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AMD's Spider platform in the test: CPU + chipset + graphics card

AMD's Spider platform in the test: CPU + chipset + graphics card

The chipset: 7-Series

Let's take a look at the new chipset family. It supports the new PCIe 2.0 standard and HyperTransport 3.0 across the board. There are only significant differences when it comes to equipping PCIe lanes: while the 770 only supports one graphics card, the 790X can address two and the 790FX can even address up to four graphics cards.

790FX chipset diagram

The 790FX (code name RD790) has a total of 42 PCIe lanes according to the PCIe 2.0 standard, which are managed by eleven controllers - AMD speaks of engines here. This means that the mainboard manufacturers have plenty of options for distributing the PCIe lanes. Compared to the previous solution with PCIe 1.0 and HT 1.0, the performance with the new HT 3.0 and PCIe 2.0 using the example of Call of Juarez should increase by around 20 percent, according to AMD. The somewhat outdated SB600 is currently being used as the southbridge. Probably from January 2008, in any case in the first quarter of 2008, the new SB700 will come onto the market. This offers virtually no new functions, just 'more' of the previous connections.

Chipset market segments
Chipset logo
AMD 790X Northbridge
AMD SB600

Like the Phenom processor, the 790FX is also manufactured using the 65 nm process. This makes it the first desktop chipset to be manufactured using this process. According to AMD, the TDP should be a meager 10 watts. Even if one were to add the requirements of the memory controller integrated into the processor at AMD, one would be well below the requirement of the Intel X38 chipset , which is still manufactured in 90nm, and it would be better approved over 30 watts. The BIOS has been divided more into individual modules so that mainboard manufacturers can easily do without the overclocking functionality of the BIOS, for example, without restricting other functions. In terms of memory management, there was no longer a dual-channel setting, at least in the BIOS of the Gigabyte mainboards built into the test system. Instead there are now the two modes 'Ganged' (connected) and 'Unganged' (unconnected). According to AMD, the dual-channel 'Ganged' setting is currently supposed to offer more performance in the gaming area. “Unganged”, on the other hand, makes sense for applications with several threads. In multitasking applications, the new memory controller in the Phenom can then address the existing memory blocks individually and thus write or read the data more quickly for each individual active thread. In the “preliminary benchmark results” on page 5, you can see the effects of the two modes in Sysmark.

AMD has also done a lot on the software side. The RAID management tool so far onwas based on a relatively outdated version of Silicon Image, has been fundamentally revised and is intended to offer more ease of use, especially for inexperienced users. More important, however, is AMD Overdrive , an overclocking and monitoring tool that can definitely be called the counterpart to nTune from Nvidia. On motherboards with overdrive support, the system performance can be increased using a slider. In addition to an AutoClock function, the experienced user can adjust all kinds of voltages and clock rates and check them with the built-in stability test. The engineering samples of the Phenom processors built into the test systems were allowed to be overclocked via overdrive, but Dave Everitt asked not to increase the VCore. Allegedly, stable clock rates of around 2,700 to 2,800 MHz are supposed to have been achieved with an increased multiplier, processor clock and slightly increased VCore.

AMD OverDrive
AMD OverDrive
AMD OverDrive
AMD OverDrive
AMD OverDrive
AMD OverDrive
AMD OverDrive
AMD OverDrive
AMD OverDrive
AMD OverDrive
AMD OverDrive
AMD OverDrive
AMD OverDrive
AMD OverDrive
AMD OverDrive
AMD OverDrive
AMD OverDrive
AMD OverDrive
AMD OverDrive

Let's take another look at the placement of the individual chipset versions in the respective market segments. AMD is pushing for mainboards - similar to graphics cards and processors - with quite aggressive prices in the market, around the big oneCompetitors make life difficult for Intel. It will be interesting to see whether Intel will counter my own price cuts. Interestingly, when it comes to system prices, AMD compares a 2.3 GHz Phenom with an Intel Core 2 Quad with 2.4 GHz. Also note the price difference between DDR2 (AMD system) and DDR3 (Intel system).

System prices

On the next page: The graphics card: HD 3000

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