Review Index:

AMD 690 Chipset Preview - AMD Jumps Back on the Horse

Subject: Chipsets
Manufacturer: AMD

AMD Gets a New Chipset


By my watch, AMD's last new chipset launch was in the middle of 2003 for the original Opteron platform release.  AMD had at that point decided to focus on processors only and left the chipset market to its partners of VIA, NVIDIA, ATI, SiS and ULi.  Since then, SiS and ULi have fallen to the bottom of the pack with VIA basically leaving the high end market and focusing only on the integrated video platforms. 

When ATI was purchased by AMD last year, we all knew that one of the main goals to was to offer a "complete solution" like Intel has with the Centrino platform.  That will come later, but for now, AMD is able to offer their first product release from the new combined company in the form of a budget integrated-video chipset for their own AM2 platform.

The AMD 690 Chipset

The AMD 690 chipset was known as the ATI RS690 chipset before the companies were combined; other than the name change everything looks the same as we expected from mid-2006. 

The AMD 690 chipset uses the SB600 south bridge that was first introduced with the XPress 3200 chipset in March 2006.  The features on the AMD 690 chipset are intriguing at first glance, to say the least.  Support for DVI and HDMI outputs as well as two simultaneous outputs from the motherboard itself.  Standard USB 2.0, SATA, HD Audio and PCI Express support round out the requirements for a modern chipset design.

This is also the first chipset to bring ATI's Avivo video technology into the integrated graphics market.  Avivo is ATI's term for their technologies centered around improving image quality in video.  The performance metrics above should be taken with a grain of salt until we see the results for ourselves, but Avivo is definitely a welcome additon to the AMD 690 feature list.

As mentioned above, the AMD 690 chipset is the first to offer integrated HDMI as well as the ability to output both HDMI and DVI at the same time.  This could allow for some interesting dispaly scenarios. 

AMD makes several mentions of the lack of gaming support from Intel's current 945G and 965G chipsets, like this one above.  The integrated GPU on the AMD 690 isn't going to light anything on fire though as we'll see later in the review.

For obvious reasons, AMD's big push with the AMD 690 chipset is for the business sector -- they are finally able to offer a completely encompassing platform option to customers (with the processor, chipset and graphics cores all from the same company). 

There are two different versions of the AMD 690 chipset that will be available starting today: the 690G and the 690V.  The main difference between them is the lack of HDMI and DVI support on the lesser 690V. 

As you can see, the list of motherboards that AMD has lined up for the 690 chipsets is impressive!  Asus alone has 5 different models in the works. 

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