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Old 23rd Dec 2003, 17:43   #1
WilHarris
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Bit grabs ATI PCI-Express sneak peek

Whilst at an ATI shindig in old London Town last night, we managed to sneak off to the wazzeria™ for 5 minutes with a pre-release PCI Express board that the Canadian chaps were showing off. With no NDAs in sight (although the same couldn't be said for drunken ATI execs), we thought you might like a peek at what we saw!!


The card itself is a Radeon9600, and is fully working.


You can see a closeup of the interface.


Previous pics to hit the net haven't had any labels on them. This is obviously a recent sample, dated as 10/10/03.

We unfortunately had to sneak it back into the jacket pocket of an ATI rep before the night was done, but we think the boy Hexus may have gotten his sneaky little mittens on it. We shall investigate...In related news, ATI wouldn't be drawn on whether PCI-X would "really cheese people off" by forcing an upgrade path on them, after they'd all just bought top spec AGP cards. Recent discussions with Intel representatives suggested to us that the migration of users to PCI-X may be subtantially slower than you might think.
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Old 23rd Dec 2003, 18:02   #2
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What's PCI-X? Next generation of PCI? Better then AGP?
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Old 23rd Dec 2003, 18:07   #3
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Yes
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Old 23rd Dec 2003, 18:45   #4
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I see the new logo is getting another airing.

How long before PCI Express becomes the norm?
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Last edited by quack; 23rd Dec 2003 at 22:46.
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Old 23rd Dec 2003, 19:40   #5
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Actually that's not quite true...

The card we're looking at here is a PCI Express card. PCI Express is different from PCI-X.

PCI-X is a standard that's been around for quite a while. It's basically the same as the PCI 2.0 64-bit/66Mhz, but upramped to 100Mhz or 133Mhz.

PCI-X is nice for gigabit ethernet cards, high speed disk controllers (a 2-disc RAID-0 configuration of a modern hard drive is already enough to saturate the lousy 32-bit/33Mhz PCI 1.0/2.0 bus that comes on consumer motherboards) and in general kicks butt.

Unfortunately companies refuse to sell it on consumer gear for some reason... You can only get it on server platforms. Getting a machine with BOTH AGP and PCI-X can be a pain. You NEED PCI-X to get decent speed from a RAID card (all cheap consumer PCI RAID cards and integrated motherboard RAID solutions sit on the lousy 32-bit/33Mhz PCI bus so you're never getting the speed you should be).

In fact for Opteron systems there's only ONE motherboard with both AGP and PCI-X -- the Tyan Thunder K8W.

PCI Express, what we're seeing here, is a "serial PCI" system that the industry created to replace PCI, PCI-X, and AGP. Nevertheless they're making a different standard for video cards than for other cards -- i.e. a longer slot with mutiple "parallel serial" PCI busses ganged together so the card can talk at high speed.

Frankly I wish PCI-X was on more motherboards today, because it works well, but PCI Express is what the industry seems to be pushing. Oh well.
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Old 23rd Dec 2003, 19:47   #6
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Sorry, that's my bad. I always use PCIX as shorthand...thread title editted. And thanks for the technical info!
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Old 23rd Dec 2003, 20:09   #7
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Looks nice. Although im still miffed at the fact the card is STILL facing DOWNWARDS

This does NOT help cooling nor does it show off nice heatsinks
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Old 23rd Dec 2003, 20:29   #8
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nice snapshot....

.....but is it a PCI-Express card or juz a PCI-X server graphic card?

*btw,were u drunk at the time u took the picture....*
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Old 23rd Dec 2003, 20:34   #9
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Read a few articles

PCI Express - Google Search

PCI-X is a server technology, it simply cannot be implemented for general use systems due to cost.
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Old 23rd Dec 2003, 21:39   #10
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i think its more to do with they dont want us to have it, its the same interface as a PCI card - so the slots are cheap as poo, all they need to do is ramp up the clock speed

i think someon es getting paid to push pci express instead of PCIX (by MS or someone) tbh its all rubbish, i think its affordable, they just dont like us
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Old 23rd Dec 2003, 22:20   #11
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Something I've never understood.. or let's say, been purposely naieve about:

Why bother changing slot types at all?

I don't know how many 'pins' AGP has, however surely whatever magical effect switching to PCI-Express will achieve could be managed through a standard AGP connector?

Then, how hard would it be to make everything backwards compatiable? You're just including an AGP Bridge and PCI-Ex. bridge on the same board.. the increased sales to punters with older GFX cards who want to retain the board until their card is out of date should more than pay for the increased manufacturing costs.

TBH, changing the physical layout of anything (and hence ditching backwards compatability) all seems to be a simple marketing ploy at best and, at worst, a targetted attack by manufacturers to ensure that people are forced to ditch older kit.
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Old 24th Dec 2003, 00:29   #12
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Quote:
Originally posted by :: kna ::
Something I've never understood.. or let's say, been purposely naieve about:

Why bother changing slot types at all?

I don't know how many 'pins' AGP has, however surely whatever magical effect switching to PCI-Express will achieve could be managed through a standard AGP connector?

