Potential in the PT894!
always nice to have options and the the VIA PT894 reference motherboard that we
looked at today has a ton of potential. As the platform matures things will only
get better, and Intel better take notice if they don't want to lose chipset
sales to VIA. The PT894 chipset is on paper a very flexible platform which
supports any Socket 775 Pentium 4 processor processor; from the entry level 533
MHz chips to the mainstream 800 MHz and 1066 MHz processors.
chipset works with both DDR and DDR2 memories, but you cannot run both at the
same time (nor can any other chipset for that matter). On the plus side, the VIA
PT894 chipset supports a whopping 16GB of RAM! That's four times more memory
than what Intel 915/925X/XE motherboards can handle, and excellent news for
those looking for a budget database server motherboard!
The VIA PT894 Northbridge has
a total of 18 PCI Express lanes available to divy up. Of those, 16 are for the
graphics card and two are set aside for PCI Express 1x devices. There are two
more PCI Express x1 slots built into the new VT8251 Southbridge if you find you
need more. Between the North and Southbridge chips is VIA's Ultra V-Link
connection. It has a total of 1066MB/s worth of bandwidth.
VT8251 Southbridge is as modern as they come, and like the nForce4 MCP on the
AMD side of things, it supports the brand new Serial ATA II standard. For extra
performance or data security, the VT8251 supports RAID modes 0, 0+1, 1 and 5 but
if you'd prefer to use it simply as a SATA controller that works as
new Serial ATA II standard, the chipset also supports a new feature called Port
Multiplier. With the motherboard connected to the appropriate hardware, you have
the choice of connecting up to 60 SATA
HDD's to the Southbridge! Think of the possibilities!
Performance of the motherboard
and its fledgling chipset is okay, but we do expect it to increase with
subsequent driver releases. As it stands, the VIA PT894 chipset sometimes
performs slower than the competition to around the same level. The values are
not off by much, and I suspect that most computer users would have a difficult
time differentiating the PT894 with a 925X if both systems were placed side by
have much luck overclocking on this platform, but then again VIA hasn't been
very good in this area the last little while. That and reference motherboards
generally do not OC very well to begin with. Hopefully retail motherboards based
on the VIA PT894 chipset will be able to go faster than the
214 MHz FSB we were limited to.
VIA has a
potential winner here if it can get motherboard manufacturers onboard, turning
out their wares quickly, and squeeze out some quicker drivers. I guess we'll
just have to wait and see what happens.
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