VIA PT894 & PT880 Pro Chipset Preview

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PT894 Pro Specifications

 

At the other end of VIA's spectrum sits its PT894 Pro chipset, flagship of the entire PT-series. Like the other two offerings, PT894 Pro centers on that impending move to PCI Express and it goes one step further by exposing a second x16 connector for multi-card operation. It's important to be very specific here, because VIA isn't claiming that the chipset will work in conjunction with NVIDIA's SLI multi-rendering technology. In fact, VIA concedes that if you connect SLI-capable cards and install the necessary drives, you won't see an option to enable SLI. SLI may be an available option in the future, however.  Rather, PT894 Pro makes it possible to inexpensively use up to four monitors.

Specifications Of The VIA PT894 Pro Chipset
Higher-end features
Support for Intel Pentium 4 processors on 533, 800, and 1066 MHz front side buses, including the upcoming 6xx series.

22 Lanes of PCI Express Connectivity
·
_PT894 Pro north bridge features 20 PCI Express lanes for one x16 graphics slot and one x4 slot (with a x16 physical connector)
·
_VT8251 south bridge enables two more x1 PCIe lanes for peripheral connectivity

VIA DualGFX Express
·
_Enhanced Multi-Display using any two PCI Express graphics cards

VIA StepUp Technology
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_Flexible memory architecture supports DDR/DDR2 memory
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_DDR 266/333/400
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_DDR2 400/533/667

VIA Ultra V-Link
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_Proprietary interconnect between north and south bridges transferring up to 1 GBps of data

VIA Vinyl Audio
·_Stylus audio drive with QSound technology and Immerzio gaming support
·_HD Audio Compliant
·_Six-channel audio through VIA Six-TRAC AC'97 codec
·_Eight-channel audio through VIA Envy24PT PCI controller
VIA DriveStation
·
_3Gbps with VT8251 south bridge
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_RAID 0, 1, 0+1, and 5
·_Port multiplier support
·_Native Command Queuing
·_Management through V-RAID software interface
·_Support for four ATA133 devices

VIA Connectivity
·
_Fast 10/100 Ethernet
·
_Eight USB 2.0 ports
·_Standard PCI bus

 


The highest-end PT chipset is well-equipped with every feature found on VIA's PT894 chipset, in addition to DualGFX support for simultaneous use of two PCI Express graphics cards. Because the north bridge offers a total of 20 lanes, the first graphics slot is a full x16 link, while the other is considered secondary with four lanes. As mentioned, it isn't possible to run an SLI configuration on the PT894 Pro quite yet (VIA isn't ruling out the possibility given proper driver recognition and SLI certification with NVIDIA), but the two cards can be used to independently render different screens in a 3D environment. More likely, you'll see productivity-driven professionals using the technology to drive several monitors.

With the addition of 1066 MHz front side bus support and official recognition of DDR2 667 memory, PT894 Pro has the potential to be a home-run for VIA with enthusiasts disillusioned with Intel's high prices and moderate performance. It remains to be seen, however, if VIA is able to deliver these top-end north bridges in a timely manner. As it stands, the VT8251 south bridge is purportedly not quite ready for prime time, though it's expected in a month's time or so.


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