Taipei (Taiwan) - The vision of upgradeable graphic cards goes back to the late 1990s, when Micron Technology was experimenting with removable sockets. In 2006, both MSI and Gigabyte showcased upgradeable graphic cards, but their concepts, which were based on GeForce Go MXM boards, never took off. Earlier this year, Asus introduced a single board with three MXM slots for ATI Mobility Radeon 3850 or 3870 cards (upgradeable with future parts), and has now unveiled its single-MXM product.
Called Splendid HD 3850M, this card doesn’t look like anything special, until you remove the dual-slot cooler. What you can see then is a MXM card with a RV670 chip and 512 MB of memory attached to the PCB that contains the Splendid HD video processor: The video processor features 12-bit gamma correction, 7-region color enhancement and dynamic contrast engine.
The Graphics chip is clocked at 668 MHz while the 512 MB GDDR3 memory operates at 828 MHz DDR (1.65 GT/s). According to Asus, this MXM card will score around 600 3DMarks (3DMark06) more than ATI’s own reference design. But what makes the different, is the fact that this product is significantly shorter than the Radeon 3850 or 3870 ATI reference design.
Thanks to a modular design, you will be able to upgrade to upcoming MXM modules, including ATI’s RV770 and RV870 chips (Radeon HD 4800, 5800 series). Interestingly, there should be no issue to put a Nvidia-GPU based MXM module onto this card, since there is no limiting logic.
Using this design, you can imagine a future where users will upgrade their graphics experience simply by buying a small module. If you would have to buy just the GPU and memory, this approach would actually lead to less money being spent, since you don’t need to buy the complete card over and over again.
This new line of products appears to be much more than an engineering exercise. We hope to see future designs incorporating HDMI-in on graphics cards too, just like on the much anticipated professional sound card, Xonar AV1 .
Asus is now on track of doing something new, something that can put them clearly ahead of the competition.