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Dual Channel DDR Pentium 4 Chipsets - Six under the Microscope

By: Cameron Johnson | Intel CPUs in CPUs, Chipsets & SoCs | Posted: Mar 16, 2004 5:00 am




The VIA PT880 is one of the newest chipsets for the Pentium 4 processor to support Dual Channel DDR 400 and 800MHz FSB. VIA has built the PT880 based on its P4X series of chipsets. While these chipsets have been under fire from the end-user and Intel itself, the PT880 is VIA's new officially licensed Pentium 4 chipset. It comes in two parts - the PT880 Northbridge where the main work is done and the impressive VIA VT8237 Southbridge.


The PT880 Northbridge itself incorporates the latest memory controller from VIA. This is VIA's first Dual Channel DDR memory controller which is designed using VIA's latest latency reduction technology called Dual Stream64. This new technology is designed to reduce the latency inherent to 128bit memory interface, similar to what PAT does for the 875P from Intel. Along with the Dual Stream64 is VIA's new memory prefetcher system designed to anticipate the next memory transactions to reduce the required time the system needs to access critical data. DualStream64 also allows for the system to run the memory asynchronously, as with these new features, we still get the older DRAM bank interleaving that has proven to be a huge success with the older VIA chipsets in increasing performance of DDR memory technology.


The PT880 is normally accompanied by the new VT8237 Southbridge. While it is compatible with the older 8235 series, it makes little sense to use this Southbridge. The VT8237 is a truly new Southbridge from VIA. It boosts its support for USB 2.0 ports from six up to eight ports split over three different controllers which allows combined 480Mbps transfers per controller. Along with this, VIA includes its new AC'97 audio link revision 2.2 which supports 5.1 channel audio streams. While this does give good audio, VIA includes a link for its Envy24HT PCI controller. This means adding the Envy24HT is seamlessly as using an AC'97 audio codec.


Continuing, VIA adds its support for native Serial ATA. One two channel Serial ATA host controller is built into the Southbridge with a direct link to the upstream hub. This allows for the full 150MB/s per port transfers to be initiated without putting any strain on the PCI or IDE bus. Support for RAID function 0, 1 0+1 and JBOD is included, this makes VIA's Serial ATA system superior to the Intel ICH5R system due to its support for JBOD.


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