We've already brought you coverage of Intel's 2004 CPU and Chipset roadmap but have failed to point out one glaring fact: none of Intel's forthcoming chipsets seem to offer AGP support.

In the past, Intel has stated that the PCI Express transition will be very fast, and their chipset strategy seems to be supporting that goal. Reading through the Intel roadmaps and chipset specifications that are available, none of the 925X or 915 chipsets list an AGP interface as a part of their specification.

We originally assumed that this was a bit of an oversight so we consulted Intel's motherboard roadmaps - what we found was more support for our theory: none of Intel's motherboards based on the 925X and 915 chipsets (Alderwood and Grantsdale) feature an AGP slot.

All of Intel's desktop motherboards will either feature a PCI Express x16 slot for graphics or use integrated graphics and thus forgo an external graphics slot altogether. This strategy of forcing users who want to upgrade to the latest chipsets to move to PCI Express is something Intel has tried in the past, not with graphics but with memory technologies. We would caution against drawing much more of a parallel between this and the Rambus fiasco of 1999 as the industry has already agreed on a move to PCI Express; a decision which wasn't there during the Rambus period. It's an interesting way of forcing the industry to adapt new technologies as soon as they are available, and with Intel commanding the vast majority of the PC marketshare it can be an effective one.

However, Intel's chipset strategy does leave a niche open in the marketplace. The road is now paved for SiS and VIA to step in and gain precious P4 marketshare by providing DDR2 and PCI Express support along with an AGP interface as a transitional platform. Although no one will argue that PCI Express is a superior technology in the long run, the performance benefits on day 1 will be negligible.

We are waiting to hear from some of the Taiwanese manufacturers to confirm our findings, but if what we've seen is true you should make sure your budget can handle a new graphics card in addition to that motherboard upgrade.

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  • michael3333 - Saturday, February 7, 2004 - link

    Via will provide options for AGP. Nvidia will have a converter or some such on their new graphic card and ATI will have one AGP and one PCI-Express so I don't see the problem. AMD 939 boards will have PCI-EX 16 but will the have PCI-EX 1 or PCI-EX 4 etc for the sound cards, SATA Raid Cards etc.? No Big Deal
  • mbhame - Monday, February 2, 2004 - link

    I welcome PCI-Express purely for the total demise of the PCI bus. Die PCI Die! Man, I thought I was long-winded - some of you are writing novels in here.

    Anand: can we have a "Squelch Fanboys" button please? Icewind thinks it's freakin' "1984" since Intel is allegedly 'twisting his arm' (lame). I barely batted my eyes at this since I've been waiting for it for 2+ years. Anyone so short-sighted to cry about this is missing the long-term benefit. I'm glad to see a forced migration of an unarguably better feature. Where was the forced SATA transition? :( SATA2 was 'supposed' to be out long ago. Boo on 'natural migrations'.
  • INREALM - Monday, February 2, 2004 - link

    Obviously people complaining about having to upgrade to PCI-Express don't realize AGP was more of a bandaid to get past teh shared bandwidth limits of PCI.

    PCI-Express, PCI-X have been around for a while now for servers, the word has been out for a long time about AGP's demise. nVidia and ATI are prepared to deliver PCI-Express, just waiting for someone to step up and remove the AGP slot so they can sell the damn things. Have you wanted to install 2 AGP cards? Well now you can, this isn't 1 slot changing to PCI-Express, it's ALL of them!

