Yesterday, VIA held a press briefing together with AMD and Asus, where VIA’s latest PCI Express chipsets for AMD’s Athlon 64 processor family were on display. As we posted a preview of the chipset earlier this year, I won’t go in to any technical details as such, but rather bring you a small update to what is going on in the market. If you’re interested in more technical details about the new VIA chipsets, you can read our preview here
The first chipset to arrive is the K8T890 which should be available in the next few weeks from a range of board vendors. On display were machines from Abit, Asus, Gigabyte, and MSI, with a further range of boards from Albatron and Soltek also on show. Asus informed the gathered journalists that its AV8-E Deluxe should be available within two weeks and pricing should be in the region of £130.
More interestingly VIA had a working demo of the K8T890 Pro chipset, which supports DualGFX. DualGFX enables you to use two PCI Express graphics cards in one PC, although VIA claims that its implementation is technically capable of supporting SLI, it unfortunately doesn’t work at this time. The reasons for this aren’t fully clear at the moment, but it’s possible that nVidia has ensured that for now at least, SLI will only work on one of its own nForce4 SLI boards. VIA’s stance is that even without SLI, having two graphics cards will still bring benefits to both gamers and other PC users, as it means that you can use up to four displays. In addition, were a competing graphics card company, say for example ATI, to produce a competing solution to nVidia's SLI, VIA’s DualGFX boards would be very likely to work.
Also on show was a dual CPU board for AMD’s Opteron processors, which also offers support for DualGFX. This will be very useful in a workstation environment as while multiple displays support for workstations is commonplace, it is currently only supported by very costly hardware.
The K8T890 Pro chipset isn’t expected to ship until early 2005, so don’t expect to see motherboards with DualGFX to arrive any day soon.
The reason for the wait is that VIA is working on a new southbridge to add adds a further two x2 lanes for additional PCI Express devices. Without it, you wouldn't be able to use any other PCI Express cards, as VIA’s implementation of DualGFX (1x16 + 1x4) would use up all twenty of the PCI Express lanes supported on K8T890 Pro.
While the announcement of VIA’s DualGFX is welcome at the moment SLI looks like being a one horse race unless nVidia changes its current stance and allows competitors motherboards to work with SLI as well.