Articles: Mainboards

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3D Games

The results of synthetic benchmarks give us an idea of the graphics solutions relative performance, but do not illustrate the situation in actual games. Let’s fill in this gap. First, we decided to see how Mini-ITX systems with integrated graphics can perform in contemporary games. For example, such as Crysis Warhead. Note that since we didn’t expect any remarkable results, we set the image quality to Performance right from the start. Only in this test mode one of the testing participants performed at a relatively acceptable level in the lowest resolution.

The advantage of the integrated GeForce 9300 chipset is out of the question, however, we still can’t regard it as a fully-fledged 3D accelerator. However, it is way too early to make any conclusions from the results of only one single game, so we also tested our Mini-ITX platforms in Far Cry 2.

When the image quality is set to Low and DirectX 10 functionality is disabled, Zotac GeForce 9300-ITX WiFi performs quite well, unlike its rival. Nevertheless, we can see that contemporary games run acceptably fast on platforms with integrated GPUs only if we sacrifice the image quality.

However, the previous-generation games run much more impressively in miniature Mini-ITX systems.

For example, the frame rate in Unreal Tournament 3 released in 2007 is on an acceptable level in low resolutions even at medium image quality. However, this is only true for GeForce 9300 based mainboard: Intel based platform again proves totally unsuitable for gaming.

To complete the picture we added a popular race arcade called Trackmania Nations Forever. Although it is a relatively new game, it doesn’t load the graphics processors as heavily as first-person 3D shooters.

And again only Nvidia chipset and Zotac GeForce 9300-ITX WiFi mainboard demonstrate acceptable performance in low resolutions. Although Intel solution is not completely hopeless here, either.

Nevertheless, summing up the results of this test session we can conclude that Intel DG45FC cannot be considered a gaming platform: integrated graphics performance may only suffice to launch some very old 3D applications at best. Zotac GeForce 9300-ITX WiFi proved a better choice in this respect. However, it is important to keep in mind that although this solution is pretty powerful for an integrated GPU, it can only be fast enough in the lowest resolutions and with the lowest image quality settings. Therefore, Mini-ITX mainboards should barely be considered as a serious choice for a universal computer system.

Anyway, do not forget that in some cases the gaming performance of miniature systems may be improved by add-on graphics accelerators: some Mini-ITX mainboards, like Zotac GeForce 9300-ITX WiFi, allow that. Although, in this case the system may no longer be that compact anymore.

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