NVIDIA has really made a huge name for itself over the past decade; not only do they have world class GPUs for desktop and notebook solutions, but they were also bold enough to push into the platform chipset market. This is something that no GPU maker had really made a go of before, though it hasn't been a smooth ride for them. Compared to Intel, the NVIDIA range of chipsets are much smaller. Intel has at any one time five to six different chipsets, where NVIDIA is lucky to have two. However, today it isn't so as they have further expanded to really take advantage of the growing market share. Being a graphics card maker, there is one area that NVIDIA has a leg up, that being the IGP market. For the basic home PC and office workstation, IGP based boards really do have a home. Even for a Digital Home PC that does nothing but play movies and record TV programs, integrated graphics is perfect as there is no need to add in extra expansive hardware.Till now, NVIDIA hasn't had an IGP based solution for the Intel market; it has been supplying ones solely for the AMD sector. Core 2 and Pentium Dual Core CPUs are perfect CPUs for an IGP board. The only problem is that Intel G31 / G33 boards don't have much power when it comes to running any graphics programs. Now the field gets a new player, introducing the new kid on the block, NVIDIA's GeForce 7150 chipset paired with the 630i southbridge. How does it fair? Let's find out.
SpecificationsSpecifications of the GIGABYTE GA-73UM-S2HCPU
Supports Intel Core 2 Series (Extreme/Quad/Duo)Supports Intel Pentium Dual Core SeriesSupports Intel Pentium D SeriesSupports Intel Pentium 4 5xx/6xx SeriesSupports Intel Celeron D 3xx/4xx SeriesSupports Intel 45nm Series CPUChipset
GeForce 7150GeForce 7150 SPPnForce 630i MCPHyper Transport Interconnect Between SPP and MCPSystem Memory
2 DDR2 SDRAM 240pin DIMM SocketsSupports DDR2-667/800MHz64bit Single ChannelSupports up to 4GB Total Memory (2x 2GB)Bus Frequency
200/266/333MHz Internal800/1066/1333MHz ExternalP4 Bus ArchitectureExpansion Slots
1PCI Express x161 PCI Express x12 PCIConnectivity
1 Parallel ATA port supporting 2 IDE Drives3 Serial ATA ports1 e.SATA Port1 Gigabit Ethernet PortExpansion Ports
1 PS2 Keyboard Port10 USB 2.0 Ports (4 rear accessible, 6 via expansion bracket)6 Stereo Audio Ports1 RCA SPDIF Port1 e.SATA Port2 Firewire ports (1 rear accessible, 1 via expansion bracket)1 CRT VGA Port1 DVI-I VGA Port1 HDMI Port
GeForce 7000 Series PlatformThe 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.
The MotherboardThe Board
Moving along to today's test candidate, we have the GIGABYTE GA-73UM-S2H motherboard. Micro ATX is the base here; it's not meant for the high-end market, but that doesn't mean we won't criticize the board for poor design. After all, in the tight and restrictive Micro ATX cases you need to keep air flow as best as possible. The layout of the board for a Micro ATX design is very efficient in terms of connector placement; the IDE and 24-pin power connector along with three SATA ports are all located behind the two memory slots that the board features. The extra 4-pin power slot is located behind the PS/2 port tower at the top left of the board, this keeping all the large cables out of the way for maximum cooling of the CPU and surrounding components.
The CPU is clear of large components that can obstruct the installation of large aftermarket heatsinks and heatpipes. In a small case, large heatsinks usually find their way in allowing for better cooling. The CPU gets fed its voltage though a 4-phase solid state voltage regulation system, thus making it run cooler and more efficient than previous voltage systems.
The new GeForce 7150 chipset only supports a single channel DDR memory controller which limits the amount of memory you can install to 4GB using 2x2GB modules. Behind the modules are three of the four southbridge controlled SATA ports, the extra port is routed to the e.SATA port on the back of the board.
