Compaq Presario 900 1500+: The Radeon IGP Goes Mobileby Matthew Witheiler on August 15, 2002 1:26 AM EST
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Intel has been the major player in the mobile processor market pretty much since the laptop concept took off in the mid 1990s. In the ten or so years that have passed since then, Intel has faced little competition in the mobile processor and chipset market. On the desktop side Intel faced competition from companies such as AMD and Cyrix but all the while their laptop market share went relatively untouched. Little did the AMDs and Cyrixs of the world know how big of a market mobile computing would soon turn out to be.
The demand for mobile processors and chipsets have risen almost exponentially in the past three years. As a result of this trend, Intel has realized substantial success in their mobile processor sales. For quite a long time they were the only true mobile processor solution on the market. This began to change in 1999 when AMD announced their intention to enter the mobile market. After realizing fairly substantial growth on the desktop side, AMD decided to squeeze their main competitor from both ends. This decision gave birth to the AMD K6-2+ mobile CPU.
The K6-2+ was a big step into the mobile market for AMD. Not only did the product offer fairly competitive performance as the mobile Pentium II/III chips clock for clock, it did so at a much lower price point. The K6-2+ found itself in mainstream and budget laptops as a result of its price point and AMD actually experienced a fairly successful entry into the mobile world.
The success of the K6-2+ did not last for long, however. Thanks to Intel's rapid design process, mobile Intel chips were released not too long after the K6-2+'s launch that all but made the K6-2+ seem like a silly mobile solution. The new Intel processors were faster, cooler running, smaller, and less power hungry than the K6-2+ which was begging to show its age. AMD did not give up, however.
Although there was a fairly large gap between the K6-2+'s release and its successor's release, AMD continued to focus a large potion of its efforts towards the design of mobile processors. AMD followed up the K6-2+'s design with both the Mobile AMD Athlon 4 and the Mobile AMD Duron processors. Based highly off their desktop counterparts, these two chips ran fairly hot but offered fast performance at a budget price.
While all the progress AMD had made on the mobile CPU side was great, chipset manufacturers turned a deaf ear to AMD's success. Despite claims that AMD based processors were found in up to 40% of the notebook systems in the US market, chipset manufacturers were unwilling to devote time and effort to producing up to date mobile chipsets. They hadn't done it for Intel, who produce their own mobile chipset solutions, so why do it for AMD?
It has been the lack of chipset support that has really held the mobile AMD platform back. In fact, until recently only one chipset was readily available for use in the mobile AMD Athlon/Duron market: the VIA Apollo KN133. This means that even some of the new Mobile Athlon XP chips based off the Thoroughbred core and clocked at up to 1300MHz were stuck to a chipset that offered only PC133 memory support and integrated S3 graphics. Luckily, for both the consumer and for AMD, this is about to change.
ATI announced their intention to enter the mobile chipset market in March of this year, preparing the world for a modern chipset solution to the mobile AMD CPU market. The chipset, called the Radeon IGP, consists of and offers all the bells and whistles we have come to expect from current chipsets, including DDR memory and USB 2.0 support. Add to this the fact that the Radeon IGP 320M northbridge includes an integrated graphics processor and one can see why AMD was excited about ATI's decision to enter the mobile chipset market: finally the mobile AMD CPU would be given an opportunity to succeed.
We set out to find out exactly what the Radeon IGP is all about by taking a look at the Compaq Presario 900 1500+, a Radeon IGP notebook powered by a Mobile Athlon XP 1500+ processor. Is the Radeon IGP what AMD needs to succeed in the mobile market, especially with the SSF Athlon XP chips from AMD on their way?