Review: How good are G33 graphics?
MSI G33 M7357 is a motherboard with integrated graphics and it should be interesting to anyone who doesn’t find graphics that important, and wants to get a good deal in buying an office computer. This combination of chipset with graphics processor in the chip is quite convenient for the OEM market, so we often find computer configurations with some integrated solutions. The prices of these computers are lower than discrete graphics systems’ prices, but the capabilities are also proportionally lower.
Intel's graphics media accelerator GMA 3100 is a part of G33 Express chipset and it’s capable of running Vista Aero, high-definition video content, usual office applications, and gaming on low resolutions. If you really want real PCIe graphics, Bearlake G33 Express chipset with one PCI Express x16 port, isn’t much slower than mainstream oriented P35 Express chipset. However, P35 scores better, especially while overclocking, and G33 just can’t top it.
When we talk of new generation of Intel chipsets, integrated graphics have three iterations, two of which are already available. The cheapest version is named G31, somewhere in the middle is our tested G33, while G35 will be a top product and we’re expecting it soon. At the same time it will be more interesting to readers, while G33 and G31 are more OEM orientated. G33 Express saves power, so thermal dissipation of the chipset (including G33 and ICH9 together) will be less than 20W.
G31 still uses the old Input/Output Controller Hub (ICH) ICH7, supports only DDR2 800 memories, it is limited by system bus of 1066MHz, but it will support 45nm processors as well as current Core 2 Duo and Core 2 Quad processors. Of course, besides all that it’s cheaper.
Intel Graphics Media Accelerator (GMA) 3100 is a common feature of both G31 and G33, and it is still only DirectX 9c and it supports Shader model 2.0 and OpenGL 1.4. Although we don’t see Shader model 3.0 or 4.0, DirectX 9c is a prerequisite for Vista compatibility and the “Vista ready” sticker.
The top of the offer, G35, supports DirectX 10, Intel claims. It is based on the new graphics media accelerator 3500, with Shader model 4.0, OpenGL 2.0 and it will replace currently popular G965 chipset. The new and the old chipsets will be pin-compatible and they will use the same ICH8 Southbridge. We learned from Intel that the driver for this chipset will solve many game and application compatibility problems.
G33 Express chipset is not supposed to replace the G965, but rather the lower 945G model, and it comes with new Input/Output controller version ICH9. Apart from the standard options, options with RAID support (ICH9R) or Digital-Home option (ICH9DH) are also available. New features of ICH9 Southbridge are twelve USB 2.0 plugs, and integrated native support for port multiplayer and port disable on eSATA ports.
This chipset supports the latest multi-core processors up to FSB 1333 as well as upcoming 45 nanometer quad core Yorkfield and dual core Wolfdale processors. All Core 2 Duo, Pentium dual core and Celeron processors are supported, but those based on Netburst architecture are not. We’re talking about Pentium D, Pentium Extreme, Pentium 4 and Celeron D. The exception are Celeron 400 series and Intel Pentium Dual core E2000 series that are supported.
With the third generation of chipsets, Intel decided to offer DDR3 memory support, and we can see that in G33 and P35 Express chipsets. For now, the only DDR3 memory supported is 1066MHz, but that is about to change as X38 chipset is about to be launched, and it is supposed to support the new PCI Express 2.0 standard.
The G33, as a weaker version of this chipset, is not likely to offer DDR3 support. G33 Express currently supports DDR2 memory 677/800MHz, but also DDR3 memory running at 1066MHz. MSI G33 works with DDR2 800/667MHz memory with system bus at 1333/1066/800MHz.
Some already seen options like Turbo Memory are featured in the G33 chipset. Combined with ICH9R Southbridge, Turbo Memory can be seen as PCIe 1x card or NAND memory on the motherboard. It has a task of improving the system performance or speeding up the boot process.
It is time to take a look at the MSI G33 motherboard and its characteristics.
MSI G33 Motherboard
Although relatively small, this motherboard has all the ports and slots. One PCIe x16 slot just in case if integrated graphics can’t cope with your demands; one PCIe 1x slot that you can forget if you’re using a graphics card with dual slot cooler, and two always welcome PCI slots.
1x PS/2 keyboard
1x PS/2 mouse
2x eSATA II
1x Gb LAN
6x USB 2.0
7.1 Audio analog
Although G33 Chipset enables DVI and HDMI, most manufacturers like MSI offer only VGA out. Six USB 2.0 ports placed on the back panel will always come in handy. Compared to MSI P35 Platinum version, the back panel lacks only SPDIF digital audio out.
Board revision is 1.0 and it supports DDR2 memory. In future revisions it is possible that MSI will include DDR3 support, but for now it is not necessary as the prices of DDR3 are still sky-high, and after all this board is not aimed at performance-hungry portion of the market anyway. Therefore we see memory support for DDR2 800/667MHz memory interface. It is possible to plug in up to 8GB of memory.
ICH9R supports six SATA II ports but it lacks IDE support. The purple SATA ports are SATA masters. Too bad there are only two out of predicted four ports. Implemented Marvell 88SE6111 enables one extra internal SATA port and more importantly one IDE.
MSI opted for AMI BIOS. Over-clocking settings are placed in Frequency/Voltage Control menu. DDR2 memory doesn’t run at 1066MHz, while system bus runs as specified, 1333MHz with no problems.
Primary Graphics Adapter:
This is where on-board graphics settings are set. You can choose Internal, PCI-E and PCI. We used Internal (Intel GMA 3100) and PCI-E (HD 2400XT) and for integrated graphics we chose DVMT mode in Chipset Features field. In this mode, graphics accelerator doesn’t receive a fixed amount of memory; it gets maximum 256 MB and requirement-based memory usage.
