I apologize for being a little scarce lately outside of the articles I've done the past couple of weeks. I didn't have much lead time on either of them, and both required quite a bit of testing. So I've been locked up in Damage Labs working like a madman to get those things done. One of the key areas we try to focus on around here is core logic chipsets (along with CPUs, graphics, and mobos), and I hope the past couple of articles (on the Athlon XP 2800+ with nForce2 and on the new Pentium 4 chipsets) have been useful for you guys. I'd like to do more testing of specific chipset features, like audio, in a future article, because we just can't test everything a chipset does in one review.

Incidentally, the P4 chipset review was Slashdotted, and the old server here held up well for us. However, it's definitely time for more server power, and I spent part of the evening building the new rig. We'll have an article on the new server after we've got it built, but I can tell you this thing is going to be very, very nice. Some folks like AMD and Corsair are helping out with hardware, even. More on this when the time comes.

Last night I played around for a little while with the Shuttle SS50 cube we reviewed back in April. Out of the blue, Shuttle sent out an XPC ICE heat-pipe cooler unit like the ones in the the SS51. Lo and behold, the thing installed and fit perfectly in the older SS50 case. Once I removed the old case fan, I didn't even have to pick up a screwdriver again to install the ICE cooler, because it comes with thumbscrews. This thing is just a great design, and it quieted down the SS50 dramatically. If you own an older SS50 system, I'd recommend trying to get your hands on a PH4 ICE heat-pipe cooler for it.

Rumor has it ATI may be launching its Radeon 9500 cards this coming Monday, and judging by what I'm hearing out of ATI—absolutely zilch—those rumors must be true. ATI is executing brilliantly on its "ignore members of the press leading up to a product launch" strategy. Hope that works out for them.

There are some reasons why ATI may want to restrict the flow of information about the 9500 cards at the product's launch. We have been puzzling around here over how well a cut-down chip based on the Radeon 9700 architecture would perform. One would expect a Radeon 9500 to come with 4 pixel pipes, one texture unit per pipeline, and a 128-bit memory interface. With a clock rate of 325MHz, the chip would have a multitextured fill rate of 1300 Mtexels/s. That's only 200 Mtexels/s higher than a Radeon 9000 Pro, and 700 Mtexels/s slower than a GeForce4 Ti 4200. I know the R300 chip has killer overdraw reduction mechanisms like Early Z on board, but still, that's just not enough oomph. ATI's options include adding a second texture unit per pipe (perhaps the 9500 is a more of a cut down R350 or whatever), cranking up the clock speed (maybe at 0.13 microns?), and, uhm, savvy marketing. We'll know more Monday, if that is indeed the launch date.

Speaking of graphics, I was reading through the AGP 8X spec last night, and I discovered something interesting: AGP 3.0 allows for multiple AGP ports per system and multiple AGP devices per port. That means we could see an array of AGP ports inside a visualization system based on R300 or NV30 cards, or we could see multi-chip AGP cards. (Who do Voodoo2 do?!) Sounds like fun to me.

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