The Platform in Detail
Since this is the first time we have looked at the NVIDIA GeForce 7000 series for the Intel platform, we thought we'd better have a bit of an overview of the entire range.
At this time there are four currant incarnations of the new IGP platform; 7150, 7100, 7050 with 630i MCP and 7050 with 610i MCP.
Starting with the common features that all four have in common are the fact that they support Core 2 series CPUs along with the Pentium D, Pentium Dual Core and Celeron D series. The chipset itself is a single chip design with the SPP and MCP integrated into a single chip. A Hyper Transport protocol is used to connect the two parts inside the chip, very effective. All four chipsets have a single PCI Express x16 lane for discrete graphics and two PCI Express x1 lanes for additional peripherals.
One thing that is disappointing is the memory controller, only a 64-bit single channel is supported. When it comes to graphics memory, all of the chipsets use the system memory for its frame buffer which is referred to as a UMA or Unified Memory Architecture. Up to 256MB can be selected depending on what the motherboard manufacturer puts in their BIOS options-wise.
The 7150 is the top of the line chip designed to be the front runner; while it's not boasting features, there is enough to keep most people happy. The graphics core runs at a full 630MHz and the FSB speed for the 7150 supports up to 1333MHz FSB CPUs, so even the latest Penryn CPUs are supported here. The built-in 630i MCP comes with a 4/2 SATA/PATA HDD arrangement, Gigabit LAN and High Definition audio with ten USB ports, so you're not going to run out of connectivity. While only a 64-bit memory channel is used on all of the series, the speed is ramped up to full 800MHz with the ability to unlink the FSB and memory clocks. So if you so choose to overclock the RAM (providing the board supports this and gives you voltage adjustments) you can go ahead and ramp up the speeds.
The 7100 series boasts most of the features of the 7150 such as the same FSB support, memory controller and MCP features. The major difference here is the lowered GPU clock down to 600MHz. Both the 7150 and the 7100 support DVI and HDMI ports along with HDCP compliance, giving you all you need for a Digital Home or HTPC setup.
The 7050 with 630i is where we start to see some cut downs. While it does have the same FSB support as the 7150 and 7100, its memory controller has been slowed to a max speed of 667MHz. While this wouldn't be much of a problem in Dual Channel mode, it simply might be a bit too slow for single channel support, especially if you're using business apps and graphics applications that will put a lot of stress on the CPU, FSB and memory controller. The graphics clock is also slowed down to 500MHz. While DVI and HDCP are supported, there is no HDMI function for this chipset either.