AMD Intros Vista-Ready Chipset

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. — AMD today announced the 690 motherboard chipset, the first fruits of its $5.4 billion merger with ATI Technologies last year.

Integrated graphics have long been considered a performance laggard compared to discrete graphics, but AMD  said the 690 will provide performance comparable to its ATI Radeon X1250 GPU, a respectable, but far from bleeding-edge, performer.

“There’s a great future for discrete graphics, but there’s also a great future for discrete graphics with no compromise,” said Henri Richard, executive vice president and chief sales and marketing officer for AMD, to a gathering of reporters and analysts here.

The AMD 690 series is designed to address performance issues over Windows Vista and its Aero graphical interface. There has been some debate over whether integrated graphics could handle the demands of Aero. AMD claims the 690 can handle Vista up to the Ultimate edition.

“The 690 really has been architected from the ground up to bring a Vista Premium experience,” said Dave Orton, executive vice president of Visual and Media Businesses at AMD.

He said half the systems it has tested don’t qualify for a “good” Vista Premium and 90 percent don’t qualify as offering the “best” performance. The 690 addresses that and was done by both AMD and ATI teams.

“The 690 is a combination of where we could integrate the teams and have the opportunity to optimize the platform with the CPU and GPU,” said Orton. The 690 will offer high-definition video playback, but at the same time it will offer a more energy-efficient design than previous AMD chipsets.

Nathan Brookwood, research fellow for Insight64, felt the 690 would be a much better choice for people who wanted some level of graphics performance, but were not necessarily ready to spend $2,000 on a high-end gaming rig.

“This brings integrated graphics to a more acceptable level for more people,” he told “Vista performance is the whole story. The whole idea was to make Aero run better.”

There’s more to come from this partnership. Richard said that with the integration of CPU and GPU teams, AMD can now start to incorporate its Powernow technology across all of its GPU and chipsets, not just the CPU, for greater power savings.

Orton added that the integration would mean there’s room for continued growth of performance while bringing down the rampant power consumption of discrete graphics cards.

More than 30 motherboards from major AMD OEM partners will be available this month. AMD is taking more of a tidal-wave approach to product releases. Its new R600 graphics product is also ready to go, but the company decided to hold off on the release and ship multiple products at once, rather than multiple releases for multiple parts.

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