Then, how hard would it be to make everything backwards compatiable? You're just including an AGP Bridge and PCI-Ex. bridge on the same board.. the increased sales to punters with older GFX cards who want to retain the board until their card is out of date should more than pay for the increased manufacturing costs.

TBH, changing the physical layout of anything (and hence ditching backwards compatability) all seems to be a simple marketing ploy at best and, at worst, a targetted attack by manufacturers to ensure that people are forced to ditch older kit.
£££
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Old 24th Dec 2003, 00:37   #13
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Quote:
Originally posted by zhenboy
*btw,were u drunk at the time u took the picture....*
Haz drunk at an ATi shindig? Never!

He has a reputation to uphold...

*n
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Old 24th Dec 2003, 00:59   #14
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Yes, pretty drunk. If you look, you can actually see the sink I had the card on in the top pic, in the bathroom.

PCI-Express enables faster bus speeds because it's serial, rather than parallel like AGP (much as SATA gives us faster HDDs than ATA133). Whether or not we actually need that at the mo is a different matter.
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Old 24th Dec 2003, 01:58   #15
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Well from what I've read PCI-Express is like having AGP at 16x just a lot faster, Although so far they haven't settled on where on the Motherboard the 1x slots will go last I heard, So far It's been either Behind a Normal PCI Slot or By Itself with no other Slot at all.
And I doubt Socket A will be invited to the Party.
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Old 24th Dec 2003, 02:01   #16
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err, but socket A isnt going to last much longer anymore anyway
Athlon 64/FX/Opteron isnt Socket A
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Old 24th Dec 2003, 02:13   #17
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I knew that Socket 754/940/939 are not the same as Socket A.
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Old 24th Dec 2003, 02:15   #18
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Quote:
Originally posted by :: kna ::

TBH, changing the physical layout of anything (and hence ditching backwards compatability) all seems to be a simple marketing ploy at best and, at worst, a targetted attack by manufacturers to ensure that people are forced to ditch older kit.
Same goes for releasing a new cpu 200mhz faster than the last. Why?


£££$$$.


Haz, cough, Express, not Extreme.

We dont need AGP 8x really, let alone PCI-E 16x.

PCI-E is scallable from 1x-32x iirc, and it a new little socket infront of the old PCI slots. So PCI cards can be shipped with both slots built in and itll plug into either, or both and autoswitch to whatever.

Serial connections means, in the long term that there are less traces on the mobo and more stuff can be added at less cost. 4 layer mobos cost ~50% less than 6 layer ones so its all about economics and getting everyone to upgrade.
To be honest i cant wait to see the PCI 2.1 (?) bus go. Its slow and seriously out of date. Itll be nice to be able to consider SCSI or fast RAID arrays with cards that can plug into the PCI-E slots and wont saturate the bus.

AMD are commited to socket A as long as the market see's fit. Itll be a budget solution long into 2005 imo.
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Old 24th Dec 2003, 02:30   #19
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PCI-Express is also supposed to work a bit like a network. Basically, devices can communicate with each other directly, instead of having the chipset or the processor handling it. This will take some load of the Proc as well as save time cause the packets don't go as far. So, for example, suppose you want to play some mp3's. the sound card would communicate directly with the HD, instead of going through the processor.

Also, I think there are at least 2 type of connectors: 1bit, which is really small and 16bit which the ATI card uses. It's just longer and has more bandwidth for video cards.

Please correct me if I screwed the explaination: I'm almost positive I named something wrong
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Old 24th Dec 2003, 10:41   #20
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Quote:
Originally posted by Swafeman
i think its more to do with they dont want us to have it, its the same interface as a PCI card - so the slots are cheap as poo, all they need to do is ramp up the clock speed

i think someon es getting paid to push pci express instead of PCIX (by MS or someone) tbh its all rubbish, i think its affordable, they just dont like us
No PCI-X slots are entirely different to PCI slots, although they are backwards compatible. PCI-X slots are so large you won't find them on anything except extended ATX motherboards. Not to mention every PCI-X slot requires its own controller and has double or more traces than a PCI slot. It is extremely expensive to implement on a board.

The AGP bus, well it isn't technically a bus, can only have one board attached to it. Simple as that really, it was designed for a fast graphics card and that it does well. It isn't a general purpose bus like PCI, PCI-X or PCI-E.

In fact deploying PCI-E on servers & workstations would be potentially a good idea. 8x slots would provide 2GB/s of bandwidth to every card (as PCI-E is based on switch technology), so you could have a 16x slot for gfx and five 8x slots for cards such as Ultra 320SCSI, >1GBit/s Ethernet, etc... 2GB/s is plenty for any current technology you care to mention, even 10GBit Ethernet. There is no reason why nX slots couldn't be backwards compatible with lower value of n slots, i.e. a 1x card should work fine in an 8x slot.

Ok so where is the advantage for servers? Partially cost due to reduced traces, partially extra performance (PCI-X offers a maximum 1GB/s although PCI-X 2.0 does extend that to 2GB/s) and partially motherboard layout. Due to the size of 8x slots it is entirely possible to build dual processor workstation/server boards using the ATX form factor. Again especially for servers the main point is to deliver the most computer in the least possible space.
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