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[nextpage title=”Introduction”]

SiS 771 is a chipset with integrated graphics targeted to the AMD platform to be released by the end of this year. We’ve got from SiS a reference board for this chipset and since motherboards based on the same chipset usually achieve similar performance, you can have a clue on what performance to expect from motherboards based on the forthcoming SiS 771.

A reference board is a motherboard manufactured by the chipset maker to make internal tests and also to ship to their partners (i.e., motherboard manufacturers) so they can create their own products based on the given chipset.

SiS 771Figure 1: SiS 771 reference board.

As mentioned, SiS 771 has integrated graphics (“on-board video”), based on the new Mirage 3 graphics engine, which is a truly DirectX 9.0 (Shader 2.0) engine. Compared to other chipset makers, SiS is quite outdated. Only now they are coming with a DirectX 9.0 (Shader 2.0) part, while other manufacturers have DirectX 9.0 engines for years now, with some of them – like NVIDIA – with DirectX 9.0c (Shader 3.0) parts for quite a while. It is also important to keep in mind that DirectX 10 is right on the corner, with NVIDIA promising to launch products based on this new programming model next month.

On the other hand, SiS chipsets are traditionally one of the cheapest around, meaning that in the near future the cheapest socket AM2-based computers around the world will be based on SiS 771 for sure, thus the importance of this review.

Of course gamers won’t even think of buying computers with on-board graphics, so why place a 3D accelerator on the motherboard? Budget Joe may want to buy the cheapest computer around and at the same time try to run light games. Of course if one wants to run high-end games, on-board graphics and cheap computers aren’t the right choice.

Thinking of the increasing interest in playback video quality, SiS added some 2D enhancements to SiS 771, which makes perfect sense for the average Joe, who wants to watch some videos and may even consider using a SiS 771-based motherboard as the core of his/her multimedia center PC. These enhancements include a slice layer accelerator, a video scaler, a deinterlacer and a motion compensation engine. This means that the chipset is used for those functions when you play a MPEG2 file or a DVD, instead of using the CPU, improving the system performance and image quality.

SiS 771 also supports a high definition video link to support DVI outputs, however motherboard manufacturers wanting to implement this feature will need to add a SiS 307 chip on the board.

Even though SiS 771 has integrated graphics, it supports one PCI Express x16 slot. Keep in mind that motherboard manufacturers in order to cut costs may offer SiS 771-based motherboards without this slot, but this limitation is of these particular motherboard models.

As AMD64 CPUs have their memory controller embedded, the north bridge chip doesn’t play any role on memory access performance nor on the capacity and limitations of the memory types and sizes the system can have. The motherboard manufacturer can, however, implement less memory sockets than usual (i.e., less than four sockets).

The south bridge chip defines other features that will be found on SiS 771-based motherboards. The reference board we got used a SiS 966 south bridge, but motherboard manufacturers can choose to use a different south bridge chip, like the forthcoming SiS 968.

SiS 966 main features are:

  • Two ATA-133 ports;
  • Four SATA-150 ports, supporting RAID 0, 1, 0+1 and JBOD;
  • Eight USB 2.0 ports;
  • Two PCI Express x1 slots;
  • Gigabit Ethernet;
  • High Definition Audio (eight channels, up to 192 kHz, 32 bits).

Keep in mind that the motherboard manufacturer may choose not to use all features provided by the south bridge chip.

Also, for the LAN port, the manufacturer needs to add a chip on the motherboard to make the interface with the physical layer. On SiS reference board this chip was SiS 196. To cut costs the motherboard manufacturer may use a Fast Ethernet (100 Mbps) chip.

As for the integrated audio, it is very important to keep in mind that the final specs will depend on the codec used, which is a small chip located on the motherboard. On the reference board SiS used a Realtek ALC883, which has a 95 dB signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) for its output and an 85 dB signal-to-noise ratio for its input, with 24-bit resolution. These specs are fair enough for the average user, but motherboard manufacturers may choose cheaper codecs in order to cut costs.

In summary, the final features of the motherboard depend a lot on the components the motherboard manufacturer chooses.

SiS 968 south bridge will keep the same basic specs as SiS 966, but with two SATA-300 ports and only one ATA-133 port.

For more information on SiS 771, visit https://www.sis.com/products/sis771.htm.

Let’s now take a look at its performance. On all benchmarks we configured SiS 771 video memory size as 128 MB, i.e., the system was “stealing” up to 128 MB of the main system RAM to use it as video memory. If you use a lower value the performance results will be lower.

[nextpage title=”How We Tested”]

During our benchmarking sessions, we used the configuration listed below. Between our benchmarking sessions the only variable was the motherboard being tested.
 
