AMD 690G versus Intel G965 PC shootout

AMD 690G versus Intel G965 PC shootout

Summary: The integrated graphics market is one of the least glamorous platforms in desktop computing, but it is probably one of the most important since 90% of the PC market is dominated by integrated graphics.  Not only is the chipset itself a valuable prize to AMD and Intel, but the chipset also determines which CPU gets put in to the system.

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The integrated graphics market is one of the least glamorous platforms in desktop computing, but it is probably one of the most important since 90% of the PC market is dominated by integrated graphics.  Not only is the chipset itself a valuable prize to AMD and Intel, but the chipset also determines which CPU gets put in to the system.  This article will compare AMD's latest 690G integrated graphics chipset to Intel's G965 integrated graphics chipset.

The AMD 690G launched back in March 2007 and the Intel G965 is more than a year old with its successor the G35 due later this quarter.  That leads to the question of why bother with this comparison since the Intel G35 is due in a month or two.  The reason I'm doing releasing this now is because there is a lot of contention over which CPU is more energy efficient, which chipset does better at gaming, and which chipset is better at playing back video.  The results of this test will also give us a general idea of what to expect with Intel's G35 chipset and it also gives much needed coverage for AMD's integrated graphics chipsets since many people are still under the false impression that AMD doesn't have a motherboard chipset.

As soon as I can get my hands on a G35 chipset or updated drivers that resolve some of the problems, I will post a follow up to this shootout.  I'll also be able to quickly test the upcoming energy efficient AMD BE-2350 low-power processors and some of Intel's newer Core 2 CPUs which have been refined.

Hardware and Software configuration:

AMD 690G platform Intel G965 platform
MSI K9AGM2-FIH motherboard Intel DG965WH motherboard
Size = MicroATX Size = ATX
X2 5600+ 2.8 GHz dual-core CPU E6600 2.4 GHz dual-core CPU
Two 512 MB DDR2-533 DRAM Two 512 MB DDR2-533 DRAM
ATI X1250 integrated graphics Intel GMA 3000 integrated graphics
330 Watt SeaSonic Power Supply 330 Watt SeaSonic Power Supply
Seagate 160 GB SATA 7200 RPM Seagate 160 GB SATA 7200 RPM
Vista x86 32-bit Vista x86 32-bit
ATI Catalyst 7.7 display driver Intel Graphics driver v15.4.3
Default Vista DVD CODEC Default Vista DVD CODEC
Windows Media Player 11 for DVD playback Windows Media Player 11 for DVD playback
Feature and price comparisons
AMD 690G platform Intel G965 platform
MSI K9AGM2-FIH 690G motherboard has integrated HDMI digital video output in addition to VGA analog output.  However, the digital HDMI out isn't going to fix the terrible video playback quality. Intel DG965WH motherboard lacks built-in HDMI and requires an add-on card.  While the card may only cost $10 or less to large manufacturers and PC makers, end-users who build their own computers will have a hard time finding those SDVO ADD2 add-on boards.  Some of the newer G35-based Motherboards being released this quarter will come with HDMI ports.
The AMD 690G only has 4 SATA ports with RAID 0, 1, and 1+0 support.  Neither of these RAID types are suitable for storage servers but is more than sufficient for most PC users. The Intel G965 motherboard has one of the finest integrated storage RAID controllers on any motherboard.  It has 6 SATA ports that support RAID 0, 1, 1+0, and 5.  Its storage performance numbers are extremely good.
AMD X2 5600+ costs $150 Intel E6550 costs $185 (replacement for E6600 which has FSB1333 and newer manufacturing process)
Low cost motherboard at $70. Modest cost motherboard at $115
<Next page - AMD versus Intel on Energy efficiency>

AMD versus Intel on Energy efficiency

Energy efficiency between AMD and Intel is one of the most contentious and difficult things to compare because of the variation in system components beyond just the CPU.  Just the difference in the motherboard is enough to flip the victor from one company to the other and this is why there are so many conflicting benchmarks posted on the Internet.  Some of those benchmarks will declare AMD as the energy efficiency winner while others will declare Intel as the winner.  I've run my own series of tests and I've brought in some external data to compare the numbers so I can explain why there is such a discrepancy in the results.

