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A look at SiS's desktop chipset roadmap


What's ahead for the other guy
— 12:00 AM on June 25, 2004

SIS'S CORE LOGIC chipsets don't garner as much attention as offerings from Intel, NVIDIA, and VIA, and that's really a shame. Enthusiasts tend to view SiS as a low-end player, and given the company's strong presence in budget motherboards, it's easy to see why. However, few enthusiasts are aware that SiS also makes high-end chipsets that perform well enough to run with the fastest core logic offerings from Intel, NVIDIA, and VIA.

Today we have a sneak peek into SiS's future desktop chipsets covering north and south bridge roadmaps for AMD and Intel platforms. How will SiS bring PCI Express, DDR2, Gigabit Ethernet, and High Definition Audio to the Athlon 64 and Pentium 4? Read on to find out.

North bridge chips for AMD processors
SiS's roadmap is loaded with Athlon 64 north bridge chips, but don't expect anything new on the Athlon XP front. SiS's current Socket A lineup of 748, 746FX, 741, and 741GX chipsets is all she wrote for that platform.

AMD's future is the Athlon 64, and SiS has developed a number of new chipsets to serve value, mainstream, and performance markets. At the low end of the spectrum we have the 760GX and 761GX north bridge chips. The 760GX will be available in the third quarter of this year with a 16-bit/800MHz HyperTransport processor link, AGP 8X, and a DirectX 7-class Mirage 1 integrated graphics core. The 761GX will follow in the fourth quarter and retain the 760GX's Mirage 1 integrated graphics. However, the 761GX upgrades the 760's HyperTransport processor link to 1GHz and swaps its AGP interface for PCI Express X16.

SiS doesn't get around to updating its integrated graphics core until late in the fourth quarter of this year. The 761 north bridge will feature a DirectX 9-class Mirage 3 integrated graphics core, 1GHz HyperTransport link, and PCI Express X16 graphics interface.

If integrated graphics doesn't do it for you, SiS has the graphics-free 756 north bridge on the way. The 756 will feature a 1GHz HyperTransport link and PCI Express X16 graphics interface. It's scheduled to enter mass production in July. SiS's roadmap indicates that the 756 will also support Opteron processors, though it's unclear whether SiS will make an earnest push into the workstation and server markets.

All of SiS's upcoming Athlon 64 chipsets support Cool'n'Quiet and feature SiS's Hyper-Streaming Architecture.

North bridge chips for Intel processors
Of course, SiS also has a number of new chipsets coming for Intel's Pentium 4 platform. In July, SiS will gear up mass production of its high-end 656 north bridge. The 656 will feature an "Advanced" Hyper-Streaming Architecture, an 800MHz front-side bus, a PCI Express x16 graphics interface, and a dual-channel memory controller that supports DDR2-667, DDR400, and ECC memory.

Towards the end of the year, SiS will begin sampling an "FX" derivative of the 656 that discards DDR400 support in favor of a dual-channel DDR2-800 memory controller. The 656FX is slated to have a front-side bus of 800MHz; faster bus speeds aren't mentioned, despite Intel's rumored plans to go to a 1066MHz bus.

For mainstream markets, SiS has a 649 north bridge scheduled for mass production in August of this year. The 649 will feature an apparently un-Advanced Hyper-Streaming Architecture, an 800MHz front-side bus, a PCI Express x16 graphics interface, and a single-channel memory controller that supports both DDR2-533 and DDR400.

SiS fills out its Pentium 4 lineup with the value-oriented 662 north bridge. The 662 will enter mass production in November and feature SiS's Mirage 1 integrated graphics core, PCI-E x16 graphics interface, 800MHz front-side bus, and a single-channel memory controller that supports DDR2-667, DDR400, and ECC memory. That's right, ECC support on a value chipset with integrated graphics. I don't get it, either.