EPoX

EPoX continues its focus on Asian demand for motherboards, although once in a while, we see their better products in the US and Europe as well. One of the new products that we will definitely see in the US is their new Socket 754 SLI motherboard. In our opinion, SLI for the low end has always made sense; buy a quick and dirty Sempron and a 6600 or a 6500, and then buy another 6xxx card in a year or so. With NVIDIA's recent drivers, it is not even necessary to use a bridge SLI adaptor. Sub $100 SLI motherboards are already showing up for Socket 939, and EPoX's new Socket 754 SLI motherboard would give some of those 939 boards a run for the money.

EPoX had a dual PEG 945P board on display for us, specifically geared at the overclocker. Once Intel gets a decent dual core processor out the door (January, we hope), cheap boards like this EP-5P945-J could shake up other enthusiast manufacturers who are ignoring the Intel market.


Click to enlarge.

However, the real mystery board of our whole trip had to be the EPoX 9U1697-J. Not surprisingly, this board is based on ULi's M1697 chipset, and is very similar to DFI's original nForce4 paddle-less motherboards. The two rows of yellow jumpers can actually be repositioned to provide dual x8 PEG graphics or a single x16 PEG. Unfortunately, the only NVIDIA SLI drivers that actually recognize this configuration are ancient drivers from last year! Although, in theory, it is a good idea, the likelihood of NVIDIA releasing a driver for ULi seems almost non-existent.

DFI

DFI's RD480 Crossfire motherboard continues to ring up headlines as the only widely available Crossfire motherboard, and they're also the only company to adopt the ATI SB450 Southbridge. (The fact that DFI was first to market and the only manufacturer to adopt SB450 are not coincidences.) Performance is good according to our recent benchmarks, but with a $200 price tag, the DFI LanParty UT RDX200 is almost double the price of the original ATI Crossfire motherboard roadmap predictions. MSI and Gigabyte also have Crossfire boards slated for immediate release, so perhaps we will see more price adjustments here.

Closing Thoughts

Aside from the stuff that we reported on in Taiwan, there was a lot of under-the-table information that we didn't really want to associate with any one vendor. Here are just a few tidbits, in no particular order.

Although GeForce 6800GS seemed like a sure thing for the near future, with the Q3/Q4 NVIDIA chip allocations, there might not be enough surplus chips to really justify re-releasing another 6800 part. We've seen the definition in the NVIDIA driver set, but manufacturers don't seem eager enough to really embrace the new card anyway. The only chips not in allocation, GeForce 6200 and family, constitute the only market that ATI is really outselling NVIDIA on anyway. Update: NVIDIA has confirmed with us that 6800GS supplies are anything but weak, since they built all the cards for their partners anyway. Unfortunately we are under NDA so that is about all we can say for now.

There was lots of talk about R580 and RD580 between all the manufacturers. R580, ATI's successor to R520 (X1800), seems far too distant in the future to really talk about, unfortunately. One vendor in particular had already stated plans to build a practical dual-R580 board, but without specs, we could not confirm this. ASUS is apparently the only vendor with a dual X1800 graphics card, but like their individually numbered dual-G70 cards, don't expect this to be an item that you'll be able to buy at Fry's anytime soon. RD580, on the other hand, was widely cited all over Taiwan. In fact, RD580 will already start sampling this month - officially giving RD480 one of the shortest life cycles in computer product history. However, RD580 does boast some awesome features including 36 native lanes. Two of those will still be used for the interconnect to the south bridge (maybe even an ATI Southbridge!), leaving two lanes for PCIe 1x slots. The other 32 lanes could be configured however the manufacturer desires, but almost all will jump on the opportunity to have dual x16 lanes for Crossfire. NVIDIA new MCP, MCP55, will have only 28 PCIe lanes.

VIA fell so far off the face of the map since our last trip to Taiwan that manufacturers seemed hesitant even to mention their name. K8T900, VIA's dual PEG chipset, totes support for dual S3 "SLI"-like graphics. Unfortunately, without support from NVIDIA or ATI, dual S3 graphics probably aren't going to get VIA any big contracts in the near future. Of course, dual core support wouldn't hurt their cause either.

Another interesting tidbit from Taiwan was the sheer volume of DDR2-based graphics cards. Virtually every manufacturer has replaced their DDR1 based video cards with DDR2 solutions instead. As we mentioned earlier, DDR2 was actually cheap enough on the spot market to purchase over DDR1, so many vendors bought in bulk. The DDR2 surplus won't last forever, but the supply will last vendors well into 2006.

