AMD is weaving together several lines of high-end components to create a new platform aimed at enthusiast PC computing. Codenamed “Spider,” AMD’s PC platform combines the new AMD Phenom quad-core processors, ATI Radeon HD 3800 Series graphics processors with Microsoft DirectX 10.1 support, AMD 7-Series chipsets with CrossFireX and AMD OverDrive software.
Overall, AMD says its Spider platform is a major milestone in its path to accelerated computing, which is the company’s vision for platform-level acceleration through co-processing.
“Spider is the beginning of a response to Intel’s strong execution with Penryn, their latest offerings,” Rob Enderle, principal analyst for the Enderle Group, told TechNewsWorld. “What AMD is doing is creating a platform — one that should have been obvious — that blends graphics performance and processor performance to create more overall performance at a given price.”
While graphics-focused professionals could utilize AMD’s new Spider platform, the company is touting its gaming potential as a scalable system for high-definition gaming. “The AMD Spider platform to easily scale to three or four graphics processors and deliver a true gaming supercomputer,” the company notes, resulting in graphical environments that can be delivered in HD.
“Falcon Northwest is particularly impressed with the quad ATI CrossFireX potential of the new AMD Spider platform,” said Kelt Reeves, president of Falcon Northwest, a manufacturer of high-end enthusiast PCs.
“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,” he explained. “The cohesive nature of the Spider platform design allows the AMD 7-Series chipset, high-performing AMD Phenom quad-core processor, and the already cool and quiet ATI Radeon HD 3800 graphics cards to all be placed for maximum airflow and cooling. AMD has made massive multi-GPU (graphics processing unit) performance easy to build and affordable.”
In its Spider platform, AMD is also focusing on producing energy efficient systems. Beyond the PC processors, the ATI Radeon HD 3800 Series graphics processors deliver twice the performance-per-watt compared to the previous generation of AMD graphics products.
In addition, AMD says its ATI PowerPlay for the desktop allows for automatic power state adjustments for increased GPU efficiency when under moderate load or idle, resulting in a PC capable of delivering awesome HD video without burning as much energy when the GPU’s not fully needed.
Competing With Consoles
“To put the power in perspective, we’re providing teraflops of performance — 80 times the performance of a Sony PS3,” Pat Moorhead, vice president of advanced platform marketing for AMD, noted. In addition, because Spider is scalable, it offers a range of price points for consumers.
PCs and gaming consoles constantly switch back and forth in terms of processing performance, Enderle stated, but in this cycle, AMD’s Spider is delivering a performance boost over the newest game consoles sooner than previous PC-console generations. Plus, online gaming enthusiasts still look toward the PC for certain kinds of games.
“Gaming on a PC remains richer in that massive multiplayer games haven’t done as well on consoles, and only the Xbox  really does online consistently well,” Enderle said. “This makes a platform like Spider really stand out because it grants a higher level of graphics performance at a lower overall price — and for those that game, that is a magic combination.”
AMD Phenom processors 9600 (2.3 GHz) and 9500 (2.2 GHz) are now available for US$283 and $251, respectively, in 1,000-unit pricing. The ATI Radeon HD 3850 with 256 MB of GDDR3 memory begins at $179, and the ATI Radeon HD 3870 with 512 MB GDDR4 memory starts at $219.