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VIA PT-series P4 chipsets

They're late - but are they worth the wait?

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The PT894 is a native PCI Express only chipset, supporting bus speeds of 533, 800 and 1066MHz. As with the PT880 Pro it supports DDR and DDR 2 memory, but again the reference board from VIA only featured DDR support. The PT894 features support for a PCI Express x16 slot as well as two x1 slots, and a further two could be added to future versions when the VT8251 south bridge is launched.

VIA PT880 Pro reference mobo - 3DMark 03

VIA PT880 Pro reference mobo - 3DMark 05

The PT894 will be VIA's medium to high-end solution. The reference board VIA supplied for testing featured a VIA 802.11g wireless controller, but as VIA didn't supply any drivers, I was unable to test it. VIA seems to be branching out in several new directions every time it launches a new core chipset and with the wireless market expected to grow at an enormous rate over the next couple of years, this seems like a worthwhile investment by VIA. As you'll see from the graph, Far Cry wouldn't run on the PT894, though we are sure that this is just a side effect of receiving an early PT894 sample and that the problem will be resolved on the final silicon.

VIA PT880 Pro reference mobo - FarCry

The Pro version of the PT894 will be the first chipset from VIA to support DualGFX for PCI Express, although this is not like Nvidia's SLI as it will not combine the performance of the two cards. However, should Nvidia release a driver compatible with VIA's chipset, it would in theory be possible to run SLI on the PT894 Pro. As with the PT880 Pro you would have to use two cards that are supported by the same drivers, which rules out using, say, one Nvidia and one ATI card.

Verdict

It looks like VIA is challenging Intel head-on with its latest range of chipsets and the good news is that VIA is expecting to sell them far more cheaply than Intel does its solutions. Considering the price increase of the current generation of Intel chipsets compared to the previous generation, we could see a swing to VIA, especially for price-sensitive solutions. So far, though, there has been little news concerning who will use these new chipsets and the only tip off so far is that Gigabyte will be launching a product.

I was impressed by these new VIA chipsets. The new features ensure that the three new chipsets are excellent, if somewhat late, additions to VIA's chipset family.

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