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AMD quad-core chip hits compatibility snag

AMD quad-core chip hits compatibility snag

Advanced Micro Devices' high-end quad-core Phenom chips are facing compatibility issues with select circuit boards as the chipmaker struggles to churn out processors that are competitive with Intel's offerings.

AMD confirmed Monday that high-end quad-core Phenom processors have compatibility problems with some motherboards due to a mismatch with the chipset. (The motherboard is the main circuit board in a PC. The chipset allows the processor to interact with other components, among other functions.)

"What people have done, mistakenly, is paired a 780G (chipset-based) motherboard with the higher frequency Phenom--the 125-watt Phenom," said Jake Whitman, an AMD spokesperson.

Whitman is referring to the fact that the high-end 9750 and 9850 Phenom processors have a Thermal Design Power (TDP or thermal envelope) of 125 watts versus the lower-end 9600 and 9550 models that have a TDP of 95 watts. The higher-watt parts will not work with motherboards that contain the 780G chipset. The lower-end models do not have these TDP issues.

"They've taken an enthusiast-class quad-core part and paired it with a mainstream motherboard," Whitman said. "And not all motherboard manufacturers have tweaked their boards to support a 125-watt TDP." Whitman says that AMD's 790 chipset--not the 780--should be paired with the 9750 and 9850 processors and that a number of motherboard makers are already doing this.

"We've never made claims that 780G motherboards are enthusiast-class motherboards," Whitman said.

This issue was also reported Monday at the Web site HKEPC.

The inability to use high-end quad-core AMD processors on some motherboards may be symptomatic of a larger challenge. AMD is finding it difficult to compete head-on with Intel quad-core offerings in the consumer segment.

Hewlett-Packard and Gateway, for instance, offer desktops with only the lower-performance Phenom chips, such as the 9100e (1.8GHz) and 9600 (2.3GHz). Neither HP nor Gateway offer desktops with higher-performance 9750 (2.4GHz) or 9850 (2.5GHz) Phenoms.

Meanwhile, Intel-based systems from these companies--though usually more expensive--come with quad-core chips ranging up to a 2.83GHz Q9550.

Whitman says there's a reason for this. First-tier PC makers "are not necessarily interested in building the fastest AMD-based quad-core systems, but are more interested in price." He expects wider adoption of the high-end Phenom chips with system builders and game-enthusiast PC makers.


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