First we have my power consumption numbers.  Since I used a very high-efficiency power supply, I was able to get some of the lowest power measurements of any of the benchmarks I've seen posted on the Internet.  Note that for typical desktop performance, the X2 5600+ and E6600 from AMD and Intel are roughly the equivalent performance on average though there is WIDE variation depending on the application.  Some applications like scientific "High Performance Computing" workloads will favor AMD while media encoding and gaming workloads will favor Intel.  To get the closest apples-to-apples comparison, these two processors were chosen.

Note: The "peak" power usage results were generated using WPrime v1.53 using two manual threads (must be run as administrator) which cranked both CPU cores to 100% utilization.  Playing back 1080i HD video or 1680x1050 full screen gaming could only generate a little more than half of the load I was looking since they only cranked the CPU to a little more than 50% utilization.  Only highly optimized multi-threaded applications can crank a multi-core CPU to 100% utilization.

The power consumption results as you can see are mixed and it has good news and bad news for both AMD and Intel.  The good news for AMD is that they're able cut their clock speeds and voltages more drastically resulting in a silent PC that dropped down to a measly 54 watts of power consumption in idle which is 12 watts lower than the Intel system's idle state.  This low power state can mostly be maintained while the user is typing up documents and playing back MP3s or other digital audio streams.  Slightly more stressful tasks will take the AMD 690G-based PC up to a 70 to 80 watt state.  The bad news for AMD is that its peak power consumption is substantially higher than Intel's chips and anyone who's constantly playing games on their AMD based PC or anyone who leaves Folding at Home running 24x7 is going to end up with a much bigger electric bill.

The good news for Intel is that their system is able to maintain a very reasonable power consumption levels even under peak loads.  The Intel G965 system with an E6600 CPU is able to get by with 93 watts even under a full load.  The bad news for Intel is that their idle state - while respectable - isn't as low as it could be had Intel been a little more aggressive in cutting clock speeds.  The Intel G965 system ran at 66 watts idle but these results might be slightly unfair to Intel since the motherboard used in the Intel system is a full ATX motherboard with twice the number of memory DIMM slots, twice the number of PCI-E connectors, and 50% more SATA connectors.  The AMD system is using a stripped down MicroATX motherboard so we might be comparing the mileage of a four seat vehicle to a two seat vehicle.

Furthermore, if we look at some power consumption results from Scott Wasson's article at TechReport.com, we can see that Wasson gets the opposite results for idle power consumption where the Intel E6600 system uses 121 watts whereas the AMD X2 5600+ system uses 126 watts in idle.  Now Scott Wasson is actually using the exact same video card for both systems so the only difference is in the motherboard and CPU.  Take a look at the chart I compiled from Wasson's report.  The difference here is explained purely in the difference in motherboards.  The Asus M2N32-SLI motherboard is a more fully loaded motherboard than the Intel D975XBX2 board. Source: Scott Wasson article at TechReport.com

There will also be significant improvements in Intel's new 3-series chipset in energy efficiency.  The P35 chipset for example is able to shave off 8 watts in idle mode compared to similarly equipped 965 motherboards in idle mode.  Furthermore, I have reliable sources that are telling me about Intel's latest "Stepping G" revision of the Core 2 processor line that promises to slash power consumption by a significant amount and it will be due this quarter.  The new Stepping G manufacturing process is able to shift Intel's entire line of processors down one notch on the TDP (Thermal Design Power) scale.  This will for example allow Intel to take their 3.0 GHz "Clovertown" quad-core processor (used in Apple Workstation computers as of April 2007) to go from 150 watts max TDP to 120 watts so that it can be used in 8-core Server configurations.  The existing 65 watt TDP CPUs will most likely use even less power.  When I get my hands on a G35 motherboard and/or Stepping G CPU, I'll do a follow up to this article.

So the lesson here is that the power consumption is heavily dependent on the Motherboard used and the feature set of that motherboard.  Larger motherboards with more sockets and connectors will naturally have more power consumption and smaller MicroATX boards like the MSI K9AGM2-FIH will take less power.  If we factor out the motherboards, Intel and AMD processors have roughly the same idle power consumption but AMD processors consume far more power under peak loads.

