Today, AMD released a new chipset for entry level configurations. Previously named RS690, the AMD 690 features a new integrated graphic core that will allow AMD to be more competitive with Intel’s products.
AMD’s current product line includes the ATI Radeon Xpress 1100 and 1150 which feature half a Radeon X300 (= Radeon X1050). This chipset uses the southbridge SB600 and support 4 SATA II ports, 2 PATA, 10 USB port and HD Audio. It doesn’t, however, have an integrated network controller and an external chip is required for this functionality.
The newcomers, AMD 690G and AMD 690V, use the same southbridge but their northbridge include this time half a Radeon X700. In other words, if the Radeon Xpress 11x0 had two pixel shaders 2.0 processing pipelines, the AMD 690 chipsets have four pipelines supporting pixel shaders 2.0b. We remind you that the 2.0b version allows the utilization of more complex pixel shaders without reaching the level of performances of the shaders 3.0. Performances should logically be improved. The integrated GeForce 61x0 of Nvidia supports the shaders 3.0 but only has 2 pixel shading pipelines and a much lower calculation power. More options supported or more performances? This is the recurrent question for entry level products. We believe that performance is a priority even if the technology has to meet the requirements of current games which more and more frequently refuse to start if shaders 3.0 aren’t supported. Of course, running the game but not being able to play because of the lack of performances is a bit pointless.
These new chipsets also bring several improvements such as interfaces and video since they support AVIVO. As such, AVIVO is a bit meaningless. This is only a marketing denomination indicating that the GPU has undetermined capacities for video processing (the level of performance depends on the GPU). This is the reason why we will have to wait for a test to find out what this chipset really is capable of. We will also have to keep in mind that, unlike Nvidia who integrates a dedicated engine, video acceleration for ATI largely relies on pixel shader processing pipelines. As there are fewer pipelines than standard GPU, we expect inferior performances to the nForce 430 with GeForce 6150 or 6150LE. The other integrated chipsets of the manufacturer are restricted at that level. Nvidia has developed a new revision, cheaper to produce, which integrates the southbridge and northbridge in the same chip but lacks video capacities.
About interfaces, the AMD 690 natively supports VGA, DVI, TV and HDMI even if only two can be used simultaneously. This chipset is the first to have two digital interfaces (DVI and HDMI). It is also interesting to note that it supports natively HDCP (the key required for this support is directly integrated to the chipset). The difference between 690G and V is precisely at that level since digital outputs are only available in the G version. You should note that these interfaces can be exploited at the same time as a graphic card to support 3 or 4 monitors.
Asus and MSI both announced a motherboard based on the AMD 690G:
On the left, the Asus M2A-VM HDMI and on the right the MSI K9AGM2-FIH.
If Asus has integrated a VGA and DVI interface with a card placed in the graphic PCI Express slot to have HDMI and TV interfaces, MSI has chosen to integrate directly the HDMI connector to the motherboard without providing additional DVI/TV interfaces.
AMD also indicates that the chipset power consumption will be low. This isn’t important for desktops but it will be an important asset for mobile platforms.
To finish, we have once more to underline the problem of products names. The sales name of this new integrated core is Radeon X1250 for the 690G and Radeon X1200 for the 690V. We think that these names are confusing because, unlike the appearances, the graphic core isn’t based on the X1000 architecture and provides lower performances compared to the Radeon X1050 which is another name of the Radeon X300. If a game requires the Radeon X1000 as a minimum, it is likely that it won’t work with the chipset even if the product name says the opposite. The confusion stops here since the chipset AMD 690G is an entry level and the AMD 580X is high end. Why has AMD chosen the 690 and not a less confusing number? More and more, AMD speaks of platform and it could be useful to bring a little bit coherence in all of this…