The second day of Computex 2003 has come and gone. With it, we’ve seen the first official performance indicators associated with AMD’s Athlon 64; plus, we can talk freely about Intel’s Pentium 4 Extreme Edition, which won’t emerge in quantity for another month or two. There are a few significant differences between the two processors, of course, but a couple of the most important are their respective hardware implementations their influence on the future of computing.
Today we spent some more time talking to motherboard manufacturers about their Athlon 64 plans. Most of them are unveiling multiple products with Socket 754 interfaces, based on VIA’s K8T800 or NVIDIA’s nForce3, but the Socket 940 boards are rare. Most manufacturers, it seems, are taking a “wait and see” approach, questioning the availability of Athlon 64 FX processors and the interface’s life span, especially with 939-pin processors slated to emerge midway through 2004. As we meet with more motherboard manufacturers, we’ll gather more information and report back in the days to come.
We ventured into Sapphire’s media suite expecting a brief on its latest products and maybe a bit about the status of the RADEON 9100 IGP. Instead, we were presented with a graphics card eerily familiar to the Rage Fury MAXX of yesteryear. The unnamed board featured a pair of R350 graphics processors, presumably 256MB of memory, dual-DVI outputs, IEEE 1394, diagnostic LEDs, and a pair of RAGE Theater chips.
Unfortunately, Sapphire will never manufacture such a product, which would debut at $800 or so. Even the sample in Sapphire’s suite is a non-functional piece of work (is there any need for two Rage Theater chips, and where is the AGP bridge that ATI claims it would need to replicate its MAXX technology on a modern video card?).
There is, however, a market that regularly pays in excess of $2,000 for high-end cards and is able to utilize dual-DVI outputs. We’ll let you ruminate on the possibility of multi-chip solution in that space. After all, ATI’s FireGL lineup isn’t exactly competing with NVIDIA’s Quadro FX 3000 or 3DLabs’ Wildcat4 families and it could use a performance boost to vie for the high-end professional market.
What Sapphire would confirm for us is that it is developing a front panel extension to fit comfortably in a 3.5” drive bay. When it is released (Sapphire is giving us a December timeframe), the panel will offer DVI output, TV output through S-video and composite ports, a temperature readout, cooling fan speed, and a knob for adjusting the fan. The hardware will tie into Sapphire’s Redline utility, derived from Rage3D.com’s own tweaking application. Unfortunately, Sapphire’s current product lineup doesn’t support the expansion panel, which requires an onboard header for connectivity. Instead, you can expect the full range of RADEON cards to include the header around the same time as the panel is finalized.
Dual ATI R350 VPUs
Firewire towards the rear
Dual DVI outputs are generally reserved for workstation cards