To figure out why AMD is able to cut their power consumption so drastically, let's look at what's happening to the voltage and CPU clock speed.  Here we have screen shots of the CPU-Z utility showing the difference between AMD's Cool'n'Quiet technology versus Intel's SpeedStep technology.

AMD Cool'n'Quiet in action:

AMD is willing to slash their clock speed from 2.8 GHz with an FSB multiplier of 14 all the way down to a 5x multiplier which results in a 1 GHz processor.  This is all done in real time depending on the workload and as soon as the computer needs more performance, the FSB multiplier is jacked back up to 14.  This allows AMD to cut most of the power consumption in its CPUs.

Intel Enhanced SpeedStep in action:

Intel does something similar with SpeedStep by cutting their FSB multiplier from 9x to 6x which takes the clock speed from 2.4 GHz to 1.6 GHz and this results in a much more modest power saving in Intel processors.  While that may be good enough to almost match AMD on idle power consumption, my question to Intel is why not make it even better?  If the computer is going to sit there doing nothing most of the time, Intel should try and cut the idle power consumption of a PC using their mainstream CPUs down to 40 watts or below.  It isn't good enough to just have an efficient sleep state since users don't want their computers to fall asleep because they want to be able to access the files and desktop remotely at any time.  We can also forget about asking end-users to configure wake-on-LAN because even a former professional network engineer like me has a hard time over coming some of the difficulties.

<Next page - AMD versus Intel on Video Playback>

AMD versus Intel on Video Playback

Video playback quality has also been one of the more contentious issues with some people accusing Intel of rigging their demos to screw up AMD/ATI at Cebit earlier this year.  I wrote on this topic back then explaining that it was most likely not a case of a rigged test but my poll showed that at least a simple majority of people thought Intel rigged it.  I've now gone ahead and ran a series of tests using the latest graphics drivers from both AMD and Intel and I can assure you that nothing was rigged and I've included actual screenshots for you to see for yourself.  The DVD video playback quality of ATI video cards (even in my higher-end X800 card) leave a lot to be desired.  Anyone who doubts these results can replicate the test themselves and I've fully disclosed the methodology, driver version, software, and hardware.

To test DVD video playback quality, I used the HQV benchmark from Silicon Optics and took screenshots of what I saw.  First we'll start with the diagonal filter test which shows how well it handles the "Jaggies".

Diagonal filter "Jaggies" test: As you can see, AMD's ATI X1250 integrated video card failed badly and all three moving bars were distorted with severe "Jaggies".

Here again, Intel passes the interlacing test while AMD fails.

One of the tests that I couldn't really show in a screen shot was the roller coaster test.  During the test run, the AMD 690G mysteriously stuttered during the playback.

Since a lot of DVDs were converted from 24 fps film, the 3-2 pull-down film conversion test can reveal ugly patterns and the rendering of detail.

3-2 pull-down film conversion test: As you can see, the Intel G965 passed with flying colors while the AMD 690G failed.  The race car and fence is all blurry and you can see an unnatural pattern in the stands.

The next test is a color bar and resolution test.  It checks to see if the DVD player can play back very fine details and whether or not the color is rendered faithfully.  Once again, Intel passes while AMD fails.

Intel G965 - Color bar and resolution test: All details are shown properly with Intel's G965.

AMD 690G - Color bar and resolution test: The AMD 690G failed to produce a stable image.  The entire screen flickered badly on this test and the details in the green square I enclosed were not visible at all which means the resolution is very poor.  Even the words "Belle Nuit" are blurry and the numbers in the grey bars in the lower left hand corner are barely legible whereas the Intel G965 renders it faithfully.

Of course I could have ended my video playback testing right here and declared Intel's G965 perfect for DVD playback, but I took the testing a bit further.  I took some DVDs with animated content and found that even the G965 had interlacing problems with certain video content.  Silicon Optics HQV benchmark unfortunately doesn't test any animated content and the video card manufacturers and DVD makers don't put in the right optimizations for animated content.  Most of the time the quality was OK but there were definitely problems with 4:3 full screen content and I'm going to be working with Intel to see if they can resolve these problems.  I first reported this problem with NVIDIA and ATI video cards when Vista back in January when Vista launched and the problem has been confirmed by Microsoft.  Note that this isn't just a Vista problem, interlacing artifacts have plagued video playback on all platforms for a long time.

