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AGP 8x now or PCI Express in 2003?

by Bob Wright

AGP 8x makes it debute as AGP3.0, through it we are looking at the end game for the AGP video specification as it finally hits 2.2 gigabits per second. It would seem to be blazing speed for gamers and CAD developers, even as Intel blesses the new specification it is not shipping any new chipsets or motherboards in the near future with AGP8x slots.

Via and SIS not to be left behind are already have the new AGP8x on the market, as well as ATI putting forth the Radeon 9700 GPU. nVidia recently shipped its nForce 2 chipset as well as its NV18 (GeForce 4 MX) and NV28 GeForce 4 Ti 4200 GPUs, all of which support AGP 8X. But the simple question is: does AGP 8X really make any real difference in boosting 3D graphics performance...??

Actually, the question should be why is anyone wasting their time on AGP8x with PCI Express due on the scene in 2003. What is PCI Express you ask? It is a specification for the PCI bus that was recently developed under the code name 3GIO, the technology comes from the Arapahoe Workgroup team, which unveiled the new name at Microsoft's Windows Engineering Conference this week. Executives of Compaq, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Intel, and Microsoft make up the team.

So what is all the hoopla? Current PCI bus speed is limited to 128 megabytes per second throughput and the new PCI Express jumps that to throughputs of 2.5 gigabits per second. Do not think that this is the end of it either, since second-generation PCI Express will support throughput of 5 gbps; a third generation could offer up to 12 gbps. This is important since memory and CPUs are increasing rapidly in speed and yet still bottle-necked at the PCI bus. If we are to see the coming CPUs in the 10 GHz range, the motherboard is going to need to be able to allow the data to move with the same blazing speed.

Backward Compatible
Like all good PC industry standards, PC Express is a technological leap forward, but doesn't leave behind existing hardware. The new specification will continue to support today's PCI. In PCs, support will likely appear in the form of both PCI Express and PCI slots. Like the Industry Standard Architecture (ISA) bus before it, expect PCI to hang around for some time to come.

But, with the new USB2 on the market and SCSI pushing at the limits of the PCI bus, it was to be expected that the new PCI Express standard. Also expect ATA hard drives to move beyond the current data transfer standards as the PCI bus opens wide.

The future is nearly here with PCI Express, so upgrading to the AGP8x may seem like a big jump, but I would hold tight... the coming PCI Express video cards will far out strip the last AGP standard to be released.


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