Advanced Micro Devices on Wednesday is expected to launch its first chipset line that combines the company's x86 processor with technology from graphics chip specialist ATI Technologies, which AMD acquired last fall.
The AMD 690 series integrates features from the ATI Radeon X1250 graphics processor -- or GPU. The Sunnyvale, Calif., chipmaker is introducing the combination chipset series with the 690G and a lower-priced 690V.
The new chipsets are seen as steps toward AMD's Fusion processors, which are expected to merge x86 and ATI graphics cores onto one chip. Those processors are scheduled to ship in 2009, and will initially be available for notebooks. AMD plans to offer them for desktops later.
Silicon-level integration, whether with graphics features, or the more ambitious CPU/GPU combo of Fusion, produces a chipset that delivers a higher ratio of power to energy, AMD said. "Every time we integrate, the performance goes up, the size goes down, the cost goes down and its more green friendly -- Al Gore would approve," Phil Eisler, vice president and general manager of AMD's chipset division, said.
The 690 series chipset moves closer to Fusion by building some graphics features into the CPU. The 690G, for example, integrates HDMI and DVI output, which means more display choices for the computers it powers. HDMI, or high-definition multimedia interface, makes it possible to use one cable to carry digital video and audio to a HDTV. DVI, or digital visual interface, is a standard for delivering video in digital format directly to devices, such as a flat panel LCD computer display, or a digital projector. Without DVI support, a computer would plug into an analog connection, which means lower video quality.
The less expensive 690V does not support DVI or HDMI, however, both chipsets are built to support the advanced graphics of Windows Vista, Microsoft's latest operating system that shipped in to businesses in Nov. 2006 and home customers in January.
AMD is targeting motherboard manufacturers for computers running Microsoft's Windows Media Center. The modified Windows operating system can act as a digital video recorder; as well as organize pictures, videos, and music stored on a local hard drive and then send the content to a television. AMD also is targeting motherboards found in home theater PCs, which have many of the same functions.
The 690G chipset sells for about $20, with the 690V costing a little bit less, Eisler said. Motherboards cost about $80 with the 690G, and $70 with the 690V.
In acquiring ATI for $5.4 billion, AMD hoped that bringing ATI's graphics technology in-house would improve sales to the commercial desktop and laptop markets dominated by Intel. AMD's current area of greatest strength is in processors for the server and consumer desktop market.