AMD’s Spider Scurries Into The Market

AMD today formally introduced Spider, a platform with all of the latest CPU, graphics processor and chipset technologies in one high performance package.

The heart of the platform is Phenom, the quad core desktop processor built on the same technology as the Quad Core Opteron, also known as Barcelona, while graphics is driven by its new Radeon HD 3800 processor, which shipped last week.

AMD isn’t fooling around with this platform. Thanks to the new 790FX chipset and CrossFire technology from ATI, PCI Express 2.0 and HyperTransport 3.0 interfaces, the Spider motherboard design allows for up to four graphics cards operating in parallel.

“Running four graphics boards in one system has been a dream of gamers, but could be a nightmare for a system builder to get all those graphics cards proper airflow,” said Kelt Reeves, president of Falcon Northwest, a system builder that specializes in high performance PCs for gamers in a statement. “AMD has made massive multi-GPU performance easy to build, and affordable.”

The HyperTransport 3.0 technology, Phenom processor and new graphics chipset have up to 14.4 GB/second of high bandwidth I/O, allowing for 1080p high definition video playback and fast disk and network access. AMD claims that between the Phenom processor and four graphics cards, a Spider platform can reach up to two teraflops of processing power.

Because gamers are known for their love of tweaking a computer’s performance, AMD has included two utilities to help them in their tinkering. AMD OverDrive software is a tuning utility for overclocking  the computer and adjusting the voltages, something that often has to be done when overclocking.

AMD AutoXpress is a specific tuning utility for the 790FX chipset, allowing enthusiasts to fiddle with BIOS  settings, memory settings and other components of the machine.

However, despite the product and code names, it would be a mistake to think of Spider and its related technologies as just something for playing “Bioshock” or “Half-Life 2,” according to Nathan Brookwood, research fellow with Insight64.

“This platform will appeal to everybody who needs maximum performance, be it for games, digital content creation, or as a workstation,” he told “There are lots and lots of apps that need this kind of power. I think you are seeing it first for the enthusiasts class because OEMs typically don’t like to introduce new products at this time of year.”

Indeed, Thanksgiving week is probably not the ideal time to introduce a new platform, but the Radeon 3800 was released literally a week ago, and the Phenom is only available now. “”I think [the launch] was purely dictated by tactics and their ability to produce these chips,” said Brookwood.

Two AMD Phenom processors are available now, the 2.3GHz 9600 and the 2.2GHz 9500, for $283 and $251 respectively in 1,000-unit pricing. The ATI Radeon HD 3850 card with 256MB of GDDR3 memory begins at $179 while the higher end Radeon HD 3870 with 512MB of GDDR4 memory starts at $219.

The new platform announcement comes just days after an investment firm in the United Arab Emirates bought an 8.1 percent stake in the firm. Brookwood said the $622 million is welcomed and needed.

“Anything that helps AMD’s balance sheet is good,” he said. “The company recently went out and refinanced some of the short term loans it took on when it acquired ATI, but the financial analysts look at debt to equity ratios and say that’s scary, and it is.”

AMD had been suffering from cash flow problems, forcing it to slow the conversion of its Dresden, Germany plant to a larger fabrication design, something it desperately needed to keep up with Intel. “This will probably allow them to do that [conversion] at a more expeditious rate,” said Brookwood.

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