Spider Test Platform
To check out the new Spider platform, namely the new quad-core Phenom processors from AMD, we received a test kit including AMD 790FX based mainboard and a new CPU sample.
The processor we got was formally presented to us as Phenom 9900 with an unlocked multiplier (2.6GHz clock frequency). However, we cannot really determine what particular model that is. Identification string reads that it is an engineering sample and the CPU clock frequency multiplier is unlocked.
The CPU is based on B2 core stepping – the only core stepping used for mass processor as of today.
The processor making doesn’t make things any clearer for us either. The only thing it reveals is that the processor we received is designed to work at 1.3V Vcore.
By the way, note that this processor looks very similar to Athlon 64: packaging, pin layout and heat-spreader remained exactly the same.
As for the mainboard, we received our engineering Phenom sample together with an Asus M3A32-MVP Deluxe based on AMD 790FX chipset with SB600 South Bridge.
This mainboard is positioned as a solution for computer enthusiasts, that is why Asus engineers had to add a number of onboard controllers to make sure that it meets certain requirements for a product of this category. Thanks to two additional Marvell SATA controllers, Asus M3A32-MVP Deluxe offers not four but six SATA II ports with RAID support and an eSATA port. Besides 10 USB 2.0 ports, the board also comes with two IEEE1394 connectors implemented via an agere controller.
However, although the expansion features of Asus M3A32-MVP Deluxe are definitely quite exciting, it is remarkable for fully-fledged support of all new functions introduced in the AMD Spider platform.
The board is equipped with four PCI Express x16 slots. As the chipset suggests, slot pairs automatically switch to PCI Express x8 logical mode when active. However, the third and the fourth graphics slots are placed very close to one another, which will, unfortunately, prevent you from using one of them with powerful graphics cards in Quad Crossfire configurations. In other words, the mainboard is very well optimized for up to three graphics cards, but nevertheless, may still work with four with certain allowances, of course.
Asus M3A32-MVP Deluxe has a fully-fledged Socket AM2+: it supports HyperTransport 3.0 with higher bandwidth. Moreover, the processor voltage regulator design is also quite interesting: it is a ten-phase circuitry. Its 8-phase part powers the CPU while the additional two phases serve to power the memory controller built into the processor.
Processor voltage regulator circuitry uses mostly reliable capacitors with polymer electrolyte. MOSFET, chipset North and South Bridges use a single cooling system with heat-pipes. The main copper-colored heatsink of this cooling system is made of solid aluminum and is located right behind the processor socket. The mainboard comes with a special centrifugal rotor fan that can be installed on top of this heatsink. Despite low heat dissipation of the new AMD 790FX chipset, this entire cooling system heats up a lot: looks like the CPU voltage regulator is the main heat source on the board.
Since Socket AM2+ is mechanically the same as the traditional Socket AM2, Asus M3A32-MVP Deluxe mainboard is compatible with usual AMD processor coolers. However, you don’t have much of a freedom on this board, because the memory slots and the voltage regulator heatsink are placed very close to the processor socket. Another drawback of the PCB layout is the absence of additional fan connectors around the processor socket.