Friday, 1 June 2007

System Builder Tip: Vista Aero Performance Rating - ATI X1250 on AMD 690G Chipset

A while back, we went to the AMD/Microsoft TechTour which offered us a Tour Bundle at a discount over purchasing through distribution.

According to the coupon we received to redeem for the bundle, we were to get an AMD X2 4400+, Asus M2A-VM AM2 series motherboard, a copy of Windows Vista Ultimate NFR, and a one year subscription to McAfee's security product *cough*. ;0)

We decided to take a risk and purchase the bundle.

This is the first time in over five (5) years that we have purchased anything AMD!

Why? Because, we were burned so badly by a number of AMD based systems back then that we never turned back. We had to fight with the motherboards to work with any add-in cards like network or video for example. Or, we had to fight to get the drivers to work properly or the system to run stable at all. There were a number of times we were replacing components or motherboards to get things to play together nicely. Any so-called cost savings was obliterated by the time fighting with the systems.

So, that was that. Remember the three strike rule? :D

And here we are, with the processor, motherboard, some Kingston RAM, a couple of 320 GB Seagates setup in a RAID 1 array and having just finished installing Windows Vista Ultimate.

All in all, the install went smoothly.

The one glitch we ran into was getting Vista to recognize the on board ATI X1250 video subsystem. Vista refused to. After fighting with it for about half an hour, we extracted the driver ZIP file, and went into the Device Manager and forced the driver to update via the Update Drivers button on the Standard VGA driver.

After a reboot the Standard VGA was still there, though the display setting was reset to 640 x 480. So, tried one more reboot and it worked. We now had Vista recognizing the video as an ATI X1250.

By the way, we had a bit of a struggle trying to figure out where to find the video driver in the first place. The lingo used on Asus' site didn't have anything labelled video. It only had what turned out to be one massive "chipset" driver:

Um, Intel's "chipset" drivers tend to be something like 2-3 MB. So, the only logical conclusion with a 149 MB download, is that Asus packages both the chipset and video drivers together.

That is a pretty chunky download by the way.

Here is the current Catalyst driver size:

A whole whopping 40 MB.

So, take 3 MB for Intel's chipset drivers and 40 MB for ATI's Catalyst drivers, and that leaves 100 MB+ of what exactly? Not too sure on that.

The first run at the Windows System Assessment Tool failed. That was after the first reboot post ATI driver install.

The Windows System Assessment Tool ran fine after the second reboot.

Here is how the ATI X1250 did:

Desktop performance for Windows Aero scored a 2.5 and the 3D business and gaming graphics performance scored a 2.8.

So, how does the on board ATI X1250 stack up to Intel's on board GMA 3000 series video chipset?

Not really that well I am afraid.

In our System Builder Tip: Vista Aero Performance Rating - Intel GMA 3000 on DQ965GF and ATI FireMV 2200 PCI-E,
the on board GMA 3000 series graphics ran a 3.9 score for Vista Aero and a 3.7 score for 3D Graphics.
Intel's 945GM chipset in a Toshiba Portégé M500 had a Desktop performance for Windows Aero score of 2.0 while the 3D business and gaming graphics performance scored 2.8.

For most users that use the Internet, e-mail, and perhaps Microsoft Office this performance level would be okay.

I think that the occasional gamer may be a bit disappointed in the ATI X1250 performance and go out and pick up at least an ATI X1600 or above to get better performance.

Please keep in mind that since this is our first foray into AMD in so many years, we are not exactly up on what's the fastest and newest stuff from them and those that manufacture their system parts. So, hopefully we won't need any flame retardant underwear! ;)

This particular box is going to be our test desktop mule for our SBS Cougar beta testing. So, it is going to get a lot of use, as well as tear downs. Hopefully it is up to the task.

Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists

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