We were pretty darned impressed with AMDs 690G integrated graphics chip when it launched last year. Now, almost exactly a year later, its successor is here to once again try and wow us - and it certainly looks set to do so.
The graphics chip itself comes under the name of the Radeon HD 3200, which should give a good indication of where it sits compared to desktop parts. The 3200 offers DX10, Shader Model 4.0 support and, arguably more importantly, the same version of AMDs Universal Video Decoding (UVD) engine as found on discrete solutions. This means 780G can decode MPEG-2, VC-1 and H.264 without taxing the processor.
In theory this means that even the cheapest AMD processor could be slotted into the board, while still allowing Blu-ray (or, if you're into your dead formats HD DVD) to be played back at 1080p over HDMI. All you'd be missing are Deep Colour Output (a Windows limitation) and some audio codecs, such as Dolby True HD and DTS HD.
780G also brings with it a new technology called Hybrid CrossFire. Like nVidia's Hybrid SLI, this allows customers buying a 780G motherboard to add a dedicated graphics chip and have the IGP contribute to graphics performance. AMD is actually limiting this feature to the Radeon HD 3450 and although it doesn't say so, common sense suggests this is because any faster card would see a negligible benefit from the IGPs contribution.
780G isn't designed for consumers wanting the latest and greatest 3870X2s or Core 2 Extreme 9770s but instead is orientated towards consumers looking towards building small, quiet, low power but still fairly powerful machines, such as those for office work or HTPCs. The latter is especially true given the frankly awesome video processing abilities compared to any other current offering. For those users, AMD is currently offering the best solution available and we now have to wait and see what Intel and nVidias forthcoming rival solutions can do to compete.