May 14 2009

AMD Unleashes the Beast

Dragon platform is designed for graphics-intensive applications.

AMD recently launched its brand new Dragon platform technology for desktop PCs, featuring the new Phenom II X4 processor, which AMD claims provides “soaring computing performance.” The system was designed to meet the needs of more demanding users, such as high-end gaming enthusiasts, who require graphics-intensive high-definition gaming and video-processing capabilities that push the limits of their monitors. The Dragon platform unites AMD’s highest-performing CPU with the company’s ATI Radeon HD 4800 series graphics core and AMD’s 7-Series chip set.

AMD’s Phenom II X4 processor features an intelligent multicore technology that selectively directs processing power to where it’s needed most — a crucial function when it comes to multitasking among a number of demanding applications. With 758 million transistors on board (compared with its predecessor’s 463 million), Phenom II is compatible with almost any Socket AM2 motherboard. This 45-nanometer quad-core CPU offers frequencies of up to 3 gigahertz, with some headroom for overclocking.

According to the company, the platform was intentionally designed to provide users with power to “use their favorite productivity, HD gaming and multimedia applications without skipping a beat.” The Phenom II design also includes an integrated, dual-channel memory controller, along with dedicated HyperTransport links to and from the rest of the system. In comparison with its predecessor, Phenom II sports a faster, tripled-in-size 6-megabyte L3 cache, which improves the performance of the quad-core architecture.

“With Dragon platform technology, AMD is changing the desktop industry landscape by offering affordable performance and maximum headroom for gaming, video editing and other media-intensive tasks,” says Leslie Sobon, vice president of worldwide product marketing at AMD. “Through our Fusion platform approach, AMD is able to deliver CPUs, GPUs and chip sets that work better together to meet the industry’s evolving needs today and well into the future.”

The Fusion platform to which Sobon refers is AMD’s proprietary software that automatically overclocks both the computer and graphics proccessing units at the press of a button. The software is compatible solely with all-AMD platforms, meaning that both the CPU and GPU must be made by AMD.

Dragon’s ATI Radeon HD 4800 series graphics and AMD 7-series chip set offer relatively fast DirectX 10 graphics, which, according to AMD, allow consumers to enjoy smooth graphics at high game settings on display resolutions beyond HD. 

AMD’s Phenom II CPU features the company’s proprietary Cool‘n’Quiet 3.0 technology, which the company says provides efficient power management with minimal performance impact. This means that, even when computing in HD, the CPU’s multicore design allows for relatively low processor temperatures and quiet fans. In fact, AMD claims that the 45nm Phenom II X4 940 125-watt processors with Cool‘n’Quiet 3.0 were shown to consume up to 50 percent less power at idle when compared with the 65nm Phenom X4 9950 125W with Cool‘n’Quiet 2.0.

To complement Dragon’s hardware capabilities, AMD offers consumers free software that can further improve performance. The company’s Fusion for Gaming tool can automatically suspend resource-consuming background tasks, focusing more system performance on gaming. In addition, gamers may take advantage of AMD’s OverDrive utility, which provides advanced overclocking controls. Power users will also like the ATI Catalyst with ATI Stream technology, which merges the power of the CPU and GPU to enable a growing number of applications. 

AMD says the new platform is specially designed to enable smooth transfer of video entertainment to and from mobile devices. This is possible because of the ATI Video Converter that utilizes the graphics processor and ATI Stream technology that converts video content to play on portable entertainment devices faster than converting video using a microprocessor alone.

AMD says its new platform isn’t just about high-performance capabilities but is also designed in a way that allows the company to offer it at an affordable price. Dragon platform technology consisting of the new AMD Phenom II X4 processor, ATI Radeon HD 4870 1-gigabyte graphics card, the AMD 790GX motherboard, and 4GB of DDR2-1066 memory can be purchased for approximately $900.

With the release of the Dragon platform, AMD hopes to change the dynamics of the desktop PC market by offering an affordable all-in-one solution that aims to provide levels of performance that meet the needs of high-end gamers and power users, deftly handling gaming, video editing and other media-intensive tasks.

Sarah Gingichashvili writes for the electronic magazine The Future of Things at www.thefutureofthings.com.