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We managed to find out some details in regards PCI Express bus for graphics during the Intel Developer Forum sessions today. The PCI Express x16 bus will not only provide more bandwidth, power, but will also add certain functionality to the data transfer protocols that could really boost performance in some cases, it transpired. Understanding the issues and problems with modern GPUs, Intel also offers some design recommendations for more efficient cooling.

Intel suggests that future generations of graphics processors designed for PCI Express x16 interconnection will consume more energy than current GPUs and VPUs. As a result, the PCI Express x16 slot used for graphics will provide up to 75W of power for the next-generations of graphics cards.  Keeping in mind that even current high-end graphics cards consume up to 200W, we suggest that future products of the same kind will require additional power connectors for sure and they will hardly take advantage of more power provided by the PCI Express x16. Nevertheless, we should keep in mind that power consumption of the upcoming entry-level and mainstream devices will surely also increase dramatically in future and they will benefit from the new standard, at least, they now have a headroom for such increase because of PCI Express x16.

In order to cool down the hot GPUs and VPUs of the future, Intel recommends using a special heatsink with openings for cool air intake and hot air exhaust. The company also recommends computer case manufacturers to install a special side-panel vent to pump cool air into the case for more efficient graphics card’s cooling. Obviously, coolers on the graphics cards will intake cool air from the air blast by the side-panel vent and then exhaust hot air inside the computer case. So to minimize fan noises, Intel suggests implementing temperature monitoring systems. To tell you the truth, such kind of cooling is already in use, but after Intel’s recommendations it will become an industry standard, I think.

Since PCI Express inherited a lot from the good-old PCI, the support for the former can be easily added into today’s unified AGP drivers. However, it will not be compatible with AGP and, as ATI said, the graphics industry will be “reset” by PCI Express introduction.

Markham, Ontario-based graphics company also named some potential Future GPU applications enabled by PCI Express. The list includes the following:

  • Production-grade video editing;
  • Consistent capability and performance with massive monitor-array architecture (MMAA);
  • Hot-plugging graphics is a possibility;
  • VPU as a co-processor.

An NVIDIA representative also added that efficient management of data transaction by the software could boost the performance by as much as 10%.

I remind you that now Intel and ATI are showcasing a PCI Express and DDR-II platform at IDF Fall 2003. For pictures of the whole system, graphics cards and more information please turn to our IDF Coverage.


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