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AMD/ATI show off new laptop graphics

Several new developments in the laptops graphics department from ATI and parent company AMD.

Several new developments in the laptops graphics department from ATI and parent company AMD were announced at this year's Computex show in Taiwan.

To compete with Nvidia's just-announced GeForce 9Mseries of laptop GPUs, AMD now has the ATI Mobility Radeon HD 3800 series. The company says, "The new ATI Mobility Radeon HD 3800 series offers notebook manufacturers the ability to deliver fast graphics performance, energy-efficient 55nm graphics processor technology, amazing video playback, and, for the first time ever, ATI CrossFireX technology for a mobile graphics solution."

You can already get two Nvidia GPUs in select laptops, a setup known as SLI, so we're pleased AMD's version, called CrossFire, is also an option now--but it's the kind of thing only the most extreme laptop gamers would be interested in.

It is worth noting, however, that the new Radeon HD 3800 supports Microsoft's DirectX 10.1--the newest Nvida chips do not. The real-world implications, however, are minor.

Another new development from ATI is called PowerXpress. An evolution of ATI's earlier Hybrid Graphics technology, with PowerXpress you can set your laptop up to use a dedicated graphics card while plugged in, and seamlessly switch over to integrated graphics when you're using the battery, thereby extending battery life. AMD says you can double or even triple battery life this way--but mostly because dedicated graphics cards are such a power drain.

Last but not least, we're finally seeing some real-world progress an a topic of much interest to laptop gamers: the external video card. ATI is calling itXGP (External Graphics Platform) Technology, and you'll need a laptop with a special PCI Express 2.0 port to use it. Basically plug an external box with an ATI graphics card into your laptop, and voila, instant discreet graphics.

But remember, as AMD points out, "ATI XGP Technology requires a notebook equipped with an ATI XGP Technology connector." So you won't be playing Crysis on your Eee PC just yet. Other people will make the actual physical external boxes, and the first one to be announced is the Fujitsu's AMILO Sa 3650.

No word on price of availability yet, so stay tuned for more.