Being a system that's likely to be used in a media centre, we've given our testing a more multimedia slant, including video quality, video offloading, and power consumption tests as well as the usual performance based benchmarks. Due to time constraints we've not been able to compare with other competing platforms so over the coming weeks we'll get to task testing alternatives to see how they stack up then we will revisit the topic in a full feature article soon.
We started off by running our usual set of 2D performance benchmarks and we weren't surprised to see it was one of the slowest platforms we've tested in a while. However, we're not comparing similarly priced systems in our graphs. It's also worth remembering that with the video offloading capabilities of the chipset and the otherwise light work the CPU will be doing, it is still going to be plenty fast enough.
Next we rattled through the 3D portion of our testing, running Call of Duty 2, Counter-Strike: Source, Enemy Territory: Quake Wars, and Crysis. Bearing in mind the limited capabilities of the onboard graphics, for all but Crysis, we turned all in-game settings to medium and kept anti-aliasing off while Crysis required us to use low image quality settings throughout. We tested at just one resolution, 1,024x768, which is close to the resolution of a 720p TV screen so it gives us a fair reflection of what gaming on an HDTV would be like.
And the results?
Well unfortunately, it looks like onboard graphics still isn't a viable option for proper gaming regardless of how low you set everything. Even with Hybrid Crossfire enabled, 780G struggled to reach playable framerates and with it turned off it was a complete waste of time. Take into account that no one would want to play games at these appalling image quality settings and the case becomes even less convincing. In fact, we'd go so far as to say AMD should scrap future development on getting more performance out of Hybrid Crossfire and concentrate all its efforts on developing the discrete/onboard switching version mentioned earlier.
So if 780 isn't for gaming, what is it for? Well, from the results of the HQV and HD HQV video playback quality test, it isn't a dead cert for an HTPC either. In fact, we were quite disappointed with the results we obtained. Whether this was a driver issue that can be fixed later, we're unsure and it's something we'll investigate further, but it's certainly something AMD should be concerned about especially considering how good the chipset is at offloading video decoding.
Of course, the ultimate question is whether the platform is any good and although we've belittled it over that last couple of paragraphs that doesn't mean we don't actually like it. In fact we think it's the best integrated graphics platform currently available. When you take into account the better-than-the-rest 3D performance, flawless video offloading and very low cost of the system it seems near unbeatable. It's just that it needs a few tweaks before it's perfect. Hopefully, with a couple of driver releases that will soon be the case.
AMD's 780 chipset is without doubt the best integrated graphics platform on the market and it could make for an awesome media centre PC. However, that doesn't mean it's without flaws. Although it has the best onboard graphics available, it still isn't able to play modern games at the framerates and quality we want and its mediocre video playback quality doesn't help either. Let's just hope a couple of new drivers can sort these issues out.
After publication we realised we had used only the low power CPU during our gaming tests and we were intrigued to know whether this was having an impact on performance. So, we popped in a faster CPU and ran through our tests again.
As the revised graphs now show, the faster CPU does indeed increase performance by a noticeable amount - at least in most of the tests. However, our original conclusions still apply as all the games were run at low resolutions with medium to low in-game detail settings so the gaming experience is still pretty poor. Yes, it's better than any other integrated platform out there and it will play all the latest games - something which many rivals can't do - but not until we see this sort of performance at higher resolutions, like 1,280x1,024, and with higher detail settings will we consider it a truly viable gaming platform.