The "New" AMD's First chipset - 690G Page: 1
AMD enter the chipset market

AMD's recent purchase and takeover of ATI has finally given them something to really shout about.

When they bought ATI people wondered exactly what the huge chip giant wanted with the smaller but prominent graphics maker.

Well to sum it up in a word:

"Platform".

AMD wanted to do what Intel have been doing for years and create a platform meaning that the entire CPU-motherboard solution could be AMD. This is great for the consumer, but ultimately is very attractive for OEM's looking to get everything they need from one place. However, not only have AMD now started to achieve this goal, but they have gone one step further. With ATI's graphics know-how they have the structure in place to produce great onboard graphics on AMD chipsets...

A quote from AMD themselves:

AMD provides the most advanced core logic desktop and notebook PC chipset for a complete AMD platform solution.

Designed for ultimate performance, stability, and connectivity AMD chipsets form the backbone of any desktop or notebook PC:
Performance - Maximum system performance in normal or fine tuned settings
Stability - Secure and dependable platform
Connectivity - Latest breakthrough technology in PCI Express connectivity

Catering to all PC users, AMD chipsets provide the best platform solution for business, home, or 3D gaming.

Guiseppe Amato and Phil Eisler gave us a talk-through of what it's all about, what to expect and a quick sneek at whats to come....

So what's it called then?

The chipset AMD have produced is called the AMD 690 Series and comes in two flavours. The 690G is the deluxe version and will come with integrated HDMI or DVI and the 690V (for value) will not have these connectivity options.

amd 690g chipset logo

In some ways it's pretty cool to see an AMD logo on a chipset and it's certainly something we will be getting used to in the future.

Features

The 690 chipset has a whole host of great features for the enthusiast who wants all of their performance in one tidy little package.

amd's new chipset

So the RS690 chipset provides the connectivity options as far as audio, video and some extra memory buffering for laptop and low-power consumption devices. The SB600 provides USB, SATA/PATA and a PCI interface to complete the package.

Now of course the big thing in this is that this makes the 690G chipset the only chipset currently produced that supports dual digital outputs. As well as this feature AMD have integrated HDMI into the chipset hardware. This is certainly a move forward and a welcomed one at that.

Now the GPU that is integrated into the 690G chipset is a member of the ATI family and akin to the X700

A "User Experience"

One thing that was very much prominent at the press conference was the fact that the 690G chipset gives the user a better "experience". Now here at OC3D this is something we try to integrate into almost all of our reviews and certainly real-life testing is integral in our graphics card testing.

AMD have been working closely with Microsoft to make sure that their new chipset measures up to Vista and indeed this was highlighted by a quote from Steve Ballmer (CEO Microsoft Corporation)

From day one, AMD has played a key role in helping us design and validate the new driver model at the heart of Windows Vista. That knowledge has led to the development of extremely stable, feature-rich, high-performance software drivers and hardware that really showcase the full power of the new Windows operating system

Having taken a good look at Vista running on a few of AMD's test machines I can certainly say that Vista Aero runs very smoothly on the 690G chipset.

Now another thing AMD were very keen to show was the gaming experience with the 690G chipset. Half Life 2 Lost coast was set up on a couple of PC's at the event. One had Intel GMA graphics and one the 690G chipset. It has to be said that the difference was huge; not so much in framerates, but in actually what the game looked like. The Intel integrated solution looked...to put it bluntly...awful. Other demo's included Sam and Max where the Intel graphics didn't aliase at all and a rather telling aircraft simulator that showed the difference in quality between the graphic chipsets quite markedly.

Another pretty cool thing AMD showcased was the multi-display features of the chipset. Combined with a discrete graphics card a system was setup with 4 monitors, using 2 for the onboard. This was slick, seamless and you could even drag a 720p WMV HD file across all of the screens without hindering performance

amd surroundview

4 screens on 690g

As you can see, pretty impressive.

Now I will not go into details and figures but suffice it to say that AMD produced some pretty convincing figures that shows the 690G chipset as the market leader right now for an integrated solution. Also highlighted was the lack of decent game support for Intel Integrated graphics, whereas the AMD chipset supports all recent games.

