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AMD 790GX Chipset Presentation

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Journalists can hardly complain that AMD saves on informational support for its products. Presentation of a chipset does not seem a big deal, but on this occasion the company sent to Moscow its Technical Director for EMEA, Guiseppe Amato. Our readers might already know him by detailed reports on new products from AMD. Besides, AMD now offers platform solutions and is the only company to offer both CPUs and GPUs, so the chipset becomes very important as a coordinating link of the platform. Thus, a good chipset can make an entire computer more attractive. Taking into account that AMD has significantly improved its positions on the GPU market, it becomes easier to tip the scales of user's choice to the AMD platform, including active gamers. Especially as AMD is not going to rest on its oars, and new weighty arguments are round the corner.

However, we'll leave deep details to the chipset review proper. Fortunately, motherboards on this chipset are launched practically by all existing manufacturers. And now we'll touch upon the most important questions that arise concerning any new product (not only chipsets): what's new, target audience, and competition.

First of all, this chipset is designed not only for active gamers, but also for those users, who are looking for an expandable motherboard with top functionality. Motherboards on this chipset are promised to have democratic price tags, even though they will be rigged up to the maximum. Here are the key highlights of the chipset:

  • CrossFireX support (two graphics cards)
  • Overclocking potential of a processor is enhanced by Advanced Clock Calibration integrated into the new SB750 Southbridge
  • The chipset features an integrated graphics core (AMD claims that it's faster than 780G by 33%) with dedicated video memory (judging by the first motherboards, this option promises to be a rule rather than an exception); if you install a Radeon HD 3450/3470 or the like, the chipset allows to pool its resources with the integrated core in Hybrid CrossFire mode to raise 3D performance
  • Like modern GPUs for graphics cards, the chipset has a dedicated unit to decode HD Video, which minimizes CPU load. It supports all basic formats, including MPEG2 HD, H.264, and VC1. You can use HDMI, DVI, Display Port, and VGA to plug a monitor (depending on what's available in a given motherboard, monitors can be plugged simultaneously to any digital and an analog output)
  • RAID 5 is added for the SATA controller (striping with parity data distributed across all member disks) in the SB750 Southbridge.

Besides, motherboards on this chipset must support processors with TDP up to 140 W, which requires a proper on-board voltage regulator. 780G had no limitations in this respect (which is also justified; if a manufacturer produces a compact motherboard for media centers, it can limit the power of the voltage regulator down to 65 W, and it will still suit users of such systems).

Let's find out what Advanced Clock Calibration means. This technology belongs to the SB750 Southbridge (by the way, it means that it's supported not only by motherboards with 790GX Northbridge, but also with 790FX; ASUS and Foxconn have already announced updated versions of such products). Independent tests have already confirmed Phenom efficiency, that is high overclocking potential of such processors. We'll publish test results later, when we have enough statistical data, because overclocking depends directly on a given CPU sample. This technology consists not only in more stable clocking, but also in raising voltages in certain circuits, which limit stability in each specific case. Besides, a new version of AMD OverDrive has been released, which allows to overclock the integrated graphics core and on-board video memory.

The range of graphic features is expectedly impressive. The motherboard itself offers entry-level functions for modern games (on the level of Low-End graphics cards supporting DirectX 10) and completely offloads a CPU from video decoding tasks (we have no doubts about it, considering that the graphics core is taken from 780G). In this case the manufacturer recommends to use Radeon HD 3470 for Hybrid CrossFireX instead of Radeon HD 3450.

What concerns the "real" CrossFireX, Radeon HD 4800 cards may provide top gaming performance these days.

However, as we know, NVIDIA integrated the graphics core into all its chipsets (700a series, that is for the AMD platform only), including High-End models (780a), for the Hybrid Power technology. As we have already tested, this technology really works. That is it allows to cut the power to graphics cards outside 3D games. It's very important in case of such voracious cards as GeForce 9800 GTX and especially GTX 260/280. However, NVIDIA's implementation is not perfect, namely: it's available only in Windows Vista, users have to enable/disable this mode manually and use only monitors connected to motherboard outputs.

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