Hardware Configuration

Software Configuration

  • Windows XP Professional installed using NTFS
  • Service Pack 2
  • DirectX 9.0c

Driver Versions

  • SiS Gigabit LAN driver version: 1.06
  • SiS RAID driver: 5.1.1039.3000
  • SiS 771 VGA driver: 3.76.53
  • NVIDIA video driver version: 84.21
  • Audio driver version: Realtek R1.47

Used Software

We adopted a 3% error margin; thus, differences below 3% cannot be considered relevant. In other words, products with a performance difference below 3% should be considered as having similar performance.

[nextpage title=”Overall Performance”]

We measured the overall performance of this motherboard using SYSmark2004, which is a software that simulates the use of real-world applications. Thus, we consider this the best software to measure, in practical terms, the system performance.

The benchmarks are divided into two groups:

  • Internet Content Creation: Simulates the authoring of a website containing text, images, videos and animations. The following programs are used: Adobe After Effects 5.5, Adobe Photoshop 7.01, Adobe Premiere 6.5, Discreet 3ds Max 5.1, Macromedia Dreamweaver MX, Macromedia Flash MX, Microsoft Windows Media Encoder 9, McAfee VirusScan 7.0 and Winzip 8.1.
  • Office Productivity: Simulates the use of an office suite, i.e., simulates sending e-mails, word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, etc. The following programs are used: Adobe Acrobat 5.05, Microsoft Office XP SP2, Internet Explorer 6.0 SP1, NaturallySpeaking 6, McAfee VirusScan 7.0 and Winzip 8.1.

The software delivers specific results for each batch and also an overall performance result, all in a specific SYSmark2004 unit.

We ran this software in two scenarios. First using its on-board video. Then we disabled its on-board video and installed a GeForce 7800 GTX from XFX to compare it with an ASUS M2N32-SLI De Luxe, which is a high-end socket AM2 motherboard based on NVIDIA nForce MCP 590 SLI chipset. Our idea was to see if this motherboard would achieve the same performance level of a high-end motherboard when we installed a high-end video card on it.

SiS 771

With its on-board video enabled, SiS 771 reference board achieved the same performance level of ASUS M2N32-SLI De Luxe with a GeForce 7800 GTX installed and the same performance level of ECS RS485M-M, which also has on-board video based on Radeon Xpress 1100.

When we installed a GeForce 7800 GTX its overall performance increased 3.04%, with a 3.96% performance increase on Internet Content Creation benchmark. The results for Office Productive benchmark remained at the same level. Under this configuration this motherboard performance continued to be on the same level as ASUS M2N32-SLI De Luxe.

[nextpage title=”Processing Performance”]

Using the same methodology of the previous test, we measured processing performance using PCMark05 Professional program. This program gives the results in a specific unit and since it includes video performance on its score, the motherboard with the best video will achieve the best results.

SiS 771

Here ECS RS485M-M, which is based on ATI Radeon X1100 chipset, achieved a far higher performance: it was 21.74% faster than SiS 771.

When we installed a GeForce 7800 GTX on SiS 771 reference board it achieved the same performance level of ASUS M2N32-SLI De Luxe with the same video card installed, meaning that you will achieve the same performance of a high-end motherboard by installing a real video card on a motherboard based on SiS 771.

[nextpage title=”3D Performance: 3DMark2001 SE”]

We compared SiS 771 3D performance with Radeon Xpress 1100 (ECS RS485M-M motherboard) and also with the 3D performance provided by two low-end video cards, GeForce 6200 TurboCache with 64 MB and 64-bit interface (from XFX) and GeForce 6200 with 128 MB and 128-bit interface (from Leadtek), which we installed on SiS 771 reference board.

We also installed a high-end video card, GeForce 7800 GTX, on it and compared its performance to a high-end motherboard with the same video card installed, ASUS M2N32-SLI De Luxe.

We ran several programs, as you will see in the next pages.

The first one, 3DMark2001 SE, measures 3D performance by making DirectX 8.1 simulations, and the results you can see below (we ran it using its default configuration). All the listed video cards were installed on SiS 771 reference board.

SiS 771

On 3DMark2001 SE the on-board video provided by Radeon Xpress 1100 was 69.25% faster than the on-board video provided by SiS 771. The low-end video cards we installed were also a lot faster than SiS 771 integrated graphics: GeForce 6200 TC (64 MB, 64-bit) was 170.10% faster and GeForce 6200 (128 MB, 128-bit) was 293.71% faster than the on-board video produced by SiS 771.

When we installed a GeForce 7800 GTX on SiS 771 reference board, it achieved the same performance of ASUS M2N32-SLI De Luxe with the same video card installed.

[nextpage title=”3D Performance: 3DMark03″]

We followed the same methodology described in the previous page, but now running 3DMark03. 3DMark03 simulates DirectX 9.0 games, which is fully supported by the new graphics engine used by SiS 771, Mirage 3.

You can check the results of our benchmarking below. All the listed video cards were installed on SiS 771 reference board.

SiS 771

Here SiS 771 on-board graphics also achieved a lousy performance. Radeon X1100 achieved almost the double of the performance obtained by SiS 771. The two low-end PCI Express video cards we installed smoked SiS 771: GeForce 6200 TC (64 MB, 64-bit) was 232.73% faster and GeForce 6200 (128 MB, 128-bit) was 435.32% faster than the on-board video produced by SiS 771.

