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Last modified on Wednesday, 11 June 2008 15:48
Unfortunately, AMD didn't have an XGP unit handy during its Puma presentation in Zagreb, but at least now we know what to expect once this interesting technology becomes available. Fudo saw it in Madrid some two weeks ago, so we didn't mind much.
The XGP connects to your notebook via a proprietary coax cable, 7mm in diameter and up to 2 meters long (0.275in diameter, 6 ft, 8-inches in length, for our non-metric readers). The XGP port is slightly larger than an HDMI port and the cable features an easy ledge mechanism, so you can't plug it out by accident in the heat of battle. AMD claims it's as simple as it gets, you just plug the contraption in and it works straight out of the box.
It's a PCI 2.0 device, 10 lanes in total, 8 for graphics and two for USB ports. You can only connect USB monitors to it directly. If you want DVI or HDMI, it sends the frame buffer back to the notebook and you can use its DVI or HDMI port to connect it to a monitor or TV set. DisplayPort is also an option. Apparently you can also use two graphics cards in a CrossFire setup, but details on this are still a bit sketchy.
AMD hinted at another interesting possibility, as well. XGP might also be used on Intel platforms, too, as it's a relatively open standard and there's no reason it couldn't work. It's up to Intel, and notebook vendors. It's still to early to say if we're really gonna see Intel notebooks running HD3870 (or HD4870) XGP graphics any time soon. Considering Intel's relationship with Nvidia (does anyone know a good divorce lawyer?), this is beginning to sound like a more realistic option with each new day.
As for the cost, AMD claims XGP is going to be dirt cheap. A few euro for the cable, the box, an external PSU and voila, an XGP graphics setup should retail sell for about €25 more than a similar PCIe card. Sounds great, especially considering you should be able to change the graphics card inside, although with some restrictions. Having said that, it even sounds a bit too cheap to be true. Notebook vendors will probably be looking to cash in on the new trend and it's still unclear just how much liberty you'll have if you choose to change the built-in graphics card on your own.
XGP looks like a sound concept, but, and there's always a "but," it will still take some time to establish itself as a viable notebook graphics upgrade method. There are still some issues that need to be addressed, but in the long run, AMD might have a very interesting product on its hands.