ATI will launch its first Athlon 64-oriented chipset later this month, a company official has revealed, and become the first company to formally announce PCI Express support for the processor.
According to Reuven Soraya, ATI's director of platform product marketing, cited by DigiTimes, the part is currently dubbed the RX480 and it will be fabbed by TSMC using a 130nm process.
RX480 will be a discrete chipset, while the previously rumoured RS480 will be an integrated part, Soraya is reported to have said. That the graphics company is working on a chipset without built-in graphics might seem odd, particularly given the strength of demand for such chipsets from PC vendors keen to cut costs. But since AMD's success in the desktop market is primarily with less mainstream, more performance-oriented users, makers of Athlon-based PCs favour discrete solutions.
We recently overheard an AMD official claim that Athlon 64 would get PCI Express by the end of the year "for sure", though there was some ambiguity as to whether he was referring to his own company or arch-rival Nvidia. Soraya's comments suggest the former.
Not that Nvidia isn't working on such a chipset. Its so-called 'nForce 4' - though possibly not due to ship as such - is expected to provide PCI Express support alongside an integrated graphics engine.
"Nvidia has nForce MCPs [media and communications processors