AMD has seen fit to bring out their latest generation of chipset with new integrated graphics, the 890GX. A first model in the 800-series, the 890GX brings a number of improvements to the AMD stable: native SATA3.0, a new SB850 southbridge (finally!), more powerful graphics, USB3.0, dual- and hybrid-GPU options and perhaps most interesting of all, compatibility with the six-core Phenom II X6 processor.
Well, let’s get the most exciting bits out of the way first – the Phenom II X6 “Thuban” six-core desktop CPU isn’t launched. It won’t be launching for a while yet, either; while rumors and roadmaps originally had it pegged for a May release window, recent rumblings from the big blue giant may force AMD to show their hand a bit. Still, just seeing AMD officially mention their upcoming desktop flagship is enough to generate some excitement.
Back to the new 890GX, however, shows that their partnership with graphics acquisition ATI continues to bear fruit. The Radeon HD4290 is AMD’s latest and most powerful integrated graphics yet, clocked at 700MHz standard, but, depending on motherboard, overclockable to significantly higher. In addition to a new integrated graphics engine, AMD has made some interesting changes to the way discrete graphics work. As opposed to presumed FX variants, the 890GX only allows for dual-GPU CrossFire—for those keeping track, that means one 5970 or two 5870s/5850s. More interesting to us, however, is the return of hybrid CrossFire in hopefully what will be a much more useful iteration. Hybrid CrossFire is the technology that allows ATI cards with different GPUs work together (traditionally ATI’s CrossFire has required identical models).
With its return comes a new name; it’s now known as Dual Graphics. Currently, it’s really only supported for reviewers to preview. The 890GX’s HD4290 works with a discrete Radeon HD 5450…and that’s it. Additionally, you can’t use it with AA or AF. Still, it’s really great to see ATI working on this and hopefully they’ll get it up and running with more hardware profiles soon.
Besides the new graphics hardware comes increased power efficiency as well as lower cost. Motherboards using the new chipset are available for as little as $130 off the bat, which is pretty impressive considering the capability (stay tuned for our review in just a bit!).