AMD's latest 880G chipset seems thoroughly underwhelming on paper. It's the upgraded SB850 southbridge that sees the most significant positive change.
We've got our hands on the first AMD 880G motherboard and things are looking, well, a little old hat. On the new front though first there is the SB850 southbridge - the same used with the latest 890GX motherboards
- bringing native SATA 6Gbps and finally RAID 5 to budget boards: all of which are a definite bonus. Most of the 880G boards we've seen details of so far have also had USB 3 too, which isn't unexpected either.
The new 880G northbridge however, is, total déjà vu because it's yet another RV620 cored IGP - ala 785G. The "new" Radeon HD 4250" still has DirectX 10.1 graphics with 40 shaders and the same support for Sideport DDR3 memory, UVD 2.0 and just a single digital output at a time. From what we can tell, it's also still manufactured on the same TSMC 55nm process as all AMD's chipsets so there's no change in power usage either.
Hybrid graphics are supported (and avoided) but there's no additional CrossFire support as AMD is saving the 890GX for this market, like it did with the 790GX. There are plenty of PCI-Express 2.0 from the 880G northbridge though as one of the early samples we have has 1x, 4x and 16x PCI-E slots squeezed into a tiny micro ATX form factor.
If this is AMD's lineup for another year it's not just dropping off the boil, it's been frozen solid. The lack of dual digital outputs in 2010 is unforgivable, and AMD is still playing second fiddle to Intel's excellent GMA-HD video performance and features. For all intents and purposes the 880G appears like a rebrand with a new southbridge, and as such it's hard to get excited about it.
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Addendum 24th March 2010:
AMD called us to correct the statement about dual digital outputs on its IGP chipsets. AMD maintains that all its chipsets back to 780G support dual digital outputs, but it's the motherboard manufacturers have chosen not to use it.
However, since we have never actually seen a 780G/785G and even 880G motherboard to date support this feature, and every manufacturer we've spoken to says it either cannot be done or won't be included. To which AMD claims that it is likely a cost factor on the manufacturers part as they try to attain a certain competitive price point. We will continue to investigate this feature.