The final page in the testing portion of this review will focus on gaming related graphics tests. While I had hoped to run 3DMark Vantage on the onboard graphics solution, it would not complete. It kept putting up errors before the first test would even start, so I opted to run 3DMark06 instead.
3DMark06 provides a quick overview of a system's 3D gaming potential, and the chart below shows the results (in unitless Marks) for the total, SM2.0, HDR, and CPU scores. Testing was conducted at a resolution of 1280x1024 (no anti-aliasing / optimal filtering), and higher values are better.
What we see is that the onboard ATI Radeon HD 3200 graphics solution really isn't going to cut it for high end games. I found that it performed very well in desktop and multimedia applications, but the DirectX 10 capabilities don't really matter if the games are choppy and slow. With the Sapphire HD3870 card installed the performance was nearly identical to what I have experienced with this card installed on Intel P35 and X48 based motherboards.
The next two tests take benchmarks included in actual 3D games in order to get a real world assesment of the performance. The first game tested is a new racing game and my new favorite, Track Mania Nations Forever. The game was configured for a resolution of 1280x1024, with 4x anti-aliasing and 4x anisotropic filtering. The results below are presented in units of frames per second, and higher is better.
Not only were the results for the onboard graphics rather low, the performance of the HD3870 card was well below what I have come to expect on other motherboards. In all fairness to the integrated graphics, the settings could be reduced to make the game playable, but it didn't look all that great and many of the details I have come to expect were lost.
Call of Juarez is a first person shooter game with a wild west theme. A free download is available that benchmarks the game's DirectX 10 capabilities, and it was used to test the ECS A780GM-A. With a resolution of 1280x1024 and settings on high, the minimum, average, and maximum frame rate values were captured and presented in the chart below (higher is better).
The results are once again too low to enjoy the game, and even with more relaxed settings things do not improve to the point where you might actually care. And as was experienced in Track Mania Nations Forever, the performance of the HD3870 seems a bit lower than what I have come to expect on other systems.
There has yet to be an integrated graphics solution that can answer the call for desktop, multimedia, and gaming applications, but we may be getting closer. The ATI Radeon HD 3200 solution may not be great, but with DirectX 10 support and the ability to run Hybrid CrossFire, user's have more power than ever. Hybrid CrossFire will hopefully develop into something far more interesting in the coming years, but for now you can really only take advantage of it with a motherboard featuring Radeon HD 3200 integrated graphics and a Radeon HD 3400 series discrete graphics card. Two low power, low price solutions that can work together for greater power, but nothing that will impress owners of more serious gaming hardware.