Advanced Micro Devices will today launch its 'Spider' platform for heavy-duty multimedia computers.

Spider combines AMD's quad-core processors, graphics cards and chipsets in one platform to improve graphics, performance-per-watt and high-definition video.

Targeted at gamers and multimedia enthusiasts, desktop PCs with Spider include the quad-core Phenom processors and can hold multiple ATI graphics cards to give users the "ultimate visual experience," according to AMD.

Phenom, also expected to launch today, will be initially available at speeds of 2.2GHz and 2.3GHz, cranking up to 2.4GHz to 2.6GHz in the first quarter of 2008, said Leslie Sobon, director of product marketing for desktop systems at AMD. Phenom includes three shared caches to improve memory performance, up from the two caches in earlier AMD processors.

The chips, manufactured using the 65-nanometre process, have multiple power-efficiency features that set them apart from Intel's latest Penryn processors, Sobon said. A hardware and software platform allows the processor to detect the application running and adjust power consumption accordingly, she said. For example, if a user is running an email application, the processor automatically adjusts to use less power. The processor also improves energy efficiency during idle time, she said.

The processors also have improved hyperthreading technology for better application performance, Sobon said.

AMD will ship the 2.2GHz Phenom 9500 and 2.3GHz 9600 processors for $251 and $283 respectively.

PCs based on Spider will ship with the ATI Radeon HD 3850 and ATI Radeon HD 3870 graphics cards. These cards support Microsoft's DirectX 10.1 specification that enhances overall image quality on PCs. DirectX is the primary interface responsible for rendering multimedia, including game images and video, on Microsoft platforms. It also renders better high-definition video with support for UVD (Unified Video Decoder), which results in better HD DVD and Blu-ray images.

Spider will support CrossfireX technology, which allows up to four graphics cards to work together to enhance graphics performance in a system. That allows scalability in graphics performance and saves users from investing in graphics chips in the future.

Many vendors, including iBuypower, Falcon Northwest, Cyberpower, Velocity Micro will offer PCs that use Spider.

By packaging a CPU and GPU (graphics processing unit) together, PCs will become more affordable for users, Sobon said. However, users will be able to purchase components like graphics cards from other vendors, though it may cost a bit more, Sobon said.

Spider is the first fruit of AMD's acquisition of ATI, Sobon said. After acquiring ATI last year for $5.4 billion, AMD said it would work on a chip code-named "Fusion," which integrates a GPU and CPU on a single die. Fusion is expected to be delivered by late 2008 or early 2009.

While Spider doesn't combine a GPU and CPU on a single die, it is a step closer to Fusion, said Jon Peddie, president of Jon Peddie Research.

Both Intel and Via have failed at delivering a combined GPU and CPU, with Intel killing its Timna project in 2000, and Via failing with its Matthew microprocessor project.