VIA to segment chipset line

The flow of tasty hardware news tidbits at Quakecon 2004 was steady, and one of the more interesting revelations was news that VIA will be moving to a multi-chip line of north bridge products. VIA has already committed to providing what may be the only north bridge with both AGP and PCI Express X16 capabilities simultaneously. At the HardOCP workshop on Saturday afternoon, VIA’s John Gatt revealed that VIA will be supplying up to three north bridge chips per processor with different configurations. Among the north bridges will be the AGP/PCI-E combo and an SLI-ready option with enough PCI Express lanes to drive dual graphics cards.

The move to product segmentation may make sense for VIA for the same reasons it has for Intel. Intel has been able to command a premium for its 875P chips versus its 865PE, for instance. VIA has more impetus to make this move, however, in order to manage the transition to PCI Express. VIA stands to gain lots of business by offering its customers multiple north bridge configs over the next year or so.

Based on the rumblings I heard behind the scenes, I’d expect all of the dual graphics north bridges coming (whether they be from VIA or others, and whether they be dual PCI-E or an AGP/PCI-E combo) to support something less than sixteen lanes of PCI Express bandwidth per slot. The question will be how many lanes the chipsets will provide to each slot, how many lanes total, and whether a four-lane or eight-lane config will hinder performance to any noteworthy degree.

Gatt also revealed details of the new VIA south bridge for PCI Express, which should have eight channels of 32-bit, 192KHz high-definition audio, four Serial ATA ports, two ATA/133 channels with support for two devices each, and at least two lanes of PCI Express to power PCI-E X1 slots. I don’t believe he mentioned Gigabit Ethernet as a feature of the new south bridge. We’ll check with VIA for confirmation about that one and let you know.

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    • GodsMadClown
    • 16 years ago

    /[<...which should have eight channels of 32-bit, 192KHz high-definition audio...<]/ We all know how poorly MB manufacturers are currently implementing the EnvyPT chip, by coupling it with cheap DAC stages, among other cost cutting measures. What makes us think that they'll do a better job with this new CODEC?

      • HiggsBoson
      • 16 years ago

      Well to be fair some of that has to do with VIA’s strange backwards implementation… Based on the reviews (some of them here) apparently VIA’s own reference design calls for the high-spec DAC that they include to drive the /[

    • GodsMadClown
    • 16 years ago

    /[<...whether a four-lane or eight-lane config will hinder performance to any noteworthy degree.<]/ I highly doubt that it will. Current gaming software is designed around the Current AGP bandwidth. Can they take write codce that optimizes for both a 8x PCI-e link and a 4x AGP link? I don't know jack-squat about graphics programming. Would the bandwidth consumption have to be designed at the application or driver level?

      • derFunkenstein
      • 16 years ago

      IIRC, it’d be driver-level, which takes us back a while (SEVERAL months, if not over a year ago) when Scott used a program that would measure AGP throughput, and it was just plain bad. Neither “big” manufacturer takes advantage of AGP 2x, let alone bandwidth supposedly afforded by 8x.

      • An Ominous Gerbil
      • 16 years ago

      Actually the big dirty, dark secret of AGP is that pretty much every implementation of it has been pretty poor. It can be written to pretty quickly by the CPU, but the card itself accessing main RAM has typically had very poor performance, making performance for texture access pretty terrible if you run out of RAM on the main card.

      Embedded “shared RAM” systems found in laptops and low-end desktops frequently do a better job of this, out of necessity, but they are the big exception.

      Hopefully PCI-E will do away with this problem and main-RAM access through the northbridge will be fast and functional, albeit not as fast as if everything fit on the card itself.

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