Today, AMD finally makes available their long overdue 690 series of chipsets, with the initial launching of two RS690 IGP variants - AMD 690G and AMD690V. The discreet version of the AMD 690 (RX690), which was supposed to have launched in the same time frame however, is still nowhere to been seen at the moment. Originally rumored to debut somewhere in the first half of 2006, the RS690 is set to replace the aging Radeon Xpress 200 and Radeon Xpress 1100 in the integrated graphics market.
Generally, the RS690 are AM2 platform chipsets that support the full range of AM2 Athlon processors including the Athlon 64 X2 and FX dual core CPUs and dual-channel DDR2 memory up to DDR2-800. The RS690 will continue to feature a single PCIe x16 for discreet graphics support. AMD has also made some switches to some chipset functionality, moving audio and some PCIe lanes into the Northbridge, leaving the Southbridge to handle USB, Storage, LAN and PCI functions. The new chipset will still be using ATI's PCI Express based A-Link interconnect between the Northbridge and Southbridge. At present, most RS690 products will be paired with the existing SB600 Southbridge.
The main update to the RS690 family is its Radeon X1200 graphics core, an upgrade to the X300-based Radeon Xpress 200 and Radeon Xpress 1100 series. However, as IGP graphics go, the X1200 on the RS690 is really a cut-down variant of the Radeon X700 and does not share the architecture of ATI's X1000 series GPUs, meaning that it does not have decoupled pipelines and shader processing units. Built on an 80nm process, the 3D capabilities of the X1200 is based on a 400MHz DirectX 9, 4-pipeline engine, supposedly featuring two pixel and two vertex shaders. The X1200 IGP core will operate on the usual UMA memory architecture and will now be able to support a massive 512MB frame buffer; the Radeon Xpress 1100 only supports up to 256MB. Of course, the IGP will continue to make use of the HyperMemory function, and with this class of GPU, we highly doubt that anyone will need 512MB of locked shared memory, but more on that later.
What really differentiates the RS690 from the previous generation IGPs and its competition is its video processing capabilities. The RS690 family will have support for ATI AVIVO, making it capable of hardware acceleration of high-definition H.264 and VC-1 content. While this is a major feature of the chipset to enable next generation HTPCs supporting HD DVD or Blu-ray playback, given its limited GPU processing power and the way AVIVO functions we'll have to try that out first hand in the near future before we pass our verdict on this mode of usage. General video and DVD processing is also supposed to be of better quality, as the X1200 core is said to keep the 10-bit video processing unit like other AVIVO capable GPUs. This is a bit of surprise indeed since the Radeon X700 core itself didn't support AVIVO, but it looks like ATI incorporated AVIVO functionality from the X1000 series to keep the integrated GPU more current.
Of the two chipsets launched today, the AMD 690G is classified under the mainstream segment and will feature the ATI Radeon X1250 graphics, while the AMD 690V is the low-end value equivalent with the ATI Radeon X1200 GPU. From what we gather, both the Radeon X1250 and X1200 have identical 3D performance with a 400MHz core. The only difference between the 690G and 690V is in their video output capabilities. The 690G supports TDMS, with DVI and HDMI (and HDCP) capabilities, in addition to regular VGA and TV-Out. The 690V only supports VGA and TV-Out modes, limiting its HD capabilities. The 690V also does not feature any external PCIe x16 slots.