AMD and NVIDIA are now pushing towards a more power conscious chipset market with integrated features in order to boost their value. This can only mean good things for end users who not only get a more power friendly based PC (and in todays green market, this is big brownie points), but also features that weren't previously added.
AMD has already shown its hand for their own chipsets in the form of the 780G. This chipset not only performed beautifully on its own, but its integrated graphics were able to do a little above just basic 3D applications thanks to its DX10 compatibility; and the ability to team it up with another graphics card for Hybrid Crossfire made it a winner in our books as it allows one to increase the value and performance of the lower end desktops.
Not to be outdone, NVIDIA has its own designs in mind; Hybrid SLI is the NVIDIA option and it's available on certain chipsets (soon to be on all NVIDIA chipsets released). It works in the same way as Hybrid Crossfire, only for NVIDIA chipsets.
Unfortunately NVIDIA has omitted Intel processors on the Hybrid SLI and Hybrid power option. We are hoping to see this come to light in the next generation of chipset from NVIDIA to support Intel processors. Today we are testing out the mid-range value option from NVIDIA; the GeForce 7100/630i board from abit. How does it perform? Let's push forward and begin with a look at the specifications.
Specifications of the abit I-N73H
Supports Intel Core 2 Series (Extreme/Quad/Duo)
Supports Intel Pentium Dual Core Series
Supports Intel Pentium D Series
Supports Intel Pentium 4 5xx/6xx Series
Supports Intel Celeron D 3xx/4xx Series
Supports Intel 45nm Series CPU
NVIDIA GeForce 7100
NVIDIA GeForce N73 GMCP
Hyper Transport Interconnect
2 DDR2 SDRAM 240pin DIMM Sockets
64bit Single Channel
Supports up to 4GB Total Memory (2x 2GB)
P4 Bus Architecture
1 PCI Express x16
1 PCI Express x1
1 Parallel ATA port supporting 2 IDE Drives
4 Serial ATA ports
1 Gigabit Ethernet Port
1 PS2 Keyboard Port
1 PS2 Mouse Port
10 USB 2.0 Ports (4 rear accessible, 6 via expansion bracket)
6 Stereo Audio Ports
1 RCA SPDIF Port
2 Firewire ports (1 rear accessible, 1 via expansion bracket)
1 RGB D-SUB VGA Port
1 HDMI Video/Audio port
The Box and What's Inside
Package and Contents
abit has done a fantastic job in the past with its packages; they're colourful and with quite a bit of information. Even under the new Universal abit branding, the same quality comes from the company. The box is small since it's only a Micro ATX board. There isn't much reason to go overboard on using large boxes like some of the newer ATX boards come in. The front contains a bit of information on the board in regards to its CPU and chipset support. But like most packages, the info you really want is on the back.
Flipping the box over we see that the back has a lot more information, mostly marketing info but still informative none the less. While being a budget board, abit has included a colour photo in the top right hand corner that gives you a general idea on what you're getting.
Being towards the more value end of the scale, there isn't a huge amount of additional tidbits when it comes to the included extras, but all the major requirements are there. A layout sticker that can be placed on the inside of one of the case's removable panels gives you a general layout of the board along with the location for all the headers, making it easier for you to locate them if you need to do any emergency maintenance later on. A small users manual that explains the setup, layout and basic features is also included along with a CD that has both XP and Vista drivers for both 32-bit and 64-bit OSs. The CD doesn't include any Linux or Unix drivers, so if you're an alternate OS user, you're going to have to find them yourself. But for this chipset, good luck, it's not easy. We did a bit of searching and couldn't get one for the graphics driver anywhere.
Moving to the cables, we see a very scarce amount here. A single SATA data cable is included; so that's one out of the four total ports covered. If you're going to use a single SATA HDD and IDE CD drive, then you're okay. If you go for a SATA DVD unit, watch out and make sure you have extra SATA cables or you are optical drive-less until you manage to get an extra. For the parallel cables, a single IDE cable with twp IDE ports is included and a FDD cable supporting a single drive also comes standard.
As always, the most important part is the motherboard itself; after all, that's what you're shelling out your cash for. abit has done a fine job on the I-N73H; its layout is extremely tidy for a small board. The 24-pin power connector, IDE and FDD connectors all get placed behind the two DDR2 memory slots the board has on the right hand edge. Yes, the board is limited to 2GB of memory, but 2GB is pretty much the limit you will want for this setup as you're not going to be running SLI graphics and high-end gaming on this board. The 4/8-pin combo power port gets placed behind the PS/2 ports on the left top edge of the board, just above the heatsink that keeps the Mosfets cool.