One other test that the AMD ATI X1250 integrated graphics adapter did do well in was when I tried to play back my HDV (1920 by 1080 1080i) content that I captured from my consumer-grade Sony HDR-HC1 camcorder.  Note that the file format has a ".dvr-ms" extension in Windows Vista.  The video was able to play back smoothly without any stuttering.  That was a pleasant surprise since I still can't even get an NVIDIA 6600 128 MB PCI-Express discrete graphics adapter to play that HDV footage back smoothly at full screen and it only works at 50% size.  Intel's G965 did slightly better than the NVIDIA 6600 but it still stuttered a little at full screen.  Ironically, all of these systems will smoothly play back 1080i HD MPEG2 content captured from over the air ATSC broadcasts and they will all play back the 1080i Windows Media Video content.  Ironically the ATI X1250 can play back HD Video smoothly but it won't play back regular DVDs smoothly.  As soon as I get an HD DVD drive (maybe the cheap Xbox 360 add-on drive), I'll try the HD DVD version of the HQV test.

<Next page - AMD 690G versus Intel G965 gaming performance>

AMD 690G versus Intel G965 gaming performance

Doing a gaming benchmark on integrated graphics solutions is kind of like comparing dumb and dumber.  But since we're in the mood to compare, I have to give the users some idea of what kind of gaming experience they can expect.  To test one of the more popular games, I dragged over a copy of my Valve folder which contains all of my Steam games which includes Half-life 2 and Counter Strike Source. 

Since everyone is using LCDs these days instead of CRT tube monitors, even the cheapest $110 17" LCD displays have 1280x1024 resolution and this makes it very difficult to get decent gaming performance.  Sure you can run lower resolutions but it looks absolutely ugly on an LCD display which can't optically change resolution.  The resolution I tested is 1680 by 1050 and that's a very popular resolution since 20-22 inch LCDs that run $200 to $400 are very popular in new computers.  I ran the following two test scenarios with differing amounts of detail levels.

High quality setting for Counter Strike Source torture test:

  • Resolution - 1680x1050
  • Model detail - High
  • Texture detail - High
  • Shader detail - High
  • Water detail - Reflect world
  • Shadow detail - High
  • Color correction - Disabled
  • Antialiasing mode - None
  • Filtering mode - Anisotropic 2x
  • VSync - Disabled
  • High Dynamic Range - Full (if available)

Low quality settings for Counter Strike Source torture test:

  • Resolution - 1680x1050
  • Model detail - Low
  • Texture detail - Low
  • Shader detail - Low
  • Water detail - Simple reflections
  • Shadow detail - Low
  • Color correction - Disabled
  • Antialiasing mode - None
  • Filtering mode - Trilinear
  • VSync - Disabled
  • High Dynamic Range - None

Note that G965 version 1.56 Beta drivers for Vista were used.  Intel has lagged horribly behind on providing full 3D acceleration and it's been more than a year since the G965 launched yet we won't see production 3D optimized drivers until September 2007.

As you can see, these are pretty pathetic results though AMD's newer 690G is the winner.  You need at least 60 fps average (which means it can still drop to 30 fps or lower under extreme situations) for gaming to be enjoyable.  Ideally you would want VSync turned on because you want to draw full frames to avoid ugly tearing effects and the only way to sustain the 60 fps rate required to match the refresh rate on an LCD is to have average frame rates in the 100 fps range.  Unfortunately you can't get these results unless you're willing to spend $150 on an ATI X1950GT or at least on NVIDIA 8600 GT for $119 and the majority of PC shoppers won't spend that much money on a video card and they're stuck with whatever the Computer Retailer bundles in the system.

