AMD Rolls Out 45nm Chips, Hybrid Graphics


On a busy day for the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based company, AMD also released a new Athlon dual-core desktop processor, the 45-watt Athlon x2 4850E.

The 780 Series, promising an "additive effect" with the addition of more video cards thanks to AMD's Hybrid Graphics technology, launches with an entry-level product, the 780V (ATI Radeon HD 3100) and a more powerful chipset for the mainstream client, the 780G (ATI Radeon HD 3200). The boards are tailor-made for Microsoft's Vista operating system, with DirectX 10 support a major selling point, as are support for CrossFireX and the energy efficiency benefits of AMD's industry leading 55nm process technology for GPUs.

"When paired with an AMD Phenom 9000 series quad-core processor or Athlon 64 X2 dual-core processor, the AMD 780 Series delivers significant enhancements in gaming and high-definition experiences for mainstream PC customers," AMD said in a statement Tuesday.

More than 25 motherboards featuring the chipsets from OEM partners such as ASUS, GIGABYTE, Micro-Star International and Elitegroup Computer Systems are available as of the launch date, according to AMD, which also boasted that some 30 system builders across the chipmaker's tiered channels had signed on to build and ship 780 Series-based PCs starting in the second quarter.

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Early reviews have been largely favorable, ranging from HardwareGeeks' rave review to the Tech Report's comprehensive testing of the 780G, which tempers its positive findings with questions about AHCI problems carried over to the SB700 south bridge from the old SB600.

A 780G-Athlon 4850e combination will fall into the $180 to $220 price range, according to AMD. Setups featuring the entry-level 780V chipset will cost even less.

Meanwhile, AMD also brought a pair of working 45nm CPUs to CeBIT, not a terribly long journey for the Dresden-fabbed processors. The chipmaker says its 45nm devices will launch in earnest at some unspecified time in the second half of this year, admitting to ChannelWeb in a briefing last week that last September's premature Barcelona launch has left it a bit gun shy when it comes to promising specific general release dates.

While AMD's chief x86 rival Intel already shifted down to 45nm last October, the smaller chipmaker contends that what will probably be a 12-month lag won't be as debilitating as some may think. Die shrinks are generally regarded as fairly boring technological advances, despite chipmakers' -- usually Intel's -- best efforts to hype their latest success at cramming tinier transistors onto silicon wafers. Ironically, that's due in large part to the relentless march of Moore's Law, the rule Intel founder Gordon Moore established decades ago for transistor technology. It's hard to get excited about something that happens every two years like clockwork.

Intel spiced up its sales pitch for 45nm several months ago with a focus on hafnium, the material the chip giant chose to shore up power leakage in its transistor gate insulators. For its part, AMD is touting the immersion lithography technology it's adopted for its own 45nm process.

Immersion lithography in the semiconductor manufacturing process involves replacing the air between the final lens and the wafer with water. AMD says the process it has developed with research partner IBM results in a more efficient fabrication process and prepares the company for the eventual shrink to 32nm, when Intel is also expected to adopt immersion lithography.