The four SATA ports driven the by the onboard GeForce chipset get placed on the bottom right edge of the board, well away from any of the slots or connectors which make it very easy to install this board into even the most cramped Micro ATX cases out there. And believe me, there are quite a few suffering space constraints.
abit has decided to use a 4-phase voltage regulation system to supply the CPU a stable voltage. While three phases on a board of this design would have been enough to power most of the Core 2 range of CPUs (45nm require less voltage and are now quite dominant in the market), it is good to see some extra power added to the board. The components are not based around solid state; they use older capacitor technology. While cheaper, they do run hotter. The Mosfets are kept cool by a dedicated heatsink.
Moving down to the rear I/O ports, we see pretty much a standard layout affair. While they are not in the same position as other boards, there is nothing new here. The board has for its video output a CRT port and a HDMI port for the onboard graphics. If you need to run a DVI-D port, you can get a HDMI to DVI converter, but it is not supplied.
Now we come down to the final section on the board and that is the expansion slots you get for add-on components. First off, the PCI Express side of things. We have an orange coloured slot that can accommodate a graphics card or any other PCI Express based add-on with up to 16 lanes in support. A single PCI Express x1 slot located above the graphics card makes up the PCI Express expansion components. Lastly, two PCI legacy slots are included for older TV tuners and sound cards; however with PCI Express now incorporating these devices, we hope to see the end of PCI by 2009. In the way of add-on controllers there is a single Texas Instruments PCI based FireWire controller chip.
BIOS and Overclocking
abit's BIOS of choice for this board is Awards Modular v6 BIOS which is quite user friendly. Its interface style hasn't changed for over 5 years now. While new features are added, the BIOS stays the same. abit has all its overclocking functions under the SoftMenu BIOS setup.
FSB (QDR) 200 - 800 in 1MHz Increments
MEM (DDR2): 100 - 150 in 1MHz Increments
CPU Core Voltage: 1.350v to 1.725v in 0.0125v increments
DDR2 Voltage: 1.8v to 2.50v in 0.1v Increments
CPU VTT Voltage: 1.2v to 1.35v in various increments
NB Voltage: 1.36v to 1.87v in various increments
Our overclocking with the GeForce 7100 was not an overall huge success. However, we did manage to hit a reasonable 460MHz FSB. We did try extreme voltages for the memory, VTT and NB but it still didn't turn out quite stable. Keep in mind though, for a basic setup, this is a very good overclocking result.
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 absolute maximum and find the highest possible FSB, as this could take days to find properly. 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 also come into play if you believe in that.
Test System Setup and Memory Performance
Processor: Intel Core 2 Quad QX6700 @ 3GHz (9x333MHz)
Memory: 2x 1GB DDR2-1186 Geil (Supplied by Geil)
Hard Disk: 500GB Seagate 7200.10 (Supplied by Seagate Australia)
Graphics Card: MSI GeForce 8800GTS 640MB (Supplied by MSI)
Cooling: GIGABYTE 3D Galaxy II (Supplied by GIGABYTE)
Operating System: Microsoft Windows XP SP2
Drivers: ForceWare 169.21
Today's test system pits the GeForce 7100 test board against the GIGABYTE 7150 board, thus directly comparing the GeForce 7100 chipset to the 7150 variant.
EVEREST Ultimate Edition
Version and / or Patch Used: 2006
Developer Homepage: http://www.lavalys.com
Product Homepage: http://www.lavalys.com
Buy 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.
Comparing the two boards together, we see that both compare up evenly at stock speeds. Due to the lack of Dual Channel memory support, the overall bandwidth is reduced by quite a bit, but is still enough for a basic office system or home workstation. When the integrated GPU is enabled, the system takes a bit of a memory hit as well, but still not as bad as previous IGP based setups. NVIDIA has worked to keep overall system performance up when using IGPs.
Benchmarks - PCMark05
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.2.0
Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com
Product 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.
Memory bandwidth is the same across the two boards, however the overall score favors the GIGABYTE board when the IGP is used soley. This is because of the slightly higher IGP core clock of 650MHz compared to the 600MHz used by the GeForce 7100. While it may not be a lot, when you're dealing with IGP based setups, any extra boost helps them out quite a bit.
Benchmarks - Adobe Premiere Elements 3.0
Adobe Premiere Elements 3.0
Version and / or Patch Used: 3.0
Developer 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.
Both boards perform identically with IGP and discrete graphics; the GPU power isn't used in Premiere Elements as it is an encoding program, thus the CPU and memory play the huge part here.
Benchmarks - HDD Performance
Version and / or Patch Used: 126.96.36.199
Developer Homepage: http://www.simplisoftware.com
Product Homepage: http://www.simplisoftware.com/Public/index.php?request=HdTachBuy It Here
HD Tach has been around for a long time and is excellent when it comes to testing hard drive performance. It is also a very handy program when it comes to testing the controller used on particular motherboards. Tests such as Read, CPU Utilization and Burst are available at a click of the button and give you a good idea of how the hard drive can perform from system to system.
