As of the last year and a half it's all been Intel's time to shine. Intel has really put a lot in on Core 2 architecture, and even its updated cores like Penryn haven't disappointed, not to mention we've also seen excellent chipsets coming left and right for it; but what about the jolly green giant AMD? It's easy to have forgotten what they've been up to recently. While Intel does have the most powerful CPUs available on the market, we can't forget the main reason behind the Intel Core architecture, that being K8 architecture that sent Intel into a tail spin and threw them off the top of the hill. By no means is AMD dead though; Athlon 64 X2s still provide good bang for the dollar value, and while Phenom hasn't shown up to be crash hot just yet, its price and performance seem to be right in the mainstream contention. To that end we have to wonder where are the chipsets for this platform? - Phenom comes with the new Hyper Transport 3.0 protocol along with support for higher memory frequencies on the DDR2 platform, but so far only AMD's own 790FX Series chipsets have made their way into the market; that is till now!Since AMD acquired ATI to do its chipset bidding, we haven't seen much from NVIDIA for the Athlon 64 and Phenom platforms. The first new generation chipset designed by NVIDIA to support the Phenom and Athlon 64 processors has arrived; codenamed the MCP78, it has officially been given the name "GeForce 8200". Our first board is from Palit who have sent us over their first production motherboard based on the MCP78 for previewing. How will the new chipset fair compared to the 690G? Let's have a closer look.
SpecificationsSpecifications of the Palit N78SCPU
Supports AMD Athlon 64 AM2 SeriesSupports AMD Athlon 64 x2 AM2 SeriesSupports AMD Athlon 64 FX AM2 SeriesSupports AMD Phenom Quad Core AM2+ SeriesSupports AMD Sempron AM2 SeriesSupports AMD Phenom Tri Core AM2+ SeriesChipset
NVIDIA GeForce 8200 MCP78SHyper Transport 3.0 from CPU to MCP (Phenom only)Hyper Transport 2.0 from CPU to MCP (All other series)System Memory
4 DDR2 SDRAM 240pin DIMM SocketsSupports DDR2-533/667/800/1066*MHz64/128Bit Dual ChannelSupports up to 8GB Total Memory (4x 2GB)Bus Frequency
200MHz InternalHyper Transport InterconnectExpansion Slots
1 PCI Express x161 PCI Express x12 PCIConnectivity
1 Parallel ATA port supporting 2 IDE Drives6 Serial ATA ports1 Gigabit Ethernet PortExpansion Ports
1 PS2 Keyboard Port1 PS2 Mouse Port10 USB 2.0 Ports (4 rear accessible, 6 via expansion bracket)6 Stereo Audio Ports1 CRT D-SUB VGA Port1 DVI-D VGA Port(*) 1066Mhz memory supported on Phenom Only
The Box and What's InsidePackage and Contents
This is the first motherboard we have received from the Palit company, which as mentioned before is based around the GeForce 8200 chipset which is designed for the mid-range to value end of the market. We get the board shipped to us in a box that tells us that board is of the micro ATX design, which seems to be the way most AMD boards are going these days. The front of the board contains the company logo as well as some logos of the board's features and support.
Despite being budget oriented we would like to see in the age of information at least a small colour photo of the board on the back of the box so that you do know what you're getting. It doesn't matter how much you spend, you should be informed to what it is exactly you're getting. There is however a bit of info on the board's features and specs on the back, which should aid in your choice as to whether or not this board is for you.
The package that comes with the board is rather light; a user manual and driver CD are included that give you all the info on the board along with drivers for XP and Vista 32-bit and 64-bit variants. The drivers on the CD we were provided with were beta series ones, and the official driver should be out now if not any day soon, so keep in mind that our test results are preliminary.
The Motherboard and Hybrid SLIThe Board
Moving onto the board itself and we see the micro ATX familiarity we are accustom to now with the AMD platform. While there are enthusiast boards out there, the majority of them are not going Micro ATX as AMD's place has now been settled for the time being.As for the layout, it's quite good for the micro ATX design. The 24-pin power connector along with the single IDE channel the board supports reside behind the four DDR2 memory slots; these slots are colour coded in red for channel A and yellow for channel B. A maximum of 8GB of memory can be run on this motherboard comprising 4 x2GB sticks of a max of 1066MHz. The 4/8 pin aux power port is located below the CPU retention mechanism towards the left side of the board, requiring some cable routing around the CPU which is not the most ideal setup. The NVIDIA GeForce 8200 MCP setup requires only passive cooling, to which a large silver heatsink is installed. The MCP78 series is a whole new generation of chipset from NVIDIA, not a patched up one like the 780i. MCP78 has native PCI Express 2.0 support for its graphics slot and its x1 slots, making it the first to have full native PCI-E 2.0 support. Add to this a six port SATA controller incorporated to support ATAPI DVD and SATA HDDs in any combination, as well as NVIDIA's RAID system, and you get yourself a good setup here. Rather than doing away with IDE like Intel has, NVIDIA still keeps IDE on its chipset, so a third party chipset is not required and no extra cost is added to the board. NVIDIA's main focus here with the new GeForce 8200 is Hybrid SLI. This is a new design that has been thought up to combine the power of a discrete graphics card with the extra unused power of the onboard GPU. You will require a second NVIDIA GeForce based graphics card (most likely an 8 series or newer) installed into the PCI Express graphics slot. Your monitor cable is then connected to the motherboard monitor displays.When the system is idle the discrete GPU is shut down which allows for better power savings as well as moving all the desktop rendering to the onboard GPU, thus reducing the need for the heavy usage on the external GPU. If you start to play 3D games or any other graphics intense applications, the discrete GPU is enabled via the SMBus and voila, extra power is added to the fray. The new GPU on the MCP78 is based around the DX10 supporting GeForce 8 family with SM4.0 support.
