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MSI P7NGM Digital Review

Date: 2009-1-28

   NVIDIA's Big mGPU Push NVIDIA has been whipping up a storm on the integrated GPU front recently. Last year saw the debut of its GeForce 9300/9400 mGPU chipsets, which tethered the GPU prowess o...

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NVIDIA's Big mGPU Push

NVIDIA has been whipping up a storm on the integrated GPU front recently. Last year saw the debut of its GeForce 9300/9400 mGPU chipsets, which tethered the GPU prowess of its GeForce brand (albeit a GeForce 8400 class) to a solid motherboard chipset to produce one of the best chipsets with an integrated graphics solution for the Intel platform. Having Apple as one of the launch partners and seeing the mobile variant debut in all the new Apple MacBooks is nothing short of a huge win for NVIDIA.

The company has continued down this path, unveiling its Ion platform at CES 2009. The popular Atom processor is the target this time, with NVIDIA adapting the GeForce 9400 mGPU to work with this CPU. Given that the netbook segment has been the sole bright spot in a PC market that has been affected by the economic malaise, we think that this is a good move if NVIDIA manages to pull it off successfully. (We don't know enough about the power consumption and pricing yet, but we should be able to give you a good update of our first-hand account, real soon.)

We highly doubt that Intel has given its blessings for this new competitor. After all, our own testing had shown the GeForce 9300/9400 mGPU to be faster than Intel's G45 chipset so there's no doubt that the Intel GMA 950 integrated graphics on the typical Atom-based offering is heavily outmatched. NVIDIA is therefore understandably keen on making its integrated chipsets find home in everything from notebooks to desktops.

However, at its debut, we didn't find many choices for the GeForce 9300/9400 mGPU for the desktop, while the mobile front only had the Apple MacBooks. How has the situation changed since? An online check showed that there were around seven vendors offering GeForce 9300/9400 mGPU desktop motherboards and appropriately, we snagged an MSI version of the chipset for testing.

This board, the MSI P7NGM-Digital is based on the GeForce 9300 mGPU and like many of its class, comes in mATX format. Before we proceed to the review proper, here's what we found in the retail package and its specifications:-

  • 1 x SATA data cables
  • 1 x SATA power converter cable
  • 1 x 80-conductor Ultra ATA data cable
  • I/O shield
  • Driver CDs
  • User manual
  • Quick installation guide

    MSI P7NGM-Digital Technical Specifications
    CPU Support
    • Supportsall 65/45nm Intel LGA775processors (Conroe or later)
    • Quad-Core ready
    • NVIDIA GeForce 9300 mGPU/nForce 730i (MCP7A)
    • Supports 4unbuffered DIMM of 1.8V DDR2 SDRAM
    • Supports up to 8GB memory size
    • 667/800MHz dual channelDDR2 memoryarchitecture
    • nForce MCP7A
    • 6 SATA 3.0Gbps ports
    • NVIDIA MediaShield Storage
      • Support AHCI controller with SATA RAID 0, RAID 1,RAID 5 and RAID 0+1, JBOD mode
    • JMicron JMB368 PCIe to PATA controller
      • 1 x IDE connector supporting up to two ATA-133 IDEdevices
    • Realtek ALC888 HD Audio CODEC
    • Up to 7.1-channel audio output
    • Realtek RTL8111C PCIe Gigabit Ethernet controller
    IEEE 1394 (FireWire)
    • JMicron JMB381 chipset (Optional)
    • Up to 400Mbps
    Rear I/O
    • 4 x USB 2.0ports
    • 1 x RJ45 LANport
    • Audio jacks
    • 1 x HDMI port
    • 1 x analog VGA port
    • 1 x DVI-D port
    • 1 x IEEE 1394 port
    • 1x PS/2keyboard port
    • 1 x PS/2 mouse port
    Internal Connectors
    • 1x Floppy connector
    • 1 x Ultra ATAIDE connector
    • 1 x S/PDIF-out header
    • 6 x SATAconnectors
    • 1 x COM port header
    • 1 x Parallel port header
    • 1 x IEEE 1394 header (optional)
    • 3 USB 2.0 headers (Up to 6 USB 2.0 ports)
    • 1 x TPM module header (optional)
    Expansion Slots
    • 1 x PCIe x16 slot (PCI Express 2.0) 
    • 1 x PCIe x1slot
    • 2 xPCI slots
    • mATX FormFactor,  24.5 x 24.5cm

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