GIGABYTE has added just about every possible expansion port you're going to want for a Digital Home based PC; this includes two monitors through a DVI-D and CRT port. One thing of note is you can't use DVI to CRT converters on the DVI port, so if you want dual monitor support you're going to need at least one DVI monitor. Thanks to the 7150 chipset, HDMI function is supported and a HDMI port makes its appearance along with a Toslink S/PDIF audio-out making up the digital audio/video components. One of the four onboard SATA channels is routed to a single e.SATA port on the back that makes its appearance below the Firewire/USB port combo.
Lastly we look at the expansion slots. Being a Micro ATX board you are down to a bare minimum of slots. While having onboard graphics, NVIDIA has listened to what the market wants and that is the ability to put in a discrete graphics system which is possible thanks to a single PCI Express x16 slot. For additional expansion you have one PCI Express x1 slot and two PCI 32-bit slots. To give the board Firewire support the board also comes with a Texas Instruments PCI based Firewire chip.
BIOS and OverclockingBIOS
Moving onto the BIOS we get the traditional Award BIOS GIGABYTE uses for its board. In order to access all of the hidden functions you need to press CTRL-F1 and you get all access to the additional overclocking and tweaking options. The MB's Intelligent Tweaker(M.I.T) menu holds all of the overclocking options.Buses
CPU Host Frequency: 266 - 650 in 1MHz IncrementsMemory Frequency: 400 - 1400 in 1MHz IncrementsVoltages
No Voltage AdjustmentsOverclocking
Overclocking on this board is unfortunately a no go due to the lack of voltage adjustments for anything; this includes CPU, memory and northbridge. We did manage to run our CPU at 333MHz FSB in our tests by lowering the multiplier, but this is because we have an unlocked CPU for emulation purposes. If you're stuck at your normal CPU speed you're going to be lucky to get a 20MHz FSB increase.Important Editor Note: Our maximum overclocking result is the best result we managed in our limited time of testing the motherboard. Due to time constraints we weren't able to tweak the motherboard to the maximum and find the highest possible FSB as this could take days of stability testing. 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. "Burn-in" time might come into play if you believe in that too.
Test System Setup and Memory PerformanceTest System Processor
: Intel Core 2 Quad QX6700 @ 3GHz (9x333MHz)Memory
: 2x 1GB DDR2-1186 Geil (Supplied by Geil
: 500GB Seagate 7200.9 (Supplied by Seagate Australia
: MSI GeForce 8800GTS 640MB (Supplied by MSI
: OCZ Vendetta (Supplied by OCZ
: Microsoft Windows XP SP2Drivers
: Intel INF 18.104.22.1689, Forceware 163.21In today's tests we are pitting the NVIDIA 7150 against our already tested G33 Intel chipset using both onboard graphics in single channel memory mode and Dual Channel memory mode as well as adding a discrete graphics card into the mix. All tests were with the CPU running 3GHz using a 9x multiplier and 333MHz FSB. The DRAM was set at 800MHz. 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 single channel mode we see the NVIDIA board ahead of the Intel G33 in single channel memory mode. When Dual Channel kicks in we start to see NVIDIA fall behind.
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.
Due to the single channel memory controller the overall view is not as good as a G33 using dual channel memory; however it is still comparable.
Benchmarks - Adobe Premiere Elements 3.0Adobe Premiere Elements 2.3Version and / or Patch Used:
2.0Developer Homepage: http://www.adobe.com Product Homepage: http://www.adobe.com/products/premiereel/Buy It Here
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.
Premiere Elements is extremely heavy on the memory so we can see here that the board needs a Dual Channel memory controller to be any good at media encoding.
Benchmarks - HDD PerformanceHD TachVersion and / or Patch Used:
22.214.171.124Developer Homepage: http://www.simplisoftware.comProduct Homepage: http://www.simplisoftware.com/Public/index.php?request=HdTachThere are a few important notes to remember though; while our maximum power is taken in 3DMark06 at the same exact point, we have seen in particular tests the power being drawn as much as 10% more. We test at the exact same stage every time; therefore tests should be very consistent and accurate.While the single channel memory controller does limit the upgradability of the boards memory beyond 4GB, your basic system is not going to need this much at this stage. 2GB using Vista Home Premium is enough to get by and the integrated graphics having Vista certification gives you the option to run the Aero desktop without too much of a performance penalty.