Conclusions

Breakdown of scoring (1 to 10 scale)
  AMD Intel
CPU idle power consumption 8 * 7 **
CPU peak power consumption 4 * 8 **
Motherboard power consumption 8 *** 6 ****
HQV DVD benchmarks 2 9
DVD (Animation content) 4 6
HDV 1080i Camcorder ".dvr-ms" 8 3
Counter Strike Source torture test 3 2
Motherboard price 8 *** 5 ****
Storage capability 5 *** 8 ****
Digital Video HDMI output 9 *** 5 ****
CPU performance/dollar 8 * 6 **
CPU Overclocking potential 3 * 9 **
* AMD X2 5600+ CPU ** Intel E6600 CPU (being replaced by E6550 which has a better price) *** MSI K9AGM2-FIH 690G **** Intel DG965WH G965

The results are what they are and it's hard to declare a winner based on these mixed results because it completely depends on an individual's personal requirements.  If you're looking for a simple low-cost PC and you don't care about DVD video playback quality or serious gaming, the AMD 690G may be the perfect solution for you.  Those who do care about DVD video playback quality for a Media Center PC or storage capability should wait a few more months for the Intel G35 chipset which is superior in every way to the Intel G965.  Then again you may look at the gaming results and decide you don't want anything to do with integrated graphics when the NVIDIA DirectX 10 8400GS 256 MB Discrete graphics adapter is available for $60 or something better.  The thing about integrated graphics is that it is essentially a free video card and you can always add a video card later if you decide it isn't good enough.

These results contain praise and criticism for AMD and Intel.  I'm hoping that they will respond with better drivers and better products which will ultimately result in happier customers and more sales. 

Topics: Hardware, Intel, Processors

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47 comments
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  • Intel is best for Linux

    George - I know you don't particularly care, but Intel is best for Linux as it open-sources its drivers, so there are never any problems with kernel updates or performance. My next PC will definitely have Intel onboard graphics, unless AMD see the light.
    icheyne
    • You're right, but I think AMD and ATI is improving

      You're right, but I think AMD and ATI is improving. Their Catalyst latest Linux drivers are starting to support 3D accelleration.
      georgeou
    • AMD & Nvidia is the combo to go with

      For high-end computing on Linux then the way to go is AMD CPU's and NVidia graphics cards.
      Robert Crocker
      • AMD & ATI better for future linux...

        I'd have to agree with George, that AMD/ATI are really improving linux support lately. nVidia seems to be stagnant and haven't seen much updates to their linux stuff. For older hardware, definantely nVidia. For newer stuff, ATI is looking better and better.
        Narg
  • Good comparison

    You hit with three different points. AMD wasn't bad, but not a clear winner.

    Obviously if I want video play back over playing games, I need to tell ATI off.

    Personally, I see a low end PC needing Video playback far more than gaming performance. If a gamer has any sense of dedication at all, they will get even a cheap $100 dollar card to boost performance to gaming. AMD should consider this, although the budget minded gamer is becoming more mainstream because of the $600 video card.
    nucrash
    • Neither won, they both need some major improvements

      Neither won, they both need some major improvements. Intel has the G35 coming out very soon so we'll see how that does. We already know the P35 is a great chipset. AMD will have something a little later since the 690G is still relatively new.

      Me personally, I would still go for a P35 chipset and get an NVIDIA 8400 DX10 card for $60. I wouldn't go for integrated chipsets myself but that's just me. Integrated graphics will always rule 90% of the market and that's just how it is. I thought doing a full blown comparison for that market will do some good and it puts a little heat on AMD and Intel to come up with some better drivers.

      You're right that the low-end system (or Media PC) will always need video playback more than they need gaming.
      georgeou
      • Though Intregrated Rules the market...

        That doesn't mean that all of them are used. I think only about 80% of the market actually use intregrated chips because of the open PCI express slot does allow for expansion.

        I have had to install many video cards into systems where the user only had a onboard video card.

        Media PCs definitely shift the focus away from the add-on video card. I won't disagree with that.
        nucrash
  • About power consumption differences

    I haven't been able to reach techreport.com so I'm not sure how the power consumption numbers for each of the test machines were determined - was a watt meter used to measure the consumption of each unit?

    It appears to me that the two machines that you used are so closely matched that it would be difficult to accurately determine the difference in cost of running them over some typical period. In your example where you run both machines at 100% load, the difference between them is 34 Watts. If you ran both machines at 100% 24x7x365 the thirstier machine would cost about $20 more (for the entire year) to run than its rival. If you have a server farm with thousands of boxes, power consumption makes a big difference - if you're running a single PC, the difference adds up to about a half a tank of gas over a year.
    WiredGuy
    • Something to consider

      The day where more than one PC is in a home has already come and gone. Many of us have been collecting them and run them well past their useful age.

