Processors and graphics chips are easily the rock stars of this industry, and for good reason. They're largely responsible for overall system performance, and that's even more appealing to enthusiasts than eyeliner and tight leather pants are to hair metal groupies. It's fitting, then, that the bulk of attention and excitement surrounding AMD's new Spider enthusiast platform will narrow on its new Phenom processor and Radeon HD 3800 series graphics cards.
If Spider were a rock band, Phenom would undoubtedly be the front man, with the Radeon HD 3870 and 3850 filling in at lead and rhythm guitars. On drums, you'd find AMD's new 790FX chipset, hidden away not behind a massive array of snares and cymbals, but under a heatsink amongst a sea of other chips on a crowded motherboard.
Like drummers, chipsets spend most of their time outside the limelight; even shirtless and sweaty, they don't pack much in the way of sex appeal. But they're the glue that holds everything together, and that counts for a lot if you value system stability. On occasion, chipsets can also bring important new features to the table that will shape system architectures for years to come. This is one such occasion, with the 790FX packing second-generation PCI Express, support for two-, three-, and four-way CrossFire configurations, and the first desktop implementation of HyperTransport 3. Join us as we explore how these features tie the Spider platform together, and how the 790FX's performance, power consumption, and initial motherboard implementations measure up.