The 690 series chipset comes in two flavors, the first is the AMD 690G with an ATI Radeon X1250 IGP clocked at 400MHz as well as integrated HDMI or DVI outputs. The second version is the AMD 690V which comes with an integrated ATI Radeon X1200 with no HDMI/DVI support.
Comprised of an RS690 Northbridge and SB600 Southbridge, AMD is positioning the 690 series as a well balanced Micro-ATX offering that can appeal to a broad range of personal and commercial consumers. Expect to see a number of mATX boards offered as well as barebones systems with 690 series boards inside. They've also jumped on the Microsoft Vista bandwagon, promising full support, and a premium experience, with the new OS.
Processor support for the 690G/V includes the AMD Sempron, AMD Athlon 64, AMD Athlon 64 X2 Dual-Core and AMD Athlon 64 FX. The RS690 Northbridge features one x16 PCI Express graphics interface and supports up to four additional x1 PCI Express connections. Additionally, one break-out feature of the chipset is that the Northbridge can also drive a High Definition audio controller that can feed audio over the integrated HDMI output.
The RS690's integrated Radeon X1250 sports a 400MHz, 128-Bit graphics engine, is Direct X9 compatible and has a maximum resolution of 2048x1536 with 32-Bit color. Both the VGA and HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface) outputs can run independently for a dual monitor configuration. And with a supported discrete ATI graphic card installed, SurroundView can be enabled as well, allowing for up to three video outputs simultaneously. Its HDMI interface supports the 1.2 specification as well as HDCP (High-Digital Content Protection) 1.1. Lastly, this is the first chipset to integrate AVIVO, boasting 10-bit video quality for high quality video playback through hardware acceleration.
The SB600 Southbridge packs in the features as well. The chip can power up to 10 USB ports that are both USB 1.1 and 2.0 compliant. For storage needs, the SB600 supports a total of four SATA II 3Gb/s drives and can deliver RAID 0, 1 and 10. RAID 0 and 1 can work with any two drives while RAID 10 requires four. The SB600 also has a single PATA UDMA 133 connection that can connect up to two IDE devices. For expansion, the SB600 can drive up to six PCI slots.
For audio functionality, a 192kHz High Definition Audio controller is integrated offering separate input and output streams with up to 16 channels per output stream. Lastly, the SB600 handles power management based on ACPI 3.0 specifications with support for AMD On-Now, ASF 2.0, and it delivers complete hardware monitoring via the BIOS.
One might question why a chipset touted as offering a premium Vista experience wouldn't be DX10 ready. Considering DX10 is mainly for gaming, and Vista's Aero interface requires only a DX9 class GPU, this is really a non-issue in our opinion. Surely anyone who is serious about gaming knows that integrated graphics is not the way to go. For those looking for a premium DX10 gaming experience, you'll want to budget in a discreet video card upgrade into your plans. Regardless, as a sum total of its parts, the RS690 chipset makes for an excellent foundation of a very capable HTPC.