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nForce4 AGP motherboards: "value upgrade"

Despite the fact that chipset developers often get rid of AGP at all preferring PCI Express (with the exception of VIA PT880 Pro that supports both buses officially), motherboard vendors try to find better ways of implementing both interfaces into their products. Taking into account numerous similarities between AGP and PCI (the latter actually being a kind of the former), it´s not that hard to support older cards in the newer systems.

Such AGP & PCI-E x16 hybrids started appearing right after the announcement of Intel i915x / i915X(E). We consider it a try to satisfy users that would like to catch up with fashion, but are not ready for large investments. If Intel-based machine users have already tasted such intermediate products, the rivalling camp received such chance just now. The reason for this lag was that chipset makers were not in a hurry to support PCI Express in AMD-based systems.

One of the most popular chipset series of this kind is NVIDIA nForce4. Perhaps, being a single-chip solution made it harder to add AGP to PCI Express. The first chip revisions couldn´t provide stable HyperTransport operation at 1 GHz. Despite this, such products are officially shipping to motherboard vendors under the nForce4-4x name, which makes them a very successful companion for Sempron Socket 754 processors supporting 800 MHz HyperTransport exactly.

Micro-Star International´s new K8N Neo3 (MS-7135) bases on the aforementioned nForce4-4x and is intended for use with 754-pin mPGA chips (by the way, it´s the first one seen for sale to combine nForce4 and Socket 754). The "AGPish" interface is bright yellow:

Named AGR (Advance Graphics Riser), it´s not capable of working with all the graphics cards (PCI legacy). The list of supported products is available here. But if you can´t find your card there, it´s not the end of the world.

Other distinctive features include passive MOSFET cooling and heatsink + fan couple for the chipset itself. In Japan this board costs about $120.

Another product of this kind, NF4ST-A9 from BIOSTAR Microtech International, was announced rather long ago, but only now additional AGP support has come to light. BIOSTAR named its PCI + AGP hybrid "XGP":

NF4ST-A9 bases on nForce4 Ultra (thus supporting all its features) and is designed for top-end AMD processors in 939-pin mPGA bodies. According to our source in China, the novelty will cost $130.

Sources: Akiba PC and ZOL

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