IntroductionWhile there has been criticism about the acquisition of ATI from the jolly green giant AMD, it has indefinitely produced one good thing, a stable platform for AMD to base its CPU's around. No longer will they have to rely on their third-party chipset manufacturers to make good platforms for them, now they can make their own and so far they have released one chipset under the AMD brand, the 690G.690G is in no way a high performance chip, it's aimed at the integrated graphics market. However, its design is extremely efficient, its onboard graphics core is one of the fastest we have ever seen for an integrated chipset and it was even able to knock NVIDIA off the top of the IGP market. The 690G was well ahead of the GeForce 6100 and 6150 in terms of its HD ready design, it's able to accommodate a HDMI interface. AMD put its best foot forward and its taken until now for NVIDIA to come up with a counterpart, enter the GeForce 7050. NVIDIA's latest IGP based chipset is designed to directly compete with the 690G for the AMD Athlon 64 platform. Today we have been given our first 7050 based board from ASRock, we will be comparing this against the 690G chipset to see which ends up being the better option.Let's hop to it.
Specifications of the ASRock ALiveNF7G-HD720pCPUSupports AMD Athlon 64 FX AM2 SeriesSupports AMD Athlon 64 X2 AM2 SeriesSupports AMD Athlon 64 AM2 SeriesSupports AMD Sempron AM2 SeriesChipsetNVIDIA Geforce 7050Geforce 7050 SPP NorthbridgenForce 630A MCP SouthbridgeSingle Chip with HT Link between North and SouthbridgeSystem Memory4 DDR2 SDRAM 240pin DIMM SocketsSupports DDR2-533/667/800MHz64/128Bit Dual ChannelSupports up to 8GB Total Memory (4x 2GB)Bus Frequency200MHz Internal2000MHz ExternalHyper Transport InterconnectExpansion Slots2 PCI Express x161 PCI Express x12 PCIConnectivity1 Parallel ATA port supporting 2 IDE Drives4 Serial ATA ports1 Gigabit Ethernet PortExpansion Ports1 PS2 Keyboard Port1 PS2 Mouse Port10 USB 2.0 Ports (4 rear accessible, 6 via expansion bracket)1 CRT VGA Port1 DVI VGA Port1 Parallel Port6 Stereo Audio Ports
Normally we start on the package and contents, however the board we were sent didn't come in its retail box and was just plastered with shipping labels so unfortunately we were unable to comment about it. As such, we have decided to skip this part and go straight on to the board. Being the budget oriented hope for NVIDIA, the board is a microATX layout with a few design no-no's. The 24-pin power connector gets placed between the CPU socket and the rear I/O ports, making you route the power cable either around if you have enough cable length or over the CPU heatsink itself, this reducing air flow in what is usually already a small and restrictive case. The 4-pin power cable is in a sensible spot in the top left corner behind the PS/2 ports. The single IDE port controlled by the 630a southbridge is located behind the four memory ports at the top right of the board.
The CPU area for a budget board is extremely clean. 3 phase power is used to supply the CPU with enough juice to handle any of the AMD Athlon 64 AM2 range of CPUs, but is it enough to overclock? We'll find that out shortly. The capacitors on this board are of the old electrolyte design and older coil voltage regulators are used rather than solid state as we are now getting spoilt by.
The rear I/O ports are nothing special apart from the inclusion of a DVI port which gives you the option for connecting your LCD through the DVI port. The GeForce 7050 chipset which powers this board is capable of HDMI output which we would have liked to have seen included. If it's supported, why leave it out? AMD 690G has already seen HDMI onboard.
We now come down to the expansion slots. If you're not into using the onboard graphics system that the GeForce 7050 provides, or you want to upgrade later on you have that option thanks to a single PCI Express x16 slot for graphics cards. Keeping with PCI Express the board has a single PCI Express x1 slot at the bottom of the board and two PCI slots between it and the PCI Express x16 slot.
BIOS and Overclocking
ASRock's BIOS layout hasn't changed at all over the past two years. Using the Award 6 BIOS in tab menu design, those who know the Intel Reference boards or ASUS boards will know this menu too well. All your overclocking options are under the advanced tab.
FrequenciesCPU Frequency: 150Mhz to 400Mhz in 1MHz IncrementsPCIE Frequency: 75MHz to 200Mhz in 1MHz IncrementsVoltagesProcessor Voltage: 1.1v to 1.45v in 0.025v IncrementsDRAM Voltage: 1.8v to 2.05v in 0.05v IncrementsOverclockingUnfortunately we had a very bad overclocking experience with this board, though admittedly it's not designed to break any records. We only managed to increase the FSB by 20MHz to a total of 220MHz, even then it became unstable in some tests. We updated the BIOS to the latest available but still no help. Without any chipset voltage adjustments it seems the GeForce 7050 is a bit too warm running to be able to overclock very well. Important Editor Note: Our maximum overclocking result is the best result we managed in our limited time testing the motherboard. Due to time constraints we don't have enough time to tweak the motherboard to the maximum and find the highest possible FSB as this could take days to properly find. We do however spend at least a few hours overclocking every motherboard to try and find the highest possible overclock in that time frame. You may or may not be able to overclock higher if you spend more time tweaking or as new BIOS updates are released or "burn in" time might come into play if you believe in that.
Test System Setup and Memory Performance
Test SystemProcessor: AMD Athlon 64 X2 6000+Memory: 2x 1GB DDR2-1186 Geil (Supplied by Geil)Hard Disk: 500GB Seagate 7200.9 (Supplied by Seagate Australia)Graphics Card: MSI GeForce 8800GTS 640MB, Onboard GeForce 7050 and Onboard ATI Radeon X1250Cooling: Stock AMD Athlon 64 CoolerOperating System: Microsoft Windows XP SP2Drivers: Forceware 163.71, ATI Catalyst 7.8.Today we are pitting the GeForce 7050 against AMD's 690G chipset, which it is intended to compete directly with. We will be running our tests using the onboard graphics systems of each board with the most available memory each chipset supports. The ATI X1250 onboard supports up to 512MB and the GeForce 7050 supports a maximum of 256MB. We have also thrown in the GeForce 8800GTS 640MB as our reference card.EVEREST Ultimate EditionVersion and / or Patch Used: 2006Developer Homepage:http://www.lavalys.comProduct 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.
With the graphics cards enabled we see that despite the extra memory diverted to the graphics system on the AMD 690G platform, it still manages to slightly beat the GeForce 7050 platform. When using the discrete graphics option the results are identical.
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.
Again we see that the AMD 690 platform with its graphics system enabled in the memory slightly outperforms the GeForce 7050. When we go to the end result the two are almost identical due to extra memory being diverted to graphics.
Our test with Adobe Premiere Elements 2.0 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.
Here we see both platforms perform identically in the tests, the graphics card doesn't play a huge role, memory bandwidth does along with the CPU.
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