Finally, don't be surprised if two or three ATI-only video manufacturers start making a few cards for NVIDIA. Furthermore, don't be surprised when a high end Tier 2 motherboard maker starts building ATI video cards. Competition drives this industry, and we're always glad to see more products enter the market.

ECS and Biostar
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  • unclebud - Monday, December 05, 2005 - link

    wondering what's the requirement to go on a tour or at least get an asus pin Reply
  • Zoomer - Friday, November 04, 2005 - link

    quote:

    a $200 price tag, the DFI LanParty UT RDX200 is almost double the price of the original ATI Crossfire motherboard roadmap predictions. MSI and Gigabyte also have Crossfire boards slated for immediate release, so perhaps we will see more price adjustments here.

    Does that mean that we'll soon be seeing sub $100 ATi boards?

    Wow! I'm definately buying one if that's the case.

    Btw, dual x16 slots are overrated. Will it be possible to use a x1 or x4 card in a x16 slot?
    Reply
  • KristopherKubicki - Saturday, November 05, 2005 - link

    quote:

    Btw, dual x16 slots are overrated. Will it be possible to use a x1 or x4 card in a x16 slot?


    Yes and Yes.

    Kristopher
    Reply
  • vailr - Friday, November 04, 2005 - link

    Just curious: has Apple made a determination yet, which company will be making their new Intel CPU based motherboards? Has the chipset been pre-determined as being "Intel only", or could NVIDIA, ULi, ATI or VIA chipsets still be a possibility for Apple's new x86 CPU based architecture?
    That is: the official Apple products, to be released in 2006.
    Reply
  • BigLan - Thursday, November 03, 2005 - link

    Does this comment mean that nvidia have stopped working on intel boards? If so, when did this happen?

    "When NVIDIA was still on board with Intel, 975X Yonah would have meant an SLI Pentium M desktop, but now it looks like we’ll just have to settle for a Crossfire MOD board instead."
    Reply
  • KristopherKubicki - Thursday, November 03, 2005 - link

    No. NVIDIA is actually going to get more agressive with Intel boards. It just means there won't be any Yonah based SLI motherboards except the one ECS is working on -- that we know of anyway....

    Kristopher
    Reply
  • stmok - Thursday, November 03, 2005 - link

    ASRock had a few other unique products on display, including those wonderful ULi based boards. The yellow riser on this motherboard is actually for a Socket 754 expansion card. ASRock also had M2 socket kits available, but since M2 will require DDR2, we weren’t exactly sure how that riser would work.

    How it works is: the Northbridge, CPU and DDR2 memory slots will be on the CPU upgrade
    card. The jumpers will tell the mobo to use the stuff on the CPU upgrade card.
    Think of the jumpers as a junction thingie on train tracks, a flick on a switch will
    shift you to the next line over.

    So all you do is...

    (1) Buy an ASRock mobo now (on with the CPU upgrade slot...The yellow slot)
    (2) When Socket M2 arrives, buy the Socket M2 CPU upgrade card, your prefered
    Scoket M2 CPU...It doesn't matter what it is : Sempron, A64, A64 X2, Opteron 1xx
    series AND some DDR2 RAM.
    (3) Set the jumpers on the mobo according to manual, point it to use CPU upgrade
    card.
    (4) Install CPU, HSF and DDR2 RAM on upgrade card.
    (5) Install upgrade onto mobo.
    (6) Turn on and fingers crossed... It should work. :)
    Reply
  • yacoub - Thursday, November 03, 2005 - link

    What's the ETA on that silently-cooled 7800GT?? That is EXACTLY what I want for my next build! I bet it doesn't come out until next year! :( :( :( Reply
  • yacoub - Thursday, November 03, 2005 - link

    Actually while we're at it, what's the ETA to the A8N32-SLI Deluxe hitting store shelves as well?

    I'd love a passively cooled motherboard and GPU since those two items tend to have the smallest, noisiest fans. I can barely imagine the joy of cutting out those two noise sources and just having a CPU fan and the PSU fan. mmmmmm!
    Reply
  • KristopherKubicki - Thursday, November 03, 2005 - link

    http://labs.anandtech.com/search.php?q=A8N32-SLI+D...">http://labs.anandtech.com/search.php?q=A8N32-SLI+D...

    Soon soon :(

    Kristopher
    Reply

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