      So if you are like me and will probably get one for each kid, then the difference in the amount of wattage required for each PC becomes critical.
      nucrash
      • Agreed - but the diffeence is so small

        George's post illustrates the difficulty in choosing a more efficient platform.

        According to George's numbers the AMD uses 18% less power at idle than the Intel, but 26% more power than the Intel at full load. If you knew that you would be running the PC 24 hours a day the AMD platform will consume less energy since most computers are at or near idle most of the time. Even then, the difference in overall power consumption between the two platforms is probably less than 10% - measurable to be sure, but with only a handful of machines, not enough to weigh very heavy on your choice.
        WiredGuy
        • Sorry to say this, but Intel for low end

          I know that price, power consumption, and 3D performance show AMD as a winner, but every time I have seen a low end computer, the requirement that I hear about more than anything else is Video Playback.

          I have a Intel Core Duo with a 945 chipset which is an older model, but does quite well for a laptop and the video playback is excellent, with little load on the CPU.
          nucrash
        • Again, that's MicroATX versus ATX

          Again, that's MicroATX versus ATX. You have fewer memory, storage, and PCI-E slots which may not be ok for everyone. TechReport had idle advantage for Intel because they used a slightly bigger motherboard for AMD than Intel so the difference here is in the motherboard you pick.

          Furthermore, you have to remember that the soon-to-be-released G35 and Stepping G processors will shave even more power off.
          georgeou
    • They used a very expensive meter that graphed power versus time

      They used a very expensive meter that graphed power versus time. Scott Wasson's work was very thorough. But the point was that the differences are explained in the motherboard. AMD and Intel have roughly the same idle power consumption but Intel has far superior peak consumption.
      georgeou
      • Roughly the same?

        George, last time I checked, 66 watts to 54 watts is about 23% higher power consumption; and, if you factor in the amount of time that the average user is running at idle vs. the time that he runs at peak, it would appear to me to be a rather substantial AMD advantage. I have read most of your posts in the last couple of years, and I detect a marked Intel bias. That is fine, as far as it goes-everyone has their preferences. I have a personal preference for AMD ever since the P-III days, and the P4 basically sucked, but I have been considering switching back since Core 2 Duo came out. All I ask is that you attempt to restrain your bias and to not slant your story. Peak power consumption is something we need to know, and you did state that it's VERY hard to drive a dual core to 100% useage. However, you do your readers a disservice by not pointing out that the average user will probably NEVER hit 100% CPU usage, and spends the vast majority of his time, whether it be surfing or word processing, at a state very near idle.
        Just my two cents worth-
        justanitguy
        • Did you read the rest of the page where AMD used 6 watts more in idle?

          Did you read the rest of the page where the AMD system used 6 more watts in idle? The difference is in the motherboard. AMD hand picked this stripped down microATX board to hand out to the press to get them to say how AMD has superior idle power consumption while everyone else (Intel) hands out regular full size ATX boards. Next time when I get the G35, I'm going to pick an equally stripped down MicroATX board and we'll see how it turns out.
          georgeou
  • Video playback results

    George, with the video playback testing you conducted with HQV, does your version actually declare a "pass" and "fail?" If so, please let me know which version you're using. The HQV I have does not denote a pass/fail - it doesn't render a verdict - it only show what a "pass" and "fail" would look like. Therefore, it's up to me/my eyes what passes/fails. I'm interested so I can prove to clients that the test results are "legitimate" and not just my opnion.
    jay_tcb
    • No version of HQV declares pass or fail

      No version of HQV declares pass or fail; it's subjective results. However, I like to present the data (screen shots) as is for people to see themselves and I would have to think that someone would have to be legally blind to disagree with my findings.
      georgeou
      • Gotcha, but then why use the screen shots you did?

        The data you presented (screen shots) were the "PASS" and "FAIL" reference pages/screens of what a "PASS" and a "FAIL" would look like. The screen shots you posted were not the actual results of each platform. Are you following me? I guess the question is - did you post PASS/FAIL images of HQV's reference screens to depict the AMD/Intel results? Or did you capture/post the actual results screen for each system?
        jay_tcb
        • I typed those in for illustration purposes

          I typed those in for illustration purposes. The labels were layed on top of the actual screen shots.
          georgeou