May 14 2009

Unleashing the Beast

AMD ships Dragon platform for graphic-intensive applications.

AMD recently launched its Dragon platform technology for desktop PCs, featuring the new Phenom II X4 processor, which AMD claims provides “soaring computing performance.”

It designed the system to meet the needs of more demanding users who require graphic-intensive high-definition and video-processing capabilities that push the limits of their monitors. The Dragon platform unites AMD’s highest-performing CPU with the its ATI Radeon HD 4800 series graphics core and 7-Series chip set.

The Phenom II X4 processor features an intelligent multicore technology that selectively directs processing power 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.

Multimedia Minded

According to the AMD, it intentionally designed the platform 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. Compared with its predecessor, Phenom II sports a faster, tripled-in-size 6-megabyte L3 cache, which improves 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 proprietary software that automatically overclocks both the computer and graphics processing 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, lets users enjoy smooth graphics on display resolutions beyond HD. 

The Phenom II CPU features the company’s proprietary Cool‘n’Quiet 3.0 technology, which AMD 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 when idle compared with the 65nm Phenom X4 9950 125W with Cool‘n’Quiet 2.0.

Software Side Order

To complement Dragon’s hardware capabilities, AMD offers consumers free software that can further improve performance. For instance, the OverDrive utility provides advanced overclocking controls, and the ATI Catalyst with ATI Stream technology 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 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 devices faster than converting video using a microprocessor alone.

The company says its new platform isn’t just about high-performance capabilities but is also designed 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.

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