To give the CPU its power, Palit have given the board a 4-phase voltage regulation system which is more than enough to run the current generation of Athlon 64s out there, and even better for the Phenom CPU's now starting to emerge. As for the area around the CPU, since solid state capacitors are used the space is good for even the largest heatsinks out there, making this the ideal board for a totally silent or fanless setup.
The rear I/O of the board is extremely good; there are two VGA ports, one DVI-D and one CRT, so the flexibility is certainly there. The disappointing part of this board is the fact that it doesn't have HDMI which the GeForce 8200 onboard GPU does support. This moves it out of the running for a Digital Home setup, unless of course you get a graphics card with HDMI onboard, then you're set.
Lastly we come to the expansion slots that the board comes with. Being Micro ATX based there are a limited number of possibilities. First off you have an Orange PCI Express x16 slot that is PCI-E 2.0 compliant. This is designed to work with any graphics card, however if you want to use Hybrid SLI you will need certain NVIDIA cards to make that possible. We didn't have time to test this at this point; however, we have every intention of coming back to it in another article. A single PCI Express x1 slot that is also 2.0 compliant and two PCI slots make up the remaining expansion possibilities of the board.
Test System Setup and Memory PerformanceTest System Processor
: AMD Athlon 64 x2 6000+ Memory
: 2x 1GB DDR2-1186 Geil (Supplied by Geil
: 500GB Seagate 7200.9 (Supplied by Seagate Australia
: MSI GeForce 8800GTS 640MB (Supplied by MSI
: GIGABYTE 3D Galaxy II (Supplied by GIGABYTE
: Microsoft Windows XP SP2Drivers
: NVIDIA Beta GeForce DriverOur test systems today consist of the AMD 690G chipset which has really been a great chipset for the budget desktop sector thanks to its onboard graphics, and also of course the new GeForce 8200 chipset. Unfortunately we didn't have any time to test Hybrid SLI or overclocking since we only received the board less than 24 hours before our deadline, so we had to push through the standard tests.We did however perform both discrete graphics and onboard graphics tests comparing the two platforms. EVEREST Ultimate EditionVersion and / or Patch Used:
2006Developer Homepage: http://www.lavalys.com Product Homepage: http://www.lavalys.comBuy It Here
EVEREST Ultimate Edition is an industry leading system diagnostics and benchmarking solution for enthusiasts PC users, based on the award-winning EVEREST Technology. During system optimizations and tweaking it provides essential system and overclock information, advanced hardware monitoring and diagnostics capabilities to check the effects of the applied settings. CPU, FPU and memory benchmarks are available to measure the actual system performance and compare it to previous states or other systems.
In our first test we see that when using the discrete graphics systems there are no differences due to the onboard memory controller being used and none of the memory bandwidth allocated to the graphics cards. When we go to integrated graphics the NVIDIA system managed to get ahead which could be due to some special memory management that is used keep the memory bandwidth to the CPU when the GPU is idle.
Benchmarks - PCMark05PCMarkVersion and / or Patch Used:
1.2.0Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.comProduct Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/products/pcmark04/Buy It Here
PCMark is a multipurpose benchmark, suited for benchmarking all kinds of PCs, from laptops to workstations, as well as across multiple Windows operating systems. This easy-to-use benchmark makes professional strength benchmarking software available even to novice users. PCMark consists of a series of tests that represent common tasks in home and office programs. PCMark also covers many additional areas outside the scope of other MadOnion.com benchmarks.
PCMark05 puts the NVIDIA onboard graphics system ahead of the AMD 690G with onboard graphics enabled. When both systems used the same discrete graphics solution we see the AMD and NVIDIA systems almost performing identically.
Benchmarks - Adobe Premiere Elements 3.0Adobe Premiere Elements 3.0Version and / or Patch Used:
3.0Developer Homepage: http://www.adobe.com Product Homepage: http://www.adobe.com/products/premiereel/Buy It Here
Our test with Adobe Premiere Elements 3.0 is performed with a raw two hour AVI file. It is then compressed into DivX format using the latest version codec. We measure the time it takes to encode and then record CPU usage.
In Premiere Elements we see the NVIDIA system with onboard graphics ahead. It looks like the NVIDIA setup is better at memory management for the onboard graphics.
Benchmarks - HDD PerformanceHD TachVersion and / or Patch Used:
184.108.40.206Developer Homepage: http://www.simplisoftware.comProduct Homepage: http://www.simplisoftware.com/Public/index.php?request=HdTach