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VIA Unveils New Chipsets
By Jason Cross

VIA has been a popular supplier of chipsets for motherboards that support both Athlon 64 and Pentium 4 processors, and it’s about to refresh their P4 offerings with a new line of “PT Series” chipsets.

The first offering is the PT880 Pro, aimed at what VIA calls the “Performance Mainstream” market. It’s targeted at customers eyeing motherboards based on Intel’s 865 or 875 chipset. This chipset is especially interesting for its ability to support past-generation and new-generation technologies simultaneously. It can support both DDR and DDR2 memories, and both AGP 8x and PCI Express graphics. Some motherboards using this chipset will feature both AGP and PCIe graphics slots, as well as both DDR and DDR2 memory slots. This allows users to upgrade their core CPU and motherboard without throwing out their current RAM or graphics card. Note that the PCIe graphics slot is not a full x16 configuration, but rather an x4. This might incur a small speed penalty, but the compatibility advantages may be worth it for users trying to upgrade one part at a time. The PT 880 Pro will use VIA’s venerable VT8237 south bridge.
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Next is the PT894, which targets more performance-minded mainstream users and provides competition for Intel’s 915P chipset. Like the PT880, it supports the new Pentium 4 processors with a 1066MHz front side bus, and both DDR and DDR2 memories. This chipset doesn’t support AGP graphics at all, but instead provides a full PCIe x16 graphics slot and a pair of x1 PCIe expansion slots. It will be paired with VIA’s new VT8251 south bridge.
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The PT894 Pro is aimed at the enthusiast market, for those buying the more pricey 925 and 925X Intel motherboards. It will still support 1066MHz front-side bus processors and both DDR and DDR2 memory, but offers dual PCIe graphics slots. The first slot is a full x16 configuration, the second is an x4 PCIe slot. This varies from nVidia’s solution for their SLI-capable motherboards, which operate in a full x16 mode for a single slot, or can be configured to run with two x8 PCIe slots. Will VIA’s board support nVidia’s SLI technology? The company told us they believe there is no technical limitation that would prevent it from working with their x16 and x4 dual-slot chipset, but the nVidia SLI drivers specifically look for nVidia motherboard chipsets and will only function with them. If this issue can be worked out, VIA believes their board will function with nVidia’s SLI graphics. In the meantime, it is geared at enthusiasts who run multiple cards on multiple monitors. Continued…
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