AMD can't get anything right these days...
Advanced Micro Devices, the world’s second largest maker of x86 microprocessors and a developer of graphics chips, unveiled this week its first “all-AMD” platform code-named Spider. With four processing engines of AMD Phenom on the one side, AMD 7-series chipsets in the middle and four ATI Radeon graphics processors on another side, Spider is ready to offer gamers some serious power at affordable price.
“The AMD Spider platform embodies our approach to platform-level innovation and delivers a highly-advanced, feature-rich enthusiast computing experience. Our commitment to energy-efficient design and manufacturing excellence drives an unprecedented performance-per-watt at an amazing price point, putting enthusiast-class platforms in reach for more users than ever before,” said Dirk Meyer, president and chief operating officer of AMD.
The AMD Spider platform includes a rather unprecedented list of computing technology firsts and focus on power consumption, including: ATI PowerPlay, Cool’n’Quiet 2.0 technology, Microsoft DirectX 10.1 support, HyperTransport 3.0 technology and PCI Express 2.0. Currently no other platform can boast with the same list of innovations and while hardly all of them are truly needed by all end-users right now, formally AMD can claim its platform as the most feature-rich in the industry.
Unfortunately, due to the rush type of announcement, AMD did not manage to get samples of its AMD Phenom processors, ATI Radeon HD 3000-series graphics cards and AMD 7-series mainboards to the press globally. It remains unknown why the company, which delayed its processors and graphics chips by months, decided to unveil the Spider platform at any cost in mid-November, considering the fact that only a few system makers will be able to offer all the Spider components at once. Therefore, the actual systems based on AMD Spider platform technology are projected to emerge widely on the market sometime later this year, when all AMD’s partners receive their processors and manage to get graphics boards from add-in cards partners.
AMD Phenom: Four Cores Meant to Be Faster
The corner stone of AMD’s new enthusiast platform Spider is AMD Phenom processors that has four computing engines and is based on the new micro-architecture by AMD. Among the highlights of AMD’s new chips the manufacturer lists shared 2MB L3 cache, 128-bit floating point units (FPU), SSE4A instructions, support for dual-channel PC2-8500 (DDR2 1066MHz) memory and other innovations.
The new AMD Phenom processors are made using 65nm process technology and are initially available at 2.20GHz (model 9500) and 2.30GHz (model 9600). The new chips have thermal design power (TDP) of 95W, a not so low value. AMD Phenom processors 9600 (2.3GHz) and 9500 (2.2GHz) are now available for orders by AMD customers for $283 and $251 respectively in 1000-unit pricing.
Unfortunately, despite of promises, AMD could not release its consumer, gamer and enthusiast processors at clock-speeds of around 2.50GHz and above due to an errata that was discovered. According to AMD, this errata shows itself at clock-speed of 2.40GHz and higher and may cause system instability. The company is currently working on a new CPU revision that is projected to work at higher clock-speeds and become available early next year.
Due to the fact that Advanced Micro Devices could not make its high-end AMD Phenom chips available on time, it has to offer reduced pricing compared to Intel’s high-end processor. As a consequence, unlike AMD Athlon and AMD Athlon 64, the new AMD Phenom starts its life not from the high-end, but from the mainstream part of the market, a major blow to execution of the company.
AMD 7-Series Chipsets: Enabling Extreme Scalability Amid Low Power
The heart of AMD Spider platform is AMD 7-series chipset, which is available in different variations. All the flavours of the core-logic support HyperTransport 3.0 bus, up to 42 PCI Express 2.0 as well as a list of platform technologies by AMD.
AMD 7-Series chipsets support up to four graphics processors via ATI CrossFireX technology, enabling maximum performance and upgradeability for gamers and PC enthusiasts.
Enhanced features include AMD CoolCore™ technology, support for split power plane motherboard designs and the ability to set independent core frequencies. The new chipsets are made using 65nm process technology and offer power consumption as low as 10W, much lower compared to currently existing chipsets. For example, AMD claims that TDP of Intel X38 enthusiast-class core-logic is over 26W.
Mainboards running AMD 7-series chipsets are projected to become available shortly.
ATI Radeon HD 3000: DirectX 10.1 for Everyone
ATI, graphics product group of Advanced Micro Devices, was late to market with its ATI Radeon HD 2000-series of graphics products due to a number of reasons. The brand-new architecture accompanied by transitions to 80nm HS and 65nm process technology amid the acquisition process by AMD affected ATI’s engineers ability to deliver the products on time. But now that ATI is integrated into AMD and the valuable experience with unified shader architecture obtained, the graphics product group is the first to deliver DirectX 10.1 compliant graphics chips.
The first ATI Radeon HD 3000-series processors are the Radeon HD 3800 family, which is based on the code-named ATI RV670 graphics processing unit (GPU). The RV670 graphics processor sports 320 unified shader processors (SPs), 16 texture units (TUs), 16 render back ends (RBEs), Avivo HD post-processing engine along with universal video decoder (UVD) for high-definition video and is equipped with 256-bit memory controller. Being mostly based on ATI R600 design, the RV670 has less transistors – 666 million according to AMD – and also brings in support for DirectX 10.1, a superset of DirectX 10 with additional capabilities.
With the ATI Radeon HD 3000-series products AMD finally brings in ATI PowerPlay for the desktop technology, which allows automatic power state adjustments for increased GPU efficiency when under moderate load or idle. According to developers, the technology monitors graphics chip’s command processor to determine its actual load and decides cooling requirements.
With the new family of graphics processors AMD not only decided to change their name to HD 3000-series due to addition of DirectX 10.1, but it also decided to get rid of ATI’s “Pro” and “XT” suffixes and start using model numbers, like those on the processors. As a result, the more powerful version with higher clock-speeds has the name of ATI Radeon HD 3870, whereas the flavour with lower frequencies and amount of memory is called ATI Radeon HD 3850.
Since ATI Radeon “RV670” HD 3800-series graphics chips are made using 55nm process technology, their die sizes are pretty small, which allows AMD to offer them at lower price. To add further flexibility to its pricing, AMD spent many weeks tweaking BIOS versions of the RV670 and adjusting clock-speeds, sources familiar with the actions said.
The ATI Radeon HD 3850 with 256MB of GDDR3 memory begins at $179 manufactured suggested retail price (MSRP) and the ATI Radeon HD 3870 with 512MB GDDR4 memory from $219 MSRP, available from AMD’s selected graphics products partners.