Foxconn A7GM-S (AMD 780G) + tests of the Hybrid CrossFire
Foxconn A7GM-S is very precise at setting the nominal HTT speed:
The inquisitive reader keeps track of our materials in which we measured the performance of the AMD 780G chipset in both Windows XP and Vista. The major conclusion which can be made from these reviews is that engineers at AMD have created the really powerful, functional and fast video core Radeon HD3200. In fact, its speed in 3D applications is not inferior to middle-end video cards of two to three years old!
To make the impression of the AMD 780G chipset complete, we will verify the efficiency of the Hybrid CrossFire technology, which consolidates the computational resources of the external video card and the integrated graphic core. To this end, we used a video card based on the Radeon HD 3450 chipset which supports this technology.
This chip belongs to the AMD Radeon HD 3400 series which also includes the HD 3470 chip. Both the chips are codenamed RV620, are made following the 55-nm process technology, offer the core area 61 sq. mm (181 mln transistors).
The heat emission of chips of the family is at quite a low level, which allowed the developers to fit only the passive cooling. However, the PCB of the video card offers a wired 2-pin connector for plugging in a fan (perhaps it is enabled on a video card with the HD 3470 chip).
As regards the functionality, chips of the HD 3400 series offer 40 streaming processors, four texture and four raster units. At the same time, the core frequency is 600 MHz for HD3450 and 800 MHz for HD3470. The graphic memory capacity on the board can be either 256 MB or 512 MB. HD3450 supports GDDR2, and HD3470 - GDDR3. The memory bus width for both the chips is equally narrow - 64 bits.
On our card, there is 256 MB GDDR2 - four chips made by Samsung of 2.5 ns access time.
A few more words on the functionality. Chips of the HD 3400 series support the PCI Express bus of v2.0 specification, DirectX 10.1, Shader Model 4.1, as well as the DisplayPort interface.
Our card lacks the DisplayPort (as well as HDMI); there are only VGA-, S-Video-, and DVI- connectors:
All this "wealth" costs quite cheap: the retail prices for HD 3450 start with $45!
So, to make use of the Hybrid CrossFire technology, we need to install a video card and enable the SurroundView feature in the BIOS.
That done, the "CrossFire" tab appears in the ATI Control Panel, where we should select the relevant option.
Then the system blinks a couple of times, and the Hybrid CrossFire technology is enabled! In so doing, you even don't have to re-boot the PC.
In our test setup, we used the following hardware:
||AMD Athlon 64 3500+ (real clock speed 2.2 GHz)
||Integrated graphic core Radeon HD3200
External video card Radeon HD 3450 (PCI Express v2.0)
Driver version: Catalyst 8.4;
||2x 1024 MB GoodRAM DDR2 GP1066D264L5/2GDC
|Power supply unit
||FSP 550 W
Let's first take a look at the results of synthetic benchmarks.
Now on to the gaming benchmarks (performance in fps).
Tests of application software.
Video encoding (DivX, Xvid) was measured in seconds, i.e. the less the better.
Data compression (WinRAR) was measured in KB/sec, i.e. the more, the better.
First, a few words on the performance of the external Radeon HD3450 video card. As compared to the integrated video core Radeon HD3200, it is faster, but the difference in speed is not that great to talk about a breakthrough in the field of value video cards. Most likely, the performance of HD3200 is a small "revolution" because we get the integrated video core kind of "for free". It should be also noted that the speed of Radeon HD3450 is a bit higher than the speed of 3-year-old middle-end video cards, which points to a very slow rise in performance of cheap video cards. However, the core Radeon HD3200 is functional enough and supports all modern features and technologies. In fact, you can start up any game and the image quality will be at a very high level (certainly, the speed will be much lower than the comfortable level).
Secondly, a few conclusions regarding the Hybrid CrossFire technology. This technology does work and provides quite a substantial boost (in terms of percentage) as compared to the speed of the integrated video core or low-end video card. The problem is that the speed of such a system is absolutely not acceptable in modern games in terms of comfort. And this situation can't be fixed with either greater memory capacity or a more powerful processor. To enjoy the comfortable gameplay, at least middle-end video card is required, but with that the Hybrid CrossFire will not give more than 5-10% of the performance boost at best.
By the way, installation of a more powerful CPU will provide a speed gain for the Hybrid CrossFire system in the games of the previous generation. As we can see from the graphs, a relatively weak CPU Athlon 64 3500+ at 2.2 GHz does not bring any benefit from the Hybrid CrossFire in Quake4 and Serious Sam 2, since we came up against the low performance of the CPU.
As regards the "World in Conflict" game, the lack of speed gain can be explained by the fact that the current version of drivers is not optimized for this application. Anyway, a problem like that is also with the NVIDIA SLI technology: any new 3D application requires polishing the drivers to attain a performance gain in multi-core configurations.
The problem is aggravated by that AMD has no powerful gaming processors. The little bit more expensive dual-core Athlon X2 CPUs offer low clock speed and lose Intel's processors which are more advanced in terms of the architecture. Phenom processors are faster than Athlon X2, but that is an absolutely different pricing category.
On the other hand, there is no benefit from multi-core computing as such in games. Game developers are still optimizing their products solely for single-core systems. The final conclusion is straightforward: it is not possible to create a full-featured and cheap gaming system on the AMD 780G platform even if using the Hybrid Crossfire. However, we note that the speed of the integrated video core Radeon HD3200 is quite enough for playing good old games which quite often are superior in terms of atmosphere than some modern "handicrafts". And that is the most important difference of AMD 780G from all the other integrated chipsets in which support for 3D is implemented declaratively.
The last feature of the AMD 780G chipset which we have not tested is the improved Surround View technology which provides plugging in up to four monitors simultaneously (two - to the integrated video core, and two - to the external video card). We'll review this matter in one of the forthcoming reviews.
Here come the findings regarding the Foxconn A7GM-S. This product is a good enough implementation of the capabilities of the 780G chipset, without any visible shortcomings. However, it is still unclear why only ten USB 2.0 of twelve possible have been implemented (in fact, SB700 supports 14 ports: 12 USB 2.0 and two USB 1.1). Quite possibly, these are the tradeoffs of the PCB optimization for several models of motherboards.
Note that the board offers quite decent overclocking tools, and by the results it takes a place among the four tested motherboards based on the AMD 780G. However, the other three boards supported overclocking of the integrated video core, but for some reason the engineers at Foxconn have not implemented this technology.
A7GM-S supports Foxconn's proprietary technologies and utilities (Fox One, Live Update и Logo). Of special mention is the ease of use of the Live Update and Logo (the latter is best in its class!). We have only got to wait until the board appears in the retail and estimate its attraction in terms of the retail price.
Cons: The board's specific features:
- excellent stability and performance;
- integrated graphic core Radeon HD3200;
- one PCI Express x16 (PCI-E v2.0) slot;
- support for Hybrid CrossFire and SurroundView;
- support for SerialATA II (6 links, RAID);
- support for ParallelATA (1 link);
- Gigabit LAN controller and integrated 8-channel High Definition Audio;
- a pack of Foxconn proprietary technologies: (Fox One, Live Update, and Logo).
- very good CPU overclocking results;
- no feature for overclocking the video core Radeon HD3200.
||CPU & Memory: