by March 1, 2008 0 comments

Every now and then you come across platform, graphics cards, motherboards,
etc, dishing out that bit extra to keep the gaming fraternity happy and excited.
This implicates that the gaming fraternity is no longer a sub-duded market, it’s
growing and it’s serious business. With Quad Core’s entry into the desktop
market, it made life even more enthralling for gamers as now they have not only
strong GPUs but also the power of Quad Core CPUs to take gaming more close to
reality and to add more life to it. Last month we reviewed the latest Desktop
Quad Core Offering from both Intel and AMD (Clash of the Titans, pg 119, Feb
’08), and we mentioned that this month we would be coming up with a review of
Spider platform. AMD was slightly late in launching their Phenom processor but
has won a small battle against NVIDIA and Intel by launching the first DirectX
10.1 supported card and Gaming Platform respectively.

AMD Spider is a combination of three components: an AMD Phenom Quad Core
Processor 9600 or 9500, AMD series 7 chipset, and RV670 Chip that forms the
heart of HD 3800 Series card. We discussed extensively about AMD Phenom 9600
processor in the last issue, so this time we will focus mainly on the new
chipset and the latest graphics card from AMD.

Price: Processor (Rs 12,500),
(Rs 10,000), Graphics card (Rs 12,400)
Meant For: Gamers
Key Specs: 9600 Phenom Processor (2.1 GHz), 1 GB RAM, ATI
Radeon HD 3850 graphics card,790FX chipset
Pros: Good gaming performance, economical
Cons: Low processor frequency
Contact: AMD India, Bangalore

The 7-series chipset includes three chipsets, among which 770 chipset is the
most basic one, followed by 790X and 790FX. The 770 chipset is mainly targeted
at consumers who are on the look out for latest technology. Whereas the 770X
mainly targets the intense gamers and HD power users, the 790FX is for those
gaming geeks who love over-clocking and are crazy about mindboggling fps. All of
them have support for HyperTransport 3.0 technology which enhances the CPU
communication bandwidth to graphics. It also has support for PCI Express 2.0
which almost doubles the graphics bandwidth over earlier version of PCI Express.
The AMD RAIDXpert allows you to easily configure your RAID setup from remote
location to personalize your media for extra performance or enhanced
reliability. And the best part of the 7-series is it’s designed to ensure that
more power is available for other components when and if required. The high-end
chips also have support for Auto Xpress which allows performance boost by
automatically activating AMD/ATI component to deliver better CPU, GPU, and
system performance. The GPU-Plex technology enables to scale twin-engine
technology all on a single chip enhance enabling flexible configuration for
multiple graphics card on a single x16 link. ATI CrossFireX technology helps you
to attain that much extra in terms of graphics performance. Overall the 7-series
chipset has all that is required by the Quad core to give it enthralling gaming

Coming to the 3800 series graphics cards, ATI was the first to come up with
cards which support DirectX 10.1, the next gen of DirectX. The 3800 series is
mainly for serious gamers and comes with many added features. There are mainly
two cards that feature in this range: HD3850 and HD3750X2 (review on HD3850 in
this issue).

For testing we chose a MSI K9A2 Platinum Motherboard with 1 GB Crossair RAM,
120 GB Seagate HDD, Sony DVD ROM, ATI 790X chipset, ATI Radeon HD3850 graphics
card, and
Windows XP.

Performance results
Coming to performance, it scored 10943 in 3D Mark06 which is pretty good
score when compared to that we got from 2900 series card and Dual Core
processor. Surely we have seen even better performance from NVIDIA 8800GTX but
we must not forget that 3850 is not the ultimate card from ATI (they have 3870X2
to compete with the likes of 8800GTX). Coming to the gaming tests: in Company of
Heroes it gave an average of 103 fps which is good, though we expected slightly
better performance, as even with an 8800GT card from NVDIA we managed to get 120
plus fps. Now the big daddy of gaming: in Crysis it could manage an average
score of 26 fps which is good and surely would be even higher with HD3870X2
card. In Unreal Tournament3 it managed an average of 55.3 fps which is on the
higher side implicating that this platform is all ready for high-end gaming. In
SisSoft Sandra Processor Multimedia test, it gave 87522 iit/s in Multimedia int
which is very high compared to what we get from dual core. In fact in SisSoft
Sandra ALU Power Performance its score of 11774MIPS proves that it is very power
efficient. We tried checking how good is it with multitasking and hence stressed
it with Video decoder app along with Adobe Photoshop CS2 and Maya 7, all running
together. The system showed no sign of instability and performed well, with none
of the core being utilized even up to 60%. We tried running Crysis in tandem
with Photoshop CS2 and Office PowerPoint and Excel, still the processor weren’t
stressed to their optimum level, which goes to show that it’s ready for even
greater challenge and more demanding application.

Overall this platform will be a good for gaming enthusiasts though it would
be interesting to see what will be AMD’s next step as Intel has already come up
with their gaming platform called ‘Skulltrail’ which is boosted by two Quad Core
processors running in tandem. Imagine after getting such high performance from a
single Quad Core Processor, what it would be like from two of them along with a
top end gaming card, gaming at its best. But we still believe this Spider
platform will have its own market simply because of the price point.

Bottomline: Owing to its reasonable price, this
Spider will spread its web around most gaming geeks.

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