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:-