On Tuesday AMD launched its latest platform for the AM2 and AM2+ CPUs, the 780 chipset. Its big selling point is integrated graphics that is more powerful than anything we've seen before and the inclusion of ATI's Universal Video Decoder (UVD) for offloading the intensive task of decoding video from your CPU. Or, in other words, this new chipset should make for the perfect media centre (or Home Theater PC, if you're American).
Of course, there are other possible uses for the 780 platform. As a small, low power, low cost chipset with integrated graphics, it is perfect for all manner of business and home PCs. What's more, with the addition of hybrid graphics it offers the most powerful 3D graphics platform for the price. At least, so ATI claims. We'll find out if all this is true a bit later but first let's look in a bit more detail at what new features 780 brings to the table.
The 780 platform, or chipset, actually consists of two chips often generically referred to as the north bridge and south bridge. In the case of 780, the north bridge includes the integrated graphics, Hyper Transport link to the CPU, and PCI-Express controller and comes in two variants, the 780G that we're looking at today, and the 780V, which uses a slower version of the integrated graphics.
780G and 780V are the first integrated graphics cores to support Shader Model 4.0 (DirectX 10) so all the latest games should be playable on these platforms, assuming you turn the details down low enough. As AMD still maintains the ATI name for its graphics parts, the graphics cores themselves are to be known as ATI HD Radeon 3200 and 3100 for the 780G and 780V, respectively.
In terms of graphical power, the 780G is near identical to the old HD 2400 including as it does 40 stream processors. Although the 2400 was no great performer compared to other discrete graphics cards, having this level of graphical power on an integrated chip is unheard of and as such is not to be sniffed at.
Both cores now include the UVD and can offload MPEG-2, H.264 and VC-1 video at up to the full-HD resolution of 1080p. So no matter what sort of HD-video you throw at it, your system should be able to cope. The only problem being, you need to use specific software that supports the hardware acceleration, like Cyberlink PowerDVD, to take advantage of this. That said, there's currently no support at all for Blu-ray playback in Windows Media Center so you'll have to use separate software to play these discs anyway.