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.
SiS’s south bridge roadmap contains a small assortment of chips compatible with both its Intel and AMD-oriented north bridge chips. These south bridge chips aren’t divided into value, mainstream, or performance markets, but it’s pretty easy to segment them based on features.
Two of SiS’s new south bridge chips will enter mass production this month. The first of these is the 965L, which features eight USB 2.0 ports; two ATA/133 controllers; two Serial ATA ports with RAID 0, 1, and JBOD support; two PCI Express x1 interfaces; a 10/100 Fast Ethernet MAC; and AC’97 audio.
To complement the 965L, SiS is also rolling out a 965 south bridge that adds a Gigabit Ethernet MAC and two more Serial ATA ports. With support for a total of four Serial ATA drives, the 965 will also be capable of RAID 0+1. Both the 965 and 965L use a 1GB/sec MuTIOL north/south bridge interconnect.
Later this year, SiS will add the 966 south bridge to its lineup. The 966 will support 10 USB 2.0 ports, two channels of ATA/133, four Serial ATA ports with AHCI and RAID,, Gigabit Ethernet, High Definition Audio, and four PCI-E x1 interfaces. To ensure that all those integrated peripherals have enough north/south bridge bandwidth, the 966 will sport a new MuTIOL interconnect that offers 2GB/sec of bandwidth. The new interconnect doubles the bandwidth of SiS’s current MuTIOL link, and it will only work with upcoming 761, 656, 656FX, and 662 north bridge chips.
SiS’s desktop chipset roadmap looks promising overall. All the must-have features are there, including four-port Serial ATA RAID, Gigabit Ethernet, PCI Express, and High Definition Audio. However, feature support doesn’t guarantee feature performance. We’ll have to wait for these new chipsets to hit the market to determine how competitive they really are with the latest from Intel, NVIDIA, VIA, and ATI.
And getting to market, at least the enthusiast market, may be SiS’s biggest challenge. Although the performance of SiS’s chipsets is often as good asif not better thanthe competition, motherboard manufacturers have traditionally been reluctant to use SiS chipsets in enthusiast-oriented motherboards. If SiS is able to execute its forward-looking roadmap and offer competitive performance along the way, perhaps that could change.