Two New AMD GPUs ... Are Phenom, Spider Next?

processor widely anticipated Spider platform

Two new GPUs were made available Thursday, the Radeon HD 3850 and 3870. The 3800 series is AMD's first manufactured with the 55nm process and first to support DirectX 10.1, Microsoft's multimedia API set to be shipped with Windows Vista Service Pack 1 in January.

The new graphics chips slot into the $150-$250 price range, or what AMD calls the "performance" tier. Launch prices for the GPUs were $179 for the 3850 and $219 for the 3870, according to an AMD news release. That puts the first batch of 3800-series chips below AMD's "enthusiast"-level GPUs like the HD 2900 XT, which cost around $400 at various brokers Thursday afternoon. Priced above the "value" and "mainstream" tiers but below the "enthusiast" level, the 3800 series is being marketed by AMD as a hard-clocking GPU solution for "budget-conscious" gamers and multi-media enthusiasts.

A higher-priced 3800 series GPU, the HD 3870 X2, is also set for release in the fourth quarter, according to AMD. That chip will cost somewhere in the $399-$499 price range, the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based chip maker said in its press release.

The single-slot Radeon HD 3850 comes with 256MB of GDDR2 memory, with a core clock speed of 670MHz and memory clock speed of 1.66GHz. It has a math processing rate of 428 gigaflops, peak board power of 95W and like the Radeon HD 3870, features 320 stream processors, PCI Express 2.0 system bus support and DirectX 10.1 support, as well as UVD, ATI PowerPlay and ATI CrossFireX technology.

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The dual-slot 3870 has 512MB of GDDR4 memory, 775+MHz core clock speed, 2.25GHz memory clock speed, a math processing rate of 497+ gigaflops and peaks at 105W.

Perhaps the most intriguing spec listed by AMD for the new GPUs is "Quad Graphics Ready." AMD VP of Advanced Marketing Patrick Moorhead recently appeared on a BBC News segment that shows a 3800 series GPU next to AMD's first quad-core desktop CPU, Phenom. AMD isn't ready to say just when, but all signs point to Phenom being launched very soon as part of a flurry of desktop releases that culminate in the Spider platform.

AMD acquired graphics chipmaker ATI Technologies last year. According to Moorhead, the Spider platform is the first since the acquisition to be "built from the ground up" with full input from both the CPU and GPU sides of the house.