  • Captante - Sunday, February 1, 2004 - link

    Reflex... You are dead on about one thing for sure...to me personally it will make no difference at all, for the reasons I previously stated...it fact its sad but true, Stlr22 is 100% correct when he says that the majority of consumers really don't know what an AGP slot is,
    75% of the time somone walks in and wants to upgrade their video card, the first thing I have to do is show them an AGP slot, then either send them home to look to see if they have one, or if I'm lucky & they remember the model number of their system, I can look it up online.
    As for the SATA issue, I could swear I read an article on Tomshardware which showed that single-drive configs did ok with ATA to SATA converters, but RAID zero took a significant hit..I could be wrong & frankly I never actually tested it with my own system, but if I can find the link I will post it here later.
    In the mean time I think I'll go have a look at Storage review...thanks for the constructive advice.
  • Stlr22 - Sunday, February 1, 2004 - link

    Hell most comsumers probably dont even know what the AGP slot looks like or where it's at on the motherboard. Assuming of course,their computer even has an AGP slot. lol

    Way to many of the bargain puters sold today (CPU unit only, no monitor) sold at the $599 and lower price points STILL dont come with an AGP slot.

  • Reflex - Sunday, February 1, 2004 - link

    Capante - I am not trying to say that its a consumer friendly policy, however it is a response to current demand from their largest customers. The only reason I said anything was that I felt the rhetoric being voiced here was a bit rediculous since there is high demand for a PCI-EX only high end chipset from Intel. They have not announced that production of the i875 is ending this year, and I doubt it will be as it is perfect for lower end systems, especially if paired with a new southbridge that enables 1x PCI-Ex. That would cover most add-in cards leaving only the x16 slot missing.

    As for graphics performance, that is not the primary selling point of moving from AGP to PCI-Ex as a graphics interface. The main selling point is that PCI is a bi-directional interface, so the graphics processor can now be used for far more than just rendering. As I pointed out before, it can be used for geometry calculations and such, *returning* the data to the game engine for physics modeling. Things like clipping and other geometry mistakes can be corrected on the fly by the game engine, rather than the engine being completely unaware of the output from the graphics card as they are now. It opens up a currently underutilized resource to further system access.

    AGP has always been underutilized, its a solution in search of a problem. There is nothing going on on the graphics bus that could not be handled just as easily by 66Mhz/64bit PCI. But AGP was created instead, so we got stuck with it. I'll be thrilled when it finally dies.

    My point about value chips on PCI-Ex was that there will be a mid-range and value line based on the R420 and NV40 from both nVidia and Ati by the time PCI-Ex becomes the standard. Those 'value' cards shoudl be roughly equivilent to the current mid-range and high end out there, unless the next gen chips do not take the kind of performance jump that previous generations have. I do not think that it will be a big deal to find a decently priced PCI Express video card that performs roughly as well as the *current* top of the line AGP cards. This has nothing to do with the slot, it has everything to do with the general advancement of graphics technology.

    SATA drives with an adapter should show no performance difference, the timings on the adapter for the conversion would be measured in the nanoseconds, while drive access is in the milliseconds, so any difference should be completely imperceptable. Storage Review looked at this a while back and found no difference, I'd say that if you detect one that something is wrong with your setup, not the converters.

    Once again, I am not trying to say its the most consumer friendly move by Intel, however it does make a lot of sense and honestly most consumers do not care...
  • Captante - Sunday, February 1, 2004 - link

    Reflex... I have to disagree with you on three points.. One everything I've read about the PCI-Express vs AGP 8x debate clearly states that performance differences at the beginning will be non-existant, which makes sense since the bandwidth of AGP 8x has yet to be maxxed out. And two,(this one I've seen benchmarks on)..using the SATA to ATA adapter does cause a fairly large performance hit harddrive wise, especially when used with more then one drive.
    Finally. to say that the lowest end PCI Express cards will outperform high-end AGP 8x video cards
    is simply not true...ATI has already announced that they will be making Radeon 9800 & 9600 XT's in both formats, but by the time they hit store shelves, they will be the mid-low range cards & both Nvidia & ATI will have released their next generation part (fortunatly, at least for ATI's part in both PCI-Express & AGP 8X)
    Now as for hundreds of customers... there I agree with you, its an insignificant number compared to the thousands of machines an OEM like Dell pumps out, the majority of "joe-users"
    out there use Win 98 with integrated sound & video...does that make it the best solution?....
    of course not, but just for example I have a RAID 0 + 1 array in my system using 4 120gb WD
    special edition ATA 100 hardrives...what kept me
    from swapping motherboards from my KT333 to my Nforce 2 400 was the NForces lack of an ATA RAID controller... I finally broke down & bought a Promise PCI based RAID card & did the upgrade..
    partly because of the documented performance hit
    SATA controllers cause when used with ATA drives & partly because I didn't feel like re-installing
    XP & all my apps...the Promise controller uses the same driver as the chip that was integrated onto my KT333 & I (correctly) assumed it would recognize my current array without any hassles...
    of course it did cost an an additional $75, but what can you do.
    I agree with you that SATA & PCI Express are better technologys then what they will replace, but what I don't like is the "upgade your motherboard or be left behind" attitude being shown by Intel...then again, considering the fact that it WILL help AMD & Via, perhaps I should like it after all.
  • Reflex - Sunday, February 1, 2004 - link

