VIA PT894 & PT880 Pro Chipset Preview
VIA's PT880 Pro Reference Board
For the most part, VIA's PT880 Pro is laid out similarly to the PT894. Power connectors are in the same place, there's still plenty of room around the processor socket, and you see the same back-panel configuration, too. Most of the notable differences pop up when you look at the onboard slots and south bridge setup.
The PT880 Pro north bridge is covered by the same aluminum heatsink found on the PT894 board and the VT8237R south bridge is, like the 8251 seen previously, uncovered.
As mentioned, the board's back panel remains unchanged. And while the same eight-channel codec is included, VIA doesn't offer the Broadcom Gigabit controller, leaving the second RJ-45 connector unused. This seems like it'd be a common configuration for many third-party manufacturers looking to maximize the potential of VIA's chipset without going over-the-top on extras that unnecessarily inflate prices. As is, the reference PT880 Pro board makes a great platform on which to build performance machines without breaking the bank.
Naturally, the board's flashiest feature is its dual graphics card support via one PCI Express slot and one AGP 8x connector. Rather than find hooks into the PCI bus and add AGP support to the chipset, as many manufacturers did with Intel's 915-series, VIA insists that this is a fully-featured AGP 8x slot. If you turn the board over, however, it's immediately clear that only a few of the PCI Express traces are being used and indeed, the PCI Express slot communicates across four lanes of connectivity. At the very least, VIA is giving its value-conscious buyers flexibility when it comes to choosing a graphics card.