Sub $100 Graphics: AMD Radeon HD 3600 and 3400 Seriesby Derek Wilson on January 23, 2008 12:00 AM EST
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DisplayPort and Hybrid Graphics
DisplayPort is basically a next step from DVI. HDMI has definitely emerged as the next connection standard in CE devices, but is not suited to the evolving needs of the PC market. The underlying design of DisplayPort is an extensible micro-packet based communication method with an auxiliary channel that will allow displays to more highly integrate with the PCs to which they are connected.
Daisy chaining devices is supported, which could allow multiple monitors to be plugged into the same computer to replicate the display. Future versions of DisplayPort will even support things like multiple video streams over a single physical connection. Some of the other cool features that current graphics cards might not take advantage of are the ability to send 16 bit per component data over the cable. Quad HD resolutions are also in the works while resolutions of 2560x1600 are supported currently.
While AMD's adoption leads a real need for it, having the ability to support DisplayPort in a market that plans on moving in that direction is a logical step. We should see adapters to single-link DVI and HDMI available, whereas converters would be needed for dual-link DVI and analog VGA. Connector change is always difficult, and hopefully the move to DisplayPort will be the last in a while and we can move away from the HD-15 and multitude of different DVI connectors once and for all. Of course, at this point, card venders will still need to choose to put DisplayPort connectors on their boards.
The lower end 3400 line will support Hybrid Graphics. This essentially allows AMD on-board and add-in cards to work together to render graphics. During 2D or low power operation, the on-board graphics will be used. When more horsepower is needed, the Radeon HD 3450 or 3470 will be able to work together with the on-board graphics chip to render the scene faster. This means owners of AMD boards with built in graphics will get more for their money when the buy a cheap graphics card.
While two times garbage is just more trash, we'll have to test this out ourselves to see if it enables the use of any more features, higher resolutions, or significantly smoother framerates. We wouldn't expect miracles, but if this offers a tangible benefit to consumers with low end hardware it's certainly a good thing.
AMD touts Hybrid Graphics as also offering lower power, quieter operation, and four monitor support in addition to the potential for faster graphics on low end systems. I don't know that we'll be recommending this solution for gamers, but it might be nice of an HTPC user who wants quiet operation, good video playback, and the potential to play a few games here and there.