Granted, from a performance point of view PCI-Express is barely a match for AGP8X, but both ATI and NVIDIA have been aggressively moving forward with introducing graphic cards using the interface. Now that ATI has introduced a chipset for AMD’s Athlon-64 today, sporting PCI-Express support, it is clear that, like NVIDIA, they’re set on replacing AGP quickly. NVIDIA introduced their nForce4 chipset a few weeks ago thus being the first to bring PCI-Express to the AMD Athlon-64 platform. The key feature of NVIDIA’s PCI-Express solution was its ability to run two of their 6600 or 6800 series graphic cards in SLI, effectively doubling performance. With that feature NVIDIA has clearly paved the road for the performance conscious gamer or enthusiast; with SLI even the fastest AGP graphic cards are slow by comparison.
PCI-Express slot as featured on the MSI XPRESS 200 chipset motherboard.
ATI’s XPRESS 200 chipset lacks that feature for now, although supporting dual PCI-Express slots is not ruled out in future revision of the chipset. For now the XPRESS 200 has to make due with a single PCI-Express slot, yet the integrated version offers built in DirectX 9.0 level graphics, based on ATI’s entry-level X300 part. Although not at a performance level that’ll satisfy the fps-hungry gamer, it is certainly sufficient for entry level PCs. However when compared to competing products, such as the Intel 915G chipset, also with integrated graphics, the EXPRESS 200 offers substantially better performance and features.
DDR memory slots as featured on the MSI XPRESS 200 chipset motherboard.
With both ATI and NVIDIA offering no new chipsets that are equipped with a AGP interface and Intel having abandoned AGP well over a year ago it is safe to say that AGP is quickly becoming yesterday’s news. Nforce4 has shown us that the best chipset performance to date is offered by a PCI-Express chipset, with the nForce4 SLI being the current king of the hill. Whether ATI can match the nForce4 in terms of performance and features with their XPRESS 200 remains to be seen. We’ve just received our samples, a good four days late due to the courier at DPD, and we’ll be exploring how it fares. For now we’ll leave you with a few quick photos of the XPRESS 200 motherboard and put up the ‘DO NOT DISTURB’ sign as we’ll be busy putting it through its paces.