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jmke 5th June 2004 02:47

Intel Adds AGP into Grantsdale Chipset
Intel Corporation had reportedly added support for AGP-bus in its i915-series (Grantsdale) chipsets that initially should not support the technology. The reasons for the move are not clear, as AGP seemingly does not function really fast.

Safe “AGP” Harbor for Grantsdale

In an attempt to revolutionize the market of personal computer platforms Intel larded its forthcoming chipsets with massive array of new technologies: new core-logic sets from Intel – i915G, i915P, i925X and derivatives – will bring dual-channel DDR2 SDRAM memory, PCI Express x16 and x1 lanes for add-in cards, Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 900 (i915G only), 4 Serial ATA-150, high-definition (Azalia) audio as well as some other important capabilities, such as integrated WLAN or promising RAID technologies.

Since DDR2 memory is likely to be priced at high level initially, Intel added support for conventional DDR SDRAM into mainstream and performance-mainstream oriented i915-series chipsets. PCI Express x16 graphics cards are not likely to be charged higher compared to solutions intended for AGP 8x bus, but it appears that Intel still decided to add support for AGP 8x slot into its new core-logic products for some reason.

A number of mainboard makers, including Gigabyte and ECS, will launce i915P-powered platforms with PEG x16 and AGP 8x slots for graphics cards.

Earlier this year it transpired that VIA Technologies added support for AGP 8x into its PT890 core-logic set that also sports PCI Express x16, dual-channel DDR/DDR2 SDRAM memory and other up-to-date capabilities.

AGP 8x – For Whom?

While allowing to install end-users AGP 8x graphics cards into next-generation personal computers may be considered as a positive news, it does not mean really a lot of sense for customers seeking for modern technologies.

In general, overall personal computer market is divided into three segments: high-end, mainstream and low-end. While the high-end PCs only represent a tiny piece of the market, the low-end, or entry-level, machines are the most popular. Mainstream market is not as narrow as high-end, but definitely not as broad as the market of low-cost computers.

The forthcoming core-logic sets from Intel and VIA – i915P, VIA PT890 and derivatives – are targeted for high-end and performance-mainstream markets, where customers are not in really tight budgets and usually acquire the latest flavours of technology. Even though previous generation high-end graphics cards, such as ATI RADEON 9800 XT or NVIDIA GeForce FX 5950 Ultra, perform well in the majority of existing applications, it is very likely that end-users in the high-end will decide to go for newer NVIDIA GeForce 6800 or ATI RADEON X800 that will be available for both PCI Express x16 and AGP 8x platforms. There is not a lot of enthusiasts who acquire latest mainboards and fastest processors and not able to afford a new graphics card, especially keeping in mind that there will be $200 graphics solutions, according to graphics companies.

Chipset makers might really need AGP 8x in its chipsets in addition to PCI Express x16 if they debuted the new core-logic products substantially earlier than PCI Express graphics cards were slated to make it into the market. But at this point both leading designers of graphics processors said they would supply PCI Express x16-supporting products on time.

Degraded Performance Guaranteed?

According to a report from The Inquirer, AGP 8x graphics cards on i915P-based mainboards perform substantially slower compared to AGP 8x graphics cards installed on previous-generation platforms. In DirectX 8.0 applications the negative performance impact may be about 20%, while in DirectX 9.0 software graphics cards perform about 5% slower, ECS representatives are reported to have said.

Computer enthusiasts tend to squeeze all possible performance from their computers and are not likely to jump on a platform that does not bring real-world benefits.

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