FSB Options: Auto, Manual
Bus Speeds: Auto, 266 to 600 in 1MHz increments
Memory Ratios: Auto, 1:1, 1:1.2, 1:1.25, 1:1.5, 1:1.60, 1:1:67, 1:2, 1:2:67
Memory Speed: Auto, Manual
PCIe Speeds: 100MHz~133MHz in 1MHz Increments
Core Voltage: Auto, 1.275V to 2.0625 in -0.0125V increments
CPU Clock Multiplier: Auto, manual if EIST disabled
Core 2 Duo: 6x-11x in 1X increments - Core 2 Duo, downwards unlocked
Core 2 Extreme: 6x-60X, downwards unlocked
DRAM Voltage: Auto, 1.80V to 2.10V in 0.05V increments, 2.10V to 3.30V in 0.10V increments
DRAM Timing Control: Auto, Manual
NB Voltage: 1.25V to 1.60V in 0.025V increments, 1.65V
SB I/O Voltage: 1.50V, 1.60V, 1.70V, 1.80V
SB Core Voltage: 1.05V, 1.15V
FSB VTT Voltage: 1.20V to 1.55V in 0.025V increment, 1.60V
MSI G33 1.0 (Supplied by MSI)
Intel Core 2 Duo E6700 (Supplied by Intel)
Freezer 7 Pro (Supplied by Artic Cooling)
Kingston 2GB PC2-9600U Kit KHX9600D2K2/2G (Supplied by Kingston)
CL5-5-5-15-CR2T at 1.90V@ 800MHz
Integrated Graphics Intel G33 (MSI)
Gecube HD 2400XT
Artic Cooling - Artic Fan 12 PWM
Knowing that Intel GMA 3100 graphics accelerator is an integral part of MSI G33 motherboard, and Intel is selling it as Vista ready, we’ve decided to test it with Vista OS too. We installed the latest available Vista and Windows XP drivers and compared the results we got on both systems. As Intel integrated graphics will, in many cases be replaced with a discrete graphics card, we compared the results using a ATI HD 2400XT card.
Gordian Knot/XVID 1.1.2:
For our Gordian Knot testing we took an PAL epsiode from "Babylon 5" with a length of 41 minutes, 57 seconds and 8 frames.
We tried to "emulate" the most common usage of Gordian Knot:
1st: We have a perfect master, so we only de-interlace the content and resize it, without any other manipulations, we marked this as "fast".
2nd: You get bad mastering on many DVDs, especially "old" stuff or when the studios are in a hurry for the release. In this case you like to improve the picture quality, which is done by filtering the content. You can choose from tons of filters for any purposes you can think of, we only used the most common "undot", "FluxSmooth" and "MSharpen". Of course we also de-interlaced, filters were done before any resizing took place (which is slower). We marked this as "slow".
If you need more infos about filters, we recommend reading the doom9.org forum.
First four results are made using the integrated graphics, the rest is by using GeCube HD 2400XT graphics card.
The same episode we encoded in the previous test was used for our MP3-testing. We don't recommend using MP3 for encoding, because AC3 can do the job better, but nearly 42 minutes gives us approximately the length of any given album.
A measurement in seconds, as seen on many sites, is useless, because the differences are too small. So we used the built-in play/CPU ratio, this means the CPU is encoding x-times faster than the track-length. Fast memory does not play an important role here. For your convenience we show you also the single-threaded benches, they will be produced with any other L.A.M.E. version, because only lameMT can do more than one thread and take advantage of a second dice.
We used these settings: lamemt --vbr-new -q 2 -V 2 -m j --strictly-enforce-ISO --resample 48
The difference is noticeable; Windows XP users have a slight advantage. Those who opt for a graphics card instead of integrated solutions will greatly benefit from it, as the performance is comparable to results scored by P35 Platinum motherboard, also from MSI.
We already mentioned that MSI G33 is not quite a champ when it comes to graphics. Intel GMA 3100 is a low-end product, and we don’t recommend it for gaming. Office job and fun with some online games is all that the current generation of integrated graphics can bring.
We tested two games, FEAR and Company Of Heroes. In the next review we’ll pay more attention to games, when we get the results of MSI K9AGM2 that features ATI integrated graphics 690G and AMD processor.
We tried more settings in games, but we managed to make the games playable only in low settings, 1024x768 resolution and with all the effects off.
ATI HD 2400XT looks fantastic compared to Intel GMA 3100.
The low GMA 3100 scores are partly due to bad drivers for Intel integrated graphics, but even the new version of drivers shouldn’t bring that much improvement.
Very bad total result in 3D Mark 06 is never going to be better as integrated graphics accelerator supports only Shader Model 2.0. The new G35 will feature Shader Model 4.0.
If we neglect the graphics, G33 chipset performance is good.
High Definition Video
We tried HD video with 1080p quality and we were pleasantly surprised as G33 and Intel Clear Video Technology enabled smooth playing of a high quality video. However we were disappointed upon learning that Cyber Link PowerDVD can’t play HD DVD. Intel graphics driver failed the Cyberlink test.
This time we tested both idle and under a full workload.
G33 with integrated graphics will, of course, spend less energy than when paired with a graphics card.
Power consumption is low; it seems that VRM is very effective, although it’s only 4 phase design. Vista on the other hand might set you back a couple of bucks when the power bill arrives, as it needs more power than XP.
MSI G33 is a motherboard that will make a non-demanding user happy, and do its job properly.
G33 performance is good, but it’s not over-clocking friendly. Intel integrated graphics is still not good enough to replace low end graphics cards, but it will be sufficient for surfing the internet on Vista OS.
A small board means low power consumption, and if you crave better graphics there is one PCIe slot.
The board is not quite the cheapest in the line, but priced at less than €100 it is a good integrated solution that will support the processors coming in 2008.