We reported on PCI-Express chipsets in numerous articles in the past two months, by reading those you would almost start to think that AGP was indeed dead and buried. Well, rest assured, AGP is still here, it isnít exactly alive and kicking, but some manufacturers havenít abandoned the platform just yet and are releasing new products so you have somewhat of an upgrade path. NVIDIA is the first manufacturer to, not surprisingly, port a native PCI-Express graphic card to AGP. The graphic card in question is the GeForce 6600GT, which is a mid-range card that sits below the 6800 series and offers great performance at an affordable price. When NVIDIA launched the 6600GT one of our first questions actually was whether thereíll be a native AGP part, as it would offer a worthwhile upgrade path to users with an AGP motherboard.
The GeForce 6600GT AGP with the HSI clearly visible at the bottom.
NVIDIA didnít end up making a native AGP part, but rather stuck a HSI, high speed interconnect, in between the native PCI-Express graphic processor and the AGP-slot, which takes care of the bi-directional AGP-to-PCI-Express translation. This of course is a simple, yet effective, solution as it doesnít require a redesign of the 6600ís core to support AGP. You might ask yourself whether this will result in increased latencies, but keep in mind that the bandwidth that PCI-Express has to offer is twice that of AGP, so any latencies will be less than some of the bridge solutions weíve seen from AGP to PCI-Express. So essentially the GeForce 6600GT AGP is a PCI-Express graphic card in disguise. Read on as we explore what is is up against and whether it is able to best other AGP graphic cards which carry a $200 pricetag.
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