    100's of people is a drop in the bucket. Sorry, but I gotta go with Intel on this one. Every major OEM made the statement last year that PCI-Express was going to be the *only* interface offered by the end of 2004. Intel is responding to that demand. I have seen no plans to stop production of the i875 chipset for those who *must* keep their old hardware. And honestly, if your customer is so bleeding edge as to have the cash to pick up a top of the line motherboard and cpu, surely they have the cash to drop on a 'value' PCI-Ex video card as even the value cards will be the speed of the top of the line AGP cards by the time PCI-Ex hits the mainstream by the end of this year(consider the R420 is being designed for PCI-Ex from the ground up).

    Besides, any hardcore gamers will demand the upgrade. Simply the ability for games to use the video card as a geometry/physics processor(rather than simply a renderer) will improve gaming quite a bit. Far as I am concerned, keeping AGP on a board is a waste of a slot. I'd rather have a second x16 slot so I can continue running multiple video cards...

    Also, SATA drives are fully compatible with parallel controllers and vice versa. Most retail boxed drives have the converter included last I checked, and it has no performance hit either. If SATA drives are truly just sitting on the shelves it must be an issue of price more than anything. There certainly is no technical argument in favor of parallel drives...
  • Captante - Sunday, February 1, 2004 - link

    epicstruggle..No, I just think that Intel is making another, in what has been a continuing seris of small mistakes, all of which MAY add
    up to a big mistake...remember Via was a minor
    player on the motherboard chipset radar when Intel made the first if these... RAMBUS... also
    what you fail to take into account is that although you & I represent a small piece of the
    actual buying public, I advise 100's of people a
    month as to what computer hardware they should buy & everyone I know comes to me for advice at upgrade time...while as I said in my previous post, this decision really doesn't effect me personally at all, it will effect the hardware
    recomendations I suggest to people, (who btw still buy nearly as many PCI video cards as AGP).
    I suspect that the readers of sites like beyond 3d (a good site), Tomshardware & our own Anandtech influence a lot more buying decisions then you think, and I for one will not be suggesting to anyone that they upgrade to any P4
    motherboard that doesn't support the type of video card 90% of my customers already own ...theres a reason ATA 100 & 133 hardrives keep flying off the shelves, while SATA hardrives
    sit & gather dust...most people upgrade only when they have to, it has nothing to do with which is the better technology & most people don't have SATA controllers....so they don't sell.
  • epicstruggle - Sunday, February 1, 2004 - link

    Hmm, after reading many posts ive come to the conclusion that you must all run fortune 500 companies right?? No, are you sure?? Seems like with all the "Intel is making a big mistake" type posts. Some quick facts people are forgeting:
    -PCI-Exp mobos/cards are cheaper to make.
    -Dell and other big complete system sellers are the real buyers. We enthusiasts are not really that big in the pie chart.

    So if Dell (et al) can save money by switching over to PCI-Exp then thats reason enough for Intel to do the switch over. Other costs your not taking into account is the making of a agp compatible chipset. So Intel cuts R&D costs by going PCI-E only, and it can pass cost savings to others.

    ps info on cost of pci-exp came from this site and people in the know at beyond3d.com


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