Processor and Components
In today's article we are going to encompass an entire platform rather than just a single CPU. The Athlon 64 4850e is a direct descendant of the same K8 architecture that has been around since the 2003 launch of the original AMD Athlon 64 processor line. While this isn't a bad thing, there is something to be said about updating the technology.
The Athlon 4850e is part of AMD's line-up of power efficient 45watt TDP processors. Originally these were given the Athlon 64 X2 BE-xxxx series naming, however AMD has decided to go towards the older naming scheme for its Athlon 64 based processors, since it's not quite easy to change naming schemes. Using the older style gives people the ability to gauge the actual speed performance between this CPU and older versions.
The package of the CPU is identical to that of the older Athlon 64 X2 processors; it uses the same AM2 socket design, and being based on the older AMD K8 architecture the CPU uses the older memory controller which runs on a divider based on the CPU speed. This means that the memory does not always run at the full speed that it is rated for. Because of the 2.5GHz CPU speed, when running memory at DDR2-800 the memory only runs at 712MHz, which reduces the overall performance of the system compared to a system based on a Phenom processor with a set memory controller interface speed.
From the CPU-Z screenshot you can see that the new 4850e isn't properly recognised. While it doesn't have the info on the screen, the CPU uses a 65nm SOI process, but its code name isn't given to us.
The chipset of choice for the AMD platform is the 780G. The AMD 780G is the second generation of integrated graphics processor based chipsets from the now AMD chipset department, which is comprised of the ATI engineers who produced the Xpress chipsets when AMD and ATI were separate entities. AMD's 780G has a built in HD 3200 graphics engine that supports DX10 and Vista Aero desktop out of the box.
Being an IGP chipset, you have to shave system memory with it in order to make it work. Depending on the amount of memory you have, the system will allocate between 32MB and 512MB of system memory in order to gain a frame buffer. One of the biggest features of the chipset is the ability to use both the IGP and a discrete HD 3400 series graphics card to allow for a faster system; this will make low end systems a little bit more capable in 3D gaming. We will touch on this a little bit later.
The board we have been given today for our testing, not only for the CPU but with regard to Hybrid Crossfire is an ASUS M3A78-EMH HDMI Micro ATX motherboard. ASUS has put just about every function on this board, and despite the fact that is a Micro ATX format, the layout is extremely clean. The 24-pin power connector finds its way behind the four colour coded memory slots. The IDE port and SATA ports are located at on the right hand side of the board. The 4-pin power connector gets moved to the top left of the board behind the rear I/O PS/2 ports.
The board's CPU socket is extremely clean of components, however this board uses the older electrolyte capacitors and non-solid state chokes which tend to reduce power consumption no thanks to lower operating voltages. Though a 3 phase voltage regulation system is used, this will handle the 4850 perfectly, and even the X3s for that matter, but X4s with 120watt TDPs might be struggling.
Moving along to the rear I/O ports, the ASUS board has them all. For the video output of the 780G there are three options here. First, you have a standard RGB port for older CRT and LCD monitors, then there is a DVI-I video port for connecting to HD LCDs and some older TVs. Lastly, there is a HDMI port for connecting to the latest generation of HD LCD and plasma TVs. HDMI has revolutionised the connection of video devices thanks to the high-def video and audio signals sent though a single cable, allowing PCs to connect to TVs seamlessly.
Lastly we look at the expansion slots. Being a Micro ATX board you can't expect much in this regard, however you get a PCI Express x16 slot for a discrete GPU card (or in conjunction with Hybrid Graphics if you have a compatible graphics card). A PCI Express x1 slot supporting 2.0 protocols make up the last of the PCI-E slots and two legacy PCI slots make up the expansion possibilities.