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80,259 News Articles

An Xbox in your PC

Xbox inside for world, er, except Intel users

GeForce graphics cards maker nVidia has built a version of the advanced chipset it made for Microsoft's Xbox for PC users – well, all but Intel users.

The company is trumpeting it as a big jump forwards in PC architecture (the way in which the innards of the PC are organised). Essentially, it’s a beefed-up PC version of the technology nVidia designed for Microsoft’s Xbox game console, out in the UK next year.

PCs using AMD's processors - such as Athlon and Duron – incorporating the nVidia technology should appear in the autumn. nVidia and Intel can’t reach agreement on using the two-piece chipset for Pentium processors. Intel makes its own chipset with integrated graphics, so maybe that has something to do with it.

Currently, the best graphics performance is to be had by installing a separate graphics card, such as nVidia’s GeForce2. But this hikes the cost. The cheaper solution is to have a machine where the graphics processor is integrated on to the chipset that enables the processor to talk to the rest of the system. But these don’t give anything like the performance of an add-on card.

Now nVidia has gone one step further and integrated into its chipset a GeForce2 graphics processor, top-notch audio processor and network adapter, all connected with a high-speed bus and a fancy predictive preprocessing unit that guesses what instructions the processors will need next and loads them ready for use.

The result is a system that can access graphics, sound and comms simultaneously - nVidia calls it isochronous architecture - with better performance than separate cards but at the cost of an integrated chipset.

Five companies - Abit, Asus, Gigabyte, MSI and Mitac - which make over half of the world’s motherboards (that’s the big circuit board on which reside processor, memory and other important jellytots) have said they’ll use the nVidia chipset on their AMD Micro ATX motherboards. Motherboards from these suppliers are used routinely by UK system builders such as Hi-Grade.

So far one PC maker, Fujitsu-Siemens, has said it will build PCs around the chipset, although nVidia promises there will be more.

Whether the technology ever becomes available for Pentium-based PCs depends on whether Intel and nVidia can come to an agreement on its use.

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