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AMD launches 'Spider' platform for multimedia PCs

New systems include quad-core Phenom chips

AMD is preparing to launch the 'Spider' platform, which combines the company's next-generation quad-core processors, graphics cards and chipsets in one platform to deliver better graphics, performance-per-watt and improved high-definition video.

Targeted at gamers and multimedia enthusiasts, desktop PCs with the Spider platform include the quad-core Phenom processors and can hold multiple ATI graphics cards to give users the "ultimate visual experience", according to AMD.

The quad-core Phenom processor, also expected to be launched today, will provide the processing power to the platform, and will be initially available in speeds of 2.2GHz and 2.3GHz. Processor speeds will crank up to 2.4GHz to 2.6GHz in the first quarter of 2008, said Leslie Sobon, director of product marketing for desktop systems at AMD. Phenom includes three shared caches to improve memory performance, an improvement from the two caches included in earlier AMD processors.

The chips, manufactured using the 65-nanometre process, have multiple power-efficiency features that set them apart from Intel's latest Penryn processors, Sobon said. A hardware and software platform allows the processor to detect the application running and adjust power consumption accordingly, she said. For example, if a user is running an e-mail application, the processor automatically adjusts to use less power. The processor also improves energy efficiency during idle time, she said.

The processors also have improved hyperthreading technology for better application performance, Sobon said.

AMD will ship the 2.2GHz Phenom 9500 and 2.3GHz 9600 processors for US$251 and $283 (£125 and £142) respectively.

PCs based on the Spider platform will ship with the ATI Radeon HD 3850 and ATI Radeon HD 3870 graphics cards. The graphics cards support Microsoft's DirectX 10.1 specification that enhances overall image quality on PCs. DirectX is the primary interface responsible for rendering multimedia, including game images and video, on Microsoft platforms. It also renders better high-definition video with support for UVD (Unified Video Decoder), which results in better HD-DVD and Blu-ray images.

Spider will support CrossfireX technology, which allows up to four graphics cards to work together to enhance graphics performance in a system. That allows scalability in graphics performance and saves users from investing in graphics chips in the future.

Computers with the Spider platform will start shipping today in the US and many vendors, including iBuypower, Falcon Northwest, Cyberpower, Velocity Micro will offer PCs that use it.

By packaging a CPU and GPU under one platform, PCs will become more affordable for users, Sobon said. However, users will be able to purchase components such as graphics cards from other vendors, though it may cost a bit more, Sobon said.

Spider is the first fruit of AMD's acquisition of ATI, Sobon said. After acquiring ATI last year for $5.4bn, AMD said it would work on a chip code-named 'Fusion', which integrates a GPU and CPU on a single die. Fusion is expected to be delivered by late 2008 or early 2009.

However, since the acquisition, AMD has struggled, losing processor market share to Intel and recording four straight quarterly losses weighed down under costs related to the ATI acquisition.

While Spider doesn't combine a GPU and CPU on a single die, it is an incremental step towards reaching Fusion, said Jon Peddie, president of Jon Peddie Research.

Both Intel and Via have failed at delivering a combined graphics processor and CPU platform, with Intel killing its Timna project in 2000, and Via failing with its Matthew microprocessor project.


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