Both boards perform identically here as the same 630i MCP storage controller is used.
Benchmarks - 3DMark06
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.1.0
Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com
Product Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/products/3dmark06/
Buy It Here
3DMark06 is the very latest version of the "Gamers Benchmark" from FutureMark. The newest version of 3DMark expands on the tests in 3DMark05 by adding graphical effects using Shader Model 3.0 and HDR (High Dynamic Range lighting) which will push even the best DX9 graphics cards to the extremes.
3DMark06 also focuses on not just the GPU but the CPU using the AGEIA PhysX software physics library to effectively test single and Dual Core processors.
With the IGPs turned on we see that the GeForce 7150 based GIGABYTE board managed to just sneak ahead of the GeForce 7100. However, they aren't great gaming boards at all. With the discrete graphics turned on we get both boards equaled up, as there is no difference in setups.
Benchmarks - Prey
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.2
Timedemo or Level Used: Hardware OC Demo
Developer Homepage: http://www.humanhead.com
Product Homepage: http://www.prey.com
Buy It Here
Prey is one of the newest games to be added to our benchmark line-up. It is based off the Doom 3 engine and offers stunning graphics passing what we've seen in Quake 4 and does put quite a lot of strain on our test systems.
Using the integrated graphics we see that the GeForce 7150 GIGABYTE board manages to win out against the slower clocked GeForce 7100 GPU. But when using the MSI GeForce 8800GTS, the results are identical.
Benchmarks - Battlefield 2142
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.25
Timedemo or Level Used: Custom Timedemo
Developer Homepage: http://www.dice.se/
Product Homepage: http://www.battlefield.ea.com/battlefield/bf2142/
Buy It Here
In Battlefield 2142, players choose to fight for one of two military superpowers - the European Union or the newly formed Pan Asian Coalition -in an epic battle for survival.
Armed with a devastating arsenal of hi-tech weaponry, including assault rifles, cloaking devices and sentry guns, players will also take control of the most lethal vehicles known to man. Massive Battle Walkers wage fierce combat on the ground, while futuristic aircraft rule the skies. When taking on this futuristic armor players will need to use their wits and an arsenal of new hi-tech countermeasures like EMP grenades and smart mines to level the playing field.
Battlefield 2142 puts a lot of stress on the system compared to Prey. We see that both the 7150 and 7100 simply aren't able to produce a playable experience.
Benchmarks - Far Cry
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.3
Timedemo or Level Used: Benchemall Default Demo(download here)
Developer Homepage: http://www.crytek.com
Product Homepage: http://www.farcrygame.com
Buy It Here
While Far Cry is now one of our older benchmarking games, it is still able to put pressure on most computers systems as it is able to utilize all parts of the system. Utilizing PS2.0 technology with the latest versions supporting Shader Model 3.0 with DX9c and offering an exceptional visual experience, there is no denying that even some of the faster graphics cards get a bit of a workout.
Lastly, we see that the GeForce 7150 and 7100 are able to play Far Cry at 1024x768 quite comfortably.
Power Consumption Tests
We are now able to find out what kind of power is being used by our test system and the associated graphics cards installed. Keep in mind; it tests the complete system (minus LCD monitor, which is plugged directly into an AC wall socket).
There 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.
The other thing to remember is that our test system is bare minimum - only a 7,200RPM SATA-II single hard drive is used without CD-ROM or many cooling fans.
So while the system might draw 400 watts in our test system, placing it into your own PC with a number of other items, the draw is going to be higher.
Power usage between the two setups is identical despite the fact that the 7100 is clocked lower on the IGP. It still uses the same amount of power as the 7150 board, so power consumption figures won't help you choose your preferred chipset.
NVIDIAs GeForce 7 series of integrated chipsets do fill in a void, giving you a choice for an integrated system that isn't based on an Intel chipset. However, with the performance of this chipset compared to a G33 and G35 these days, Intel's chipset has the option to run six SATA ports over the aging four that NVIDIA has. And the lack of Hybrid SLI on the GeForce 7 IGP based setups leaves them in direct competition with Intel for the IGP chipset of choice, something that Intel is currently winning, especially since G35 now has DX10 support under Vista.
The layout of the board is extremely clean, and its power and overclocking features do give it a heads up over the Intel IGP based chipsets which really leave a bit to be desired on overclocking. This makes the NVIDIA chipset a lot better, especially on memory overclocking. Asynchronous memory clocks are something NVIDIA introduced and continue to support, even on its IGP based boards.
abit has again done a fantastic job. While known for more of its high-end boards, the company now offers value boards that are extremely attractive options on the market. Overall, we found the board to have a great feel and good overclocking for the budget users.
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