The AMD64 Platform Gets More Interesting
Ever since the availability of AMD's Athlon 64 CPUs, there were only two really serious and pervasive vendors offering motherboard core logic solutions. These were none other than NVIDIA and VIA who have launched quite a healthy variant of AMD Athlon 64 chipsets for well over a year. Of course AMD, SiS and Ali have all had their own solutions, but they never reached critical mass adoption like those from NVIDIA and VIA at least from the retail point of view. Most people seriously doubted of any other good options besides those two chip providers (not that anything is wrong with them), but that drastically changed when ATI surprised much of the IT industry just over two weeks ago with their RADEON XPRESS 200 series.
ATI is hardly new in providing motherboard core logic solutions as they have been supplying designs and solutions to a number of desktop OEMs and more notably in the notebook segment for several years. Other than the recent proliferation of RADEON 9100 series chipsets on retail Pentium 4 motherboards, most of their previous solutions almost never made it into the retail segment because they were designed to be simple and light on features. Additionally, they weren't really optimized for performance. Obviously, these are traits that are hardly desirable for most end-users and tech savvy adopters who patronize the retail-end.
The ATI RADEON XPRESS 200 series logo.
The RADEON XPRESS 200 series is a new milestone for ATI as it is their first desktop chipset designed for AMD Athlon 64 and AMD Sempron processors with support for the latest I/O (input/output) interfaces such as PCI Express. In fact, it is their only desktop-based chipset designed for AMD processors in all these years. ATI did have the RADEON 320M IGP for AMD Athlon XP and Duron processors, but it was solely catered for the notebook market. Many of the later notebooks utilizing the AMD Athlon XP CPU were based on this ATI chipset and it eventually became quite a successful product as the adoption rate escalated.
If you have been following up with the all of ATI's motherboard core logic solutions, you would have realized that ATI has in the recent year expanded its offering for both the desktop and notebook segment with an array of chipsets supporting the Intel Pentium 4 and Intel Celeron processors. This is exactly why it came as a surprise when ATI launched the RADEON XPRESS 200 series for the AMD64 platform when most people thought a new ATI chipset for the Intel Pentium 4 LGA775 processors with PCI Express, DDR2 memory and High Definition (HD) audio technologies would be made available. It is quite possible that ATI is hard at work tweaking their memory subsystem performance for their next generation Pentium 4 chipsets since this is an area they have not been able to better Intel's own chipsets as seen in our previous reviews and our internal lab tests. Since it is targeted at mainstream and even power-users, it is best that they spend extra time and make a positive impact when it arrives.
Now that we've shared a little history and perspective of the market situation, we'll move straight into ATI's new RADEON XPRESS 200 series of chipsets and highlight what it offers, the target user group, an overview of a reference board with this chipset and finally our performance analysis with existing AMD64 platforms.