Wednesday, May 31, 2006

AMD Live! Announcement and Media Center Implications

AMD, in a response to Intel's Viiv initiative, is poised to formally introduce AMD Live! to the world later today. However, the specs are available now and are described here.

To have an AMD Live! capable machine, your computer must meet the following requirements.

AMD Live! Desktop PC:
  • Athlon 64 X2, Athlon 64 FX-62, or better CPU (65W CPU);
  • At least 1GB of RAM;
  • 2 to 4 DIMMs of DDR2 667/800MHz;
  • 5.1 HD audio with SPDIF output;
  • Discrete or UMA graphics (DX9, HDCP required if HDMI used);
  • At least 3 free slots (16L & 1L PCIe and 1x PCI minimum);
  • RAID 0. 1 with SATA (NCQ support recommended); and,
  • GigE LAN and optional 802.11b/g (a is optional).
AMD Live! Entertainment PC - same as Live! Desktop PC except :
  • Athlon 64 X2, Athlon 64 FX-62, or better CPU (35 or 65W CPU);
  • SATA HD Support; and
  • Support for low profile form factors.

Of importance are acoustic and thermal demands that AMD has specified. Emphasis is placed on cool and quiet operations. To achieve this, the use of items such as low-noise system fans, CPUs with a low thermal design power, and SATA hard drives with fluid bearings will be required.

Microsoft's Away Mode will also be a requirement for AMD Live! compliant systems.

What is Away Mode? Away Mode allows the computer to appear off to the user while it continues to perform tasks that do not require user input. Such components can include, but are not limited to: displays, keyboards, mice, remote controls, and other items deemed to be non-essential. The system would continue to operate in such a manner so that tasks such as file downloads and data transfers can continue take place without the need to power unneeded devices. A Media Center PC can take advantage of this for unattended television show recordings, or during use of (one or multiple) Extender devices. At this time, Microsoft's Windows XP Media Center Edition with Rollup 2 update is the only operating system to take advantage of Away Mode; however, expect to see this functionality further enhanced in Vista. More information about Away Mode can be found here.

While many argue that Intel's Viiv and AMD's AMD Live! platforms are merely marketing campaigns (similar to the Centrino platform for laptops), we should some tangible effects come out of these initiatives. For Media Center (MCE2005 and Vista), these include:

  • Better hardware platforms for Media Center PCs;
  • Better form factors for flexibility in the placement of Media Center PCs;
  • Reduced energy consumption for Media Center PCs; and,
  • Reduced noise output from Media Center PCs.

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