Conclusions and Final Thoughts
As we saw in the review of the MSI K9AGM2, the AMD 690G chipset is on par with the performance of the NVIDIA MCP61 chipset for the AM2 platform. In this article, we looked at how the Asus M2A-VM motherboard compared to the previous MSI model as well as the latest Intel integrated graphics chipset, the G965.
In our platform tests, the AMD 690 chipset coupled with the AMD Athlon 64 X2 5200+ processor, was able to win a slight majority of results. Where it faltered slightly was in the connectivity options like USB and Firewire; where it thrived was in real-world game play scenarios.
Comparing the Asus and MSI motherboards, the MSI had an advantage in memory performance thanks to Asus’ lack of support for memory timing adjustment in the current BIOS revision. I have been told by Asus that this will be coming in a new BIOS very soon so I would expect the performance levels of the M2A-VM to jump up to at least where the MSI K9AGM2 stands now.
X1250 versus Intel G965
Comparing the X1250 integrated GPU solution on the AMD 690 chipset to that of the Intel G965 chipset requires more than just a 3DMark run or two. In fact, in 3DMark06, the Intel chipset performed quite a bit faster than the AMD solution; but we knew something wasn’t quite right there. Looking at the performance results on our Far Cry testing, a game that is still visually impressive some years after its release, the Intel G965 was only able to pull about 10 FPS while the AMD 690 chipset was getting three times that.
In Intel’s own admission, the G965 chipset is going to be playing many games with optimal image quality or performance — there is a list of very popular games on their site that just don’t work — a problem that ATI’s graphics solutions won’t have thanks to their dedication to the GPU market and strong driver team.
It’s quite apparent to me that if you are planning on doing even intermediate gaming on a PC using one of these platforms, the AMD 690 chipset and the Athlon processors are better solutions than any CPU on the Intel G965.
The AMD 690’s best features are the built-in support for HDMI and DVI right from the graphics logic; though the Asus model test here doesn’t have HDMI, it does have DVI with HDCP support. Having this option for users looking to build an HTPC system should be a big plus — with one caveat. The X1250 does NOT support HD-DVD or Blu-ray decoding. The GPU core is just not fast enough to handle the H.264 off loading and as such I feel the HDMI and HDCP support is really just fluff. Sticking with VGA and DVI would have been fine for most users.
The rest of the chipset is pretty standard but includes enough options to keep most budget users and business users satisfied.
As of this publication, pricing on the Asus M2A-VM motherboard is limited to what Newegg is showing: $79.99. The price on the X2 5200+ processor currently sits at $225, for a total price of $305 for the AMD platform.
The Asus P5B-VM motherboard that uses the G965 chipset is currently for sale for around $115 and the Core 2 Duo E6400 processor we used in testing comes in around $222. That makes the total price for the Intel solution $337.
While that difference might not seem like much to enthusiast users, for budget builders trying to squeeze by and businesses buying hundreds or thousands of systems, that $30 can add up very quickly. The AMD platform performs very well in comparison to the Intel platform and runs cheaper; that’s a great combination.
The Asus M2A-VM motherboard is the second one using the new AMD 690G chipset we have reviewed and it performed very well. The MSI motherboard did show the Asus option up in a couple of memory-latency dependent benchmarks simply because the Asus motherboard didn’t allow for memory timing adjustments like the competition did — but I’d expect a BIOS fix for this very soon from the engineers at Asus. Support for four DIMMs and having both DVI and VGA output on the board offers a compelling enough configuration that users will definitely want to keep it in their list of options for a budget computer or HTPC.
And now that we have compared the Intel G965 platform against this AMD offering, I feel confident that anyone looking for an integrated graphics solution should be leaning in the direction of AMD once again.
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