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VIA Arena, a technology support web-site for chipset designer VIA Technologies, has posted photos of a working prototype of a mainboard with native supports PCI Express x16 and AGP 8x interconnections for graphics cards. The pictures reiterate VIA’s commitment to deliver such platforms aiming customers in budget, but does not provide any details on the timeframe for actual products to emerge.

VIA’s PT890 May Come in Q1 2005

“I am in Taiwan at VIA’s head office running some tests on some new chipsets that will come out next year in January/February. Anyway, I get my hands on one of the first PT880s. This new Intel Pentium 4 chipset will support AGP and PCI Express and [dual-channel] DDR and DDR2. It’s going to be a great upgrader’s chipset,” said John Gatt, VIA Technologies’ Web Media Liaison and Technical Support specialist.

VIA indicated its plans to bring a platform logic that allows installing both PCI Express and AGP 8x graphics cards on the same mainboard for the first time in early 2004. The company has delayed its PCI Express-supporting chipsets it referred as PT890 and K8T890 for approximately six month and even rejigged some of its plans since then, putting PCI Express-AGP chipsets at a later date. Presently it seems that the memory controller hub initially referred as PT890 is received from the fab and can operate; according to VIA’s representatives, the system can boot up and even play Quake III game on ATI RADEON 9800- and ATI RADEON X600-series graphics cards.

However, it seems that the technology still needs tweaking, which may affect time-to-market of final products:

“We will be playing round with the drivers and board layout, so we can get two real cards on, [as there is] no room right now on the reference board, and I will keep you all updated,” Mr. Gatt added.

Potentially, ability to install different class graphics cards on a single platform broadens upgrade options for end-users. However, with rapid transition to PCI Express x16 from AGP 8x along with constant improvements in performance and feature-set of modern visual processing units, not a lot of end-users may want to keep their old graphics cards with new powerful computers.

VIA’s Dual PCI Express Works

While the chipset that sports AGP and PCI Express interconnections is currently tested only in VIA’s office, the company recently unveiled a roadshow to showcase its K8T890 Pro core-logic that sports two PCI Express x16 slots, like NVIDIA’s nForce4.

“VIA DualGFX Express, [is] a solution which makes dual graphics card configurations more viable for a wider market. The K8T890 Pro chipset will be demonstrated in a high performance workstation with dual graphics cards and support for up to four monitors, enabling enhanced multitasking without compromising system performance,” VIA said.

It is also unclear, when K8T890 Pro-based mainboards emerge for sale.

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