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AMD does a Spider balancing act

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AMD unveiled its Spider platform late last year, marrying quad-core processing power with high-capacity graphics performance. Tyrone Gruner, AMD product manager at technology distributor Ingram Micro South Africa, looks at why this is such an important announcement for the company.

For the uninitiated, Spider combines AMD Phenom quad-core processors, ATI Radeon 3800 series graphics, AMD 7-Series chipsets, and ATI CrossFireX platform technology on a desktop platform. It has been proven that the right combination of a solution is what will have a major impact on your system's performance, rather than just the performance of your processor.
With that in mind, AMD's Spider platform beats the competition hands down. AMD's advances in technology, such as having the memory controller integrated on the CPU and the DirectX 10.1 graphics offering from ATI, another industry first, makes this a perfect partnership.
However, the company has been positioning the platform as much more than just a gaming solution. After all, anyone who uses a computer understands the value of a good visual experience. Getting the balance right between the CPU, chipset, and graphics have almost proven to be as effusive as it has been difficult.
Technical difficulties notwithstanding, combining these components also make for a theoretically more expensive and power-hungry system. Hardly the stuff that make businesses who have come under increasing cost pressures jump for the opportunity to get in line for these systems.
With scalability at the forefront of the design process, AMD has taken these issues into consideration with Spider. Just about anyone from business users to media enthusiasts can adopt the platform and let the systems scale as their needs increase.
Some of the benefits OEMs and system builders derive from using an all-AMD platform include system longevity, and socket and BIOS compatibility. The flexibility to grow systems with up to four GPUs adds to the sustainability of the platform.
With the versatility that Spider offers, OEMs and system builders can develop a range of configuration options to cater for most business, consumers, and professional needs.
However, while the price and performance issues have been addressed, what about the inevitable increase in power consumption that such a platform requires? In designing Spider, AMD took cognisance of the energy efficiency demands of users and companies. Looking at average consumer and commercial usage patterns, Spider is able to consume an average power of 32W for consumers and 29W for commercial users.
More than anything, the company seems to be driving the performance-per-watt message with Spider. With the current electricity situation in the country seeming to be tenuous at best, the increased power efficiency of Spider would make the platform more appealing to corporate users.
As long as Spider is promising great performance at a decent price point with energy efficiency to match, it might not be such a bad idea to consider going the AMD route.