For years AMD’s Athlon 64 and later, Athlon 64 X2 processors dominated the CPU wars. Intel tried their best to counter Athlon 64 with higher clock speeds, and later, as the Netburst architecture began to reach its clock speed ceiling, by integrating more L2 cache on their processors, but AMD’s CPU’s continued to deliver better performance while also delivering lower power and thermals. Practically everyone was in agreement that AMD’s Athlon 64 and X2 lines reigned supreme.
Despite this, AMD was never really able to take away any share from Intel. Revenues and profits were up thanks to high margins and strong retail sales (in fact AMD outsold Intel at retail during multiple quarters), but Intel maintained the lion’s share of the overall PC market. In other words, AMD just wasn’t growing like they wanted to. This must have been an incredibly frustrating experience for AMD executives.
Ultimately, the solution they came up with sent shockwaves throughout the industry: they’d buy ATI.
When AMD purchased ATI last year there was lots of talk about the synergy between the two companies. Executives from both companies were abuzz with talks about platforms and the seemingly inevitable merging of the CPU and GPU.
AMD had just learned from experience that having the best processor doesn’t necessarily guarantee success longer term in the overall PC market. AMD’s open ecosystem of partners had allowed them to remain more than competitive to Intel while using significantly fewer resources than if they’d done it all on their own, but what OEMs really wanted were complete platforms that are fully-packaged and ready to go so the OEM can ship as quickly and efficiently as possible. Intel provides this with their desktop and mobile platforms; their Centrino platform is practically a household name, and many consumers insist on using Intel chipsets in their desktop PCs.
By buying ATI, AMD felt they had the perfect partner, it also didn’t hurt that ATI’s mobile chipsets are highly regarded throughout the industry.
Today’s introduction of the AMD 690 chipset series is the first official product of ATI and AMD’s recent marriage.
The origins of AMD 690
Despite what we just said above, AMD 690 is not the first product born as a result of the combined AMD+ATI. The 690 chipset has actually been in development for quite some time under ATI’s roof. Codenamed “RS690”, the chipset predates AMD’s purchase of ATI, in fact it has been featured on ATI roadmaps dating all the way back to 2005.
The RS690 chipset was originally slated for a Q1’06 introduction alongside ATI’s then brand new SB600 South Bridge. Ultimately though the SB600 chip was delayed and didn’t see the light of day until the middle of 2006 when AMD’s AM2 platform was released in May. When this occurred, RS690 was pushed back from slightly after AM2’s release to the second half of 2006, then December ’06, and finally Q1’07. It’s believed the most recent delay was caused due to licensing issues with HDCP and HDMI.
In any case, RS690 is finally here and today we’re going to see what the chipset is capable of. With its brand new Radeon X1250 graphics core, AMD’s 690 chipset is the first integrated offering from ATI with Avivo technology built-in. But that’s not the only first for this motherboard. Let’s go over the specs of the chipset…