Performance at a price

Well how much exactly are we going to pay for this excellent tech? AMD say that the boards should start being available at around the $80 mark. Now unless I'm missing a trick the UK hasn't seen the arrival of these boards, but I would expect that to convert to around £55 depending on vendor and extra features. To me that sounds pretty damn awesome, especially with the low-low price of AM2 processors. AMD's calculations made them $30 cheaper than an Intel solution (E6400 + Intel G965 vs AMD 690G + X2 5200+).

It all comes back to what we have said before - the core idea AMD are striving towards in everything they do:

"Performance per-watt per-dollar".

Certainly that's some fine performance.

Read on on the next page...


The "New" AMD's First chipset - 690G Page: 2
The boards

Now there was a small selection of boards at the event so I got a sneeky pic or two to show you. Be guaranteed we'll have some in to take a look at very soon.

amd 690g

Very strange seeing the AMD logo on a chipset, but also strangely comforting.

asus 690g foxconn 690g

gigabyte 690g msi 690g

Among the companies that AMD are having as partners are Asus, Foxconn, Gigabyte and MSI. They have a variety of connecters including VGA + DVI, HDMI and VGA and HDMI and DVI. Asus board has an add-in-board for HDMI out as well as some sound options.

At this point it's worth mentioning that AMD have implemented HDCP at a hardware level in the chipset itself. This allows for a hardware routed HDCP output, leaving the only possible source for people not wishing to pay for their protected content being the software that plays the content. This is a step in the right direction for an industry that is struggling to find a place for a PC below the TV.

The key point about the manufacturers is that they can choose what to put in as far as connectivity goes. This means that you will see a wide range of different types of connections (as stated above) depending on the particular vendor.

Also worth noting is the Intel range of integrated graphics will be dubbed as having ATI Radeon X1250 chips in them. We've got one of these babies already so be set for a review soon!

All in all it's all looking pretty rosy for AMD on this release. The chipset is hard launched although AMD did say that you will see much more availability towards the end of April. Another benefit of having ATI on board are the board partners involved. Let's take a look:

amd 690g partners

Here we see that there's a wider range of partners going for the 690G chipsets than the V, but AMD are looking at a rather large-scale launch for this chipset, very encouraging indeed.

The future

AMD gave us a run-through of their plan for the future. There was talk again of Torrenza and Fusion, AMD's open platform, along with their plans for CPU on GPU and how this could be adapted to many applications.

fusion and torrenza

AMD showed us an interesting slide as well. Not interesting in that it was new but interesting as to what was suggested.

crossbar switch

The hint was that the crossbar switch could be enlarged and paired with some "other" type of architecture to produce a single silicon die with several different types of cores on it. This means you could get almost an entire high-performance platform into a single chip.

Also mentioned was having seperate memory controllers for each core and having the ability to not only clock each core seperately, but to be able to switch some off whilst still having others operating. Whilst I cannot really put this down as "official" it is certainly exciting and innovative stuff.

amd's platform vision

AMD talked a lot about the platform vision and what they want to do with their platform. I don't think I will go into detail here, but there is certainly a wide range of applications that AMD/ATI can turn their hand to from the Digital Home to the High-end Server market.

Lets not also forget that R600 is on the (not-too distant we hope) horizon and AMD are certainly gearing up to get that chip out. With nVidia snapping at their heels one side and Intel voraciously eating up the market on the other AMD have their work cut out, but they look up to the task.

Conclusion

With a lot of negative press about AMD recently and certainly the hardcore enthusiast market switching to Core2Duo there was a lot of encouraging signs from AMD at the conference.

I think the main thing that I was thinking with 690G is that is eases computing that step closer to your living room. Affordable, integrated and high-quality solutions for the digital home is what we need right now and AMD are looking to provide it.

As far as the future is concerned, AMD certainly have a rosy path ahead if some of these innovations come to the fore. Don't count out AMD just yet...look what they did on AMD 64.

Official Press Release

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