FIRST LOOK: ULi M1695 PCIe/AGP Socket 939 for Athlon 64by Wesley Fink on July 13, 2005 12:05 AM EST
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Our TakeThere are several questions that really need answering in our first look at the new ULi M1695/M1567 chipset. First and foremost, how does it compare to the excellent performance of the NVIDIA nForce4 chipset? Our brief testing here confirms that the ULi competes very well against NVIDIA, and is a performance drop-in to the NVIDIA performance levels. This is very good news for those shopping for Athlon 64 Socket 939 boards. ULi is a solid choice and competition means better buys for you. It will likely still be a month to 6 weeks before you will see retail M1695/M1567 boards for sale, but make no mistake that the ULi is a very good choice, featuring excellent performance.
Second, there is the unique question of ULi AGP on this PCIe board. How does it perform? We are glad to say that ULi AGP is the first AGP on any PCIe board that doesn't require compromises. Those of you who want to take your high-end AGP card to a new PCIe board will be ecstatic over the performance of your AGP video card on the ULi board. It will work extremely well, as will a future PCIe card or a PCI card or any other combination of these three. This is absolutely unique, and it makes the compromise solutions, which derive AGP from PCI with degraded performance, totally obsolete. You do not need to compromise AGP performance just to get a PCIe board with this ULi M1695/M1567 chipset.
Next, there is the question of where ULi may be positioned in the marketplace. This is a tough call because we have seen excellent chipsets, like those from SiS, that have been relegated to the bargain bin because no manufacturer will support them. ULi has a bit more promise that we might otherwise see with their new chipsets. First, there is the fact that ATI selected ULi as a development partner for their South Bridge chips on the new Crossfire platform. That alone carries tremendous weight in getting manufacturers to take the new ULi chipsets seriously.
There is also the fact that ULi has some very unique and flexible solutions among their new offerings. The ability to do x16 or 2 x8 with a BIOS switch and riser card will appeal to many. In fact, x16/2 x8, AGP and PCI could all be theoretically combined on the same board. With a soon-to-be-available South Bridge, ULi is also saying that they will support Dual x16 lanes for a Workstation/Server type solution at a mainstream price. That will certainly appeal to many looking at the video high end. There is also the ability to interface with AMD's PCI-X workstation chips in an even more amazing array of options. This flexibility should make ULi attractive to many manufacturers and to a wide range of buyers.
The new ULi M1695/M1567 chipset is both unique in its full-blown AGP support on a PCIe board and fully competitive in performance with the best Athlon 64 solutions currently available. PCIe performance could use a bit more tuning, but it is already competitive. If ULi can bring PCIe performance to the levels that they currently enjoy with AGP on this same board, this could well be the fastest Athlon 64 chipset that you can buy. We could wish for SATA 2 support and integrated Gigabit LAN, but even those are coming with the M1575 South Bridge slated for September/October production.
ULi did a great job with their new PCIe/AGP chipset. If you are in the market for a new Socket 939 board, then boards based on the ULi M1695/M1567 should definitely be on your shopping list. If you by chance plan to use AGP on your new PCIe board, then ULi M1695/M1567 is the only board that you should have on your shopping list. This AGP on PCIe really works, there are no compromises, and you will not be disappointed.