When we installed a GeForce 7800 GTX on SiS 771 reference board it achieved the same performance level of an ASUS M2N32-SLI De Luxe with the same video card installed.

[nextpage title=”3D Performance: 3DMark05″]

We again followed the same methodology described previously, but now running 3DMark05. This program measures 3D performance by simulating DirectX 9.0c games, i.e., using Shader 3.0. This programming model is used by the latest games but SiS 771 and Radeon Xpress 1100 don’t support it.
It isn’t fair to use this program to evaluate 3D performance of motherboards with on-board video, as they achieve a very low score on this program. We ran it anyway, basically to see the performance SiS 771 reference board achieved using a real video card installed.
You can check the results of our benchmarking below. All the listed video cards were installed on SiS 771 reference board.

SiS 771

On 3DMark05 the on-board video provided by Radeon Xpress 1100 was also almost two times faster than the on-board video provided by SiS 771. SiS 771 was once again smoked by the two low-end PCI Express video cards we installed: GeForce 6200 TC (64 MB, 64-bit) was 273.21% faster and GeForce 6200 (128 MB, 128-bit) was 352.34% faster than the on-board video produced by SiS 771.

When we installed a GeForce 7800 GTX on the reviewed card, it achieved the same performance level of an ASUS M2N32-SLI De Luxe with the same video card installed.

[nextpage title=”3D Performance: Quake III”]

We used the demo four available on version 1.32 of Quake III to make our benchmarking with this game. We ran this demo three times at 1024x768x32 resolution and all image quality settings on their default configuration and we picked the middle value for our comparisons, i.e., we discarded the highest and the lowest values.

You can check the results of our benchmarking below. All the listed video cards were installed on SiS 771 reference board.

SiS 771

Here the on-board video provided by Radeon Xpress 1100 again achieved practically the double of the performance achieved by SiS 771. The two low-end PCI Express video cards smoked again SiS 771: GeForce 6200 TC (64 MB, 64-bit) was 298.97% faster and GeForce 6200 (128 MB, 128-bit) was 416.46% faster than the on-board video of the reviewed motherboard.

This time when we installed a GeForce 7800 GTX on the reviewed card it didn’t achieve the same performance level of an ASUS M2N32-SLI De Luxe with the same video card installed: the motherboard from ASUS was 28.92% faster.

[nextpage title=”3D Performance: Quake 4″]

Quake 4 is very heavy game that uses the same engine of Doom 3. We used the id_demo001 available on version 1.2 of Quake 4 to make our benchmarking with this game. We run this demo four times at 1024x768x32 resolution and image quality settings on “low”. The results shown on the chart is an arithmetic average of the collected data. The results are in frames per second. For more information on how to use Quake 4 to benchmark a PC, read our tutorial on this subject.

SiS 771

Of course you cannot play Quake 4 with on-board graphics or even with low-end video cards, but the result achieved by SiS 771 was simply ridiculous, less than two frames per second. Of course you cannot play Quake 4 on Radeon X1100 as well, but this chipset from ATI achieved a 3D performance 450% greater than SiS 771.

When we installed a GeForce 7800 GTX on SiS 771 reference board it didn’t achieve the same performance level of an ASUS M2N32-SLI De Luxe with the same video card installed: this motherboard from ASUS was 10.14% faster.

[nextpage title=”Conclusions”]

This is an entry-level motherboard for the socket AM2 platform, clearly targeted for the new socket AM2-based Sempron CPUs. From this motherboard specs and performance, we don’t recommend it to be used with an Athlon 64, at least while the Athlon 64 models available for the socket AM2 are still above the USD 100 range.

We wouldn’t expect an integrated graphics solution to run games with a reasonable performance, but with SiS 771 you won’t be able to run even older games. The performance of its on-board video is far lower than ATI’s Radeon X1100 and a very low-end video card like GeForce 6200 TurboCache 64 MB with 64-bit interface – which is one of the most low-end video cards available on the market – looked like a rocket compared to SiS 771.

The good news is that a motherboard based on SiS 771 will achieve an overall performance similar to a high-end socket AM2 motherboard, meaning you will run day-to-day programs like Microsoft Office, antivirus and e-mail with the same performance as a high-end PC. Of course for very high-end applications, especially games, a high-end motherboard will be faster.

Since traditionally motherboards based on SiS chipsets are one of the cheapest available, you can buy a PC based on SiS 771 for doing office work and later expand your PC capability by adding a real video card on it, if your motherboard provides a PCI Express x16 slot.

But keep an eye on the price tag. You can find ECS RS485M-M costing between USD 60 and USD 70 today in the US market, and Radeon X1100 provides a far better performance than SiS 771. Motherboards based on SiS 771 must come to the market with a killer price – below USD 50 – in order to make sense.