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Despite the growing popularity of the PCI Express interface, the bulk of PCs currently in use are still equipped with an AGP slot. Even the most optimistic analysts estimate the share of PCI Express systems at 8-10%. With so many AGP-using PCs around, the market of AGP-interfaced graphics cards is and will remain in near future a place of much interest for the GPU makers.

Until recently, the fastest graphics processor ATI offered for the AGP platform was the R420 which was employed in the RADEON X800 series, while the more advanced and faster RADEON X850 cards only existed for PCI Express. It turned out, however, that ATI Technologies didn’t want to lose the sector of high-performance AGP solutions even though these graphics cards account for no more than 5% of the whole market.

On its way back to AGP, ATI developed the Rialto chip which allows attaching processors with native PCI Express support to the AGP bus. The new solutions for the AGP platform were officially announced on February 28 (for details see our news story called ATI Officially Releases New RADEON X850, X800 Products for AGP 8x ), and it turned out that the Rialto chip would be used only with the 0.11-micron R430 processor (RADEON X800) which was a replacement of the R423. For more advanced AGP solutions (RADEON X850) ATI had developed a new graphics processor R481 with native support of the AGP interface. This chip, like the R480, is manufactured on 0.11 tech process with low-k dielectrics which allows it to work at frequencies up to 540MHz. Besides the different interfaces the R480 and R481 do not differ at all, so you can refer to our article called ATI RADEON X850 Platinum Edition: Good Things Go Better for technical info on the chip.

We should note that there are no AGP platforms available that would support dual-core CPUs. That’s why it is unlikely that there will ever appear AGP versions of the today’s fastest NVIDIA GeForce 7800 GTX graphics card or of ATI’s upcoming R520. It means the ATI RADEON X850 XT Platinum Edition and the GeForce 6800 Ultra may remain the fastest AGP graphics cards in history.

We’ve got one of the first products that use the new chip. It is the X850 XT Platinum Edition AGP graphic card from PowerColor.

 
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