Hybrid Graphics Technology and HD Video Support
The talk around the 780G chipset has always stemmed from how impressive the IGP performance was when compared to NVIDIA and Intel’s options; even the as-yet unreleased NVIDIA parts based on the GeForce 8 family.  However, as we learned at an AMD meeting in December, AMD is releasing the first widely available hybrid graphics solution; all a part of the ATI CrossFireX branding. 

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The idea behind AMD’s implementation of hybrid graphics is pretty simple really: use the power of your integrated graphics on the chipset and pair it with a very inexpensive discrete GPU to increase gaming performance for low cost gaming PCs.  The GPU that AMD recommends for Hybrid CrossFire on the 780G chipset is the AMD Radeon HD 3450 – a card that can be found for $50 or less.  You can also use 2400 series graphics cards if you happen to already own one though.

All of this occurs without the need for a CrossFire cable of any kind as all the data for this performance boost is transmitted over the PCI Express bus.  This would normally be a worry for a latency or bandwidth issue but since we are talking about a lot less data (since the resolutions and textures will be smaller with this performance class of GPU) it shouldn’t be a problem. 

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The one disadvantage that AMD’s hybrid graphics design has when compared to what NVIDIA has discussed on their hybrid solution is that Hybrid CrossFire doesn’t improve power consumption when compared to a discrete GPU system.  Basically, NVIDIA intends to disable the discrete GPU when not in gaming mode to save power while AMD is utilizing the discrete GPU at all times, even at the desktop. 

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Here is the Sapphire Radeon HD 3450 that AMD sent along with our test system – the oddly sized DVI and VGA dongle are part of the design that allows installation in slim systems like those used in HTPCs.  We’ll see how this card affects power and performance in the coming pages.

HD Video Support

Along with the upgrade GPU core in the 780G chipset comes increased video quality and more CPU offloading of HD video playback.  We have to be careful not to say HD-DVD anymore…it’s like a plague. 

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The short of it is that AMD’s Avivo technology that existed in the HD 2000 series cards is pretty much intact in the 780G cores.  That means full decode support for Blu-ray titles and all other HD video sources.  Video quality should also be superior to that in the AMD 690G and both NVIDIA and Intel’s integrated graphics solutions.

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