or Company of Heroes?  Poor performance likely gets them killed over and over. Talk about a real bummer. We're WoW junkies ourselves, and you can’t imagine how many of the guys blame raid wipes on the speed of their graphics cards.




Fortunately, even as the latest games transition to advanced DirectX 10 functionality, quickly outdating yesterday’s value GPUs, the hardware vendors manufacturing integrated graphics chipsets are revamping their offerings. Intel, for example, recently slipped out its G35 chipset with the GMA X3500 graphics core. Sporting DirectX 10 and OpenGL 2.0 support, along with hardware vertex shading, the GPU would seem to be a great play on mainstream gaming in Vista. Could the company have its first gamer-worthy integrated chipset?

Not if AMD has anything to say about it. The 780G platform launching today combines the core logic expertise and graphics technology brought in from ATI with AMD’s latest low-power Athlon X2, yielding a very fast, very inexpensive platform that won’t rack up a substantial energy tab. Additionally, the chipset supports a new feature called Hybrid Graphics—a Vista-only capability that harnesses the power of an add-in card, combines it with the integrated engine, and gives you a CrossFire-like experience at a price point so low that AMD doesn’t want to call it CrossFire. Sounds like just the ticket for cost-conscious gamers eager to hang with the big boys.  You can read more about Hybrid CrossFire in our initial look at the technology right here.



AMD 780G High-Level Overview


A motherboard built on the 780G chipset consists of two core logic components: the 780G northbridge and AMD’s new SB700 southbridge.

Despite its 205 million transistor composition, the 780G is actually a tiny little piece of work, thanks to a move to 55nm manufacturing. At idle, AMD says the northbridge sips less than a watt. Pretty impressive when you consider the cutting-edge functionality wrapped up in the silicon.

For instance, the chipset supports a HyperTransport 3.0 link to the new AM2+ socket interface. Past chipsets worked with HyperTransport 1.0 running at 1 GHz DDR. The 780G ups the link speed to 1.8 GHz, yielding nearly 15 GB/s of bandwidth. That throughput is particularly important to the 780G, since the built-in graphics processor has to talk through the processor’s memory controller in order to pull data from system RAM. Naturally, as you scale HyperTransport performance, 3D frame rates will go right along with it.
 

   


Of course, getting the benefit of HyperTransport 3.0 requires a processor that supports the interface. One of the new Phenom chips will do the trick. An older Athlon X2, such as the one we’ll be looking at in a bit, will not. Just to be clear, the new AM2+ socket is backwards compatible with CPUs designed for the AM2 interface—it just reverts back to HyperTransport 1.0 link speeds. 

With plenty of data moving between the CPU and 780G, there’s room for lots of high-bandwidth connectivity. The northbridge boasts 26 PCI Express 2.0 lanes. Sixteen are reserved for a single discrete graphics slot, six can be set aside for x1 upgrade slots and onboard peripherals, and the last four interface with the SB700 southbridge. We talked to AMD about the possibility of a motherboard vendor splitting the 16-lane link into a pair of CrossFire-enabled connectors. However, the link is fused together, which makes sense given the chipset’s mainstream pedigree.

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Kamrooz 6 years ago

The future looks extremely bright for AMD chipsets. I must admit those gaming benchmarks are imperssive for the hybrid solutions. Actually playable with max settings also O_O...although the lack of AA and set to 1024x768..But considering how much the solution costs...still a steal. I'm wondering when will see ATI's PowerXpress features. Dying to see the dynamic switching between the discrete card and IGP based on load. Definitely some very cool stuff! 

Crisis Causer 6 years ago

Still not impressed by onboard graphics, although this is coming close.  Low power is nice.  A cheap way to get some Orange Box gaming in. 

wolf2009 6 years ago

nice technology , AMD graphics wise looks good . 

ice91785 6 years ago
It does look pretty promising -- reading about the chipsets make me kinda excited; possibly could compete with Intel's chipset current designs, no? Lol that could be stretching it....but I really like the innovation with the "crossfire" onboard setup.

Crisis Causer 6 years ago

You know, I was just thinking how awesome it would be if AMD came out with a motherboard that had a 3850 as onboard graphics and retailed for $199 or less.  That's what they need, a true gaming motherboard that needs to external video card.  And if course it would be able to x-fire with any of the 3800 family.

Kamrooz 6 years ago

 That level of performance for onboard will happen, but not for another 2-3 years =P. But who knows...Hard to predict what AMD has up their sleeves...After all, this PowerXperss and Hybrid Crossfire is truely original...As always, nvidia follows suit =P.

methious 6 years ago

 [quote user="Crisis Causer"]

You know, I was just thinking how awesome it would be if AMD came out with a motherboard that had a 3850 as onboard graphics and retailed for $199 or less.  That's what they need, a true gaming motherboard that needs to external video card.  And if course it would be able to x-fire with any of the 3800 family.

[/quote]

 

If they do that it'd hinder the sales of their add in graphic cards.  Companies aren't known to cut their own throats.  Their new hybrid is a good setup for a mid level game machine, I don't see them going beyond mid range. 

ice91785 6 years ago

[quote user="methious"]If they do that it'd hinder the sales of their add in graphic cards.  Companies aren't known to cut their own throats.  Their new hybrid is a good setup for a mid level game machine, I don't see them going beyond mid range.[/quote]

But what is to stop a guy (hardcore gamer) from setting up an expensive crossfire setup with top-o-the-line cards with the 780G.....and perhaps also allow the onboard to sort of add to the setup for a hybrid 3-way crossfire?

rajendra_b_pal 6 years ago
Chris: Magnificent article!  I wish you would have also touched issues related to AHCI mode.  This mother board is selling like hot cakes.Thank you. Rajendra

 

Grahf 6 years ago

Too bad AMD's CPUs are faultering a bit. It is detracting attention from some really nice chipset work AMD/ATI integration has been achieving. 

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