Catching Up, Little by Little
The back planes have gotten a bit more complex as well. Note the e-SATA, HDMI, and Firewire ports that are not present on the older 760G board. Again, think of the $30 delta between these two boards.
The 790GX does not differ from the 780G except in terms of clockspeed and the SidePort requirement. It still had the same UVD unit and DX 10 support. Interestingly enough, the 790GX is not popular because of the increased graphics performance, but rather that it was included in a lot of boards that are aimed at the budget enthusiast market. I would bet that very small percentage of 790GX boards are used in an integrated capacity, but rather as an enthusiast level part with either the SB710 or SB750 southbridge, which enabled ACC (and therefore core unlocking on many AMD CPUs). If users are going to just use integrated graphics, they could easily choose a cheaper 780G board. The 790GX is a serious budget enthusiast contender though. Typically they run in price from $89 to $159, and the boards usually feature robust power delivery and CrossFire X support. These boards carry a very good balance of features and price, plus the ability to unlock past and current Phenom and Phenom II CPUs.
A Changed Landscape
A funny thing happened at the beginning of this year. AMD became much more competitive in the CPU market with the release of their 45 nm parts. While the new Phenom IIs were still at a performance per clock disadvantage to the Core 2 family, and could not touch the performance of the i7, their price/performance ratio came in above that of the Core 2 parts. So while the Phenom II X4 940 could not outperform the Core 2 9550, the price for the X4 was at least $100 cheaper and it gave near 9550 performance. It also was a much more power efficient chip than the previous 65 nm Phenoms. AMD further shook things up with the new Phenom II X3 720, which is an unlocked triple core processor running at 2.8 GHz. The performance of this part was impressive when compared to dual core Core 2 parts at the same price point, and the ability to easily clock this part up to 3.6 GHz and above made it a very popular product for enthusiasts. Throw in the ability to unlock that fourth core if a user was lucky, and we can see why AMD saw a large surge in popularity with PC enthusiasts of all stripes.
The board that Asus hopes will redefine the sub-$100 market for AMD processors.
AMD fired a few more shots across Intel’s bow with the release of new dual core processors. While the Phenom II X2 550 is based on the same Deneb core that the Phenom II X4 940/955 products, the new Athlon II X2 series is based on the new Regor core. Regor is still based on the Phenom II architecture, but it increases L2 cache size from 512 KB to a full 1 MB, but it sacrifices the L3 cache. The Athlon II X2 is still a very quick part, and happily for AMD at 114 mm squared it is inexpensive to produce. It also compares very well to the Core 2 parts at its price range.
This preliminary shot shows some of the more interesting features of the Asus 785G board. More to come.
GLOBALFOUNDRIES’ 45 nm process has allowed AMD to become much more competitive with Intel in the $250 and below CPU market. Since that piece of the market is by far the largest, AMD has seen some significant marketshare gains in the past few quarters. To further expand these gains, AMD is releasing a new integrated chipset which should take advantage of the new CPU offerings that AMD is pushing. AMD is also taking advantage of the recent DDR-3 price drops. The extra bandwidth afforded by high speed DDR-3 should also help to feed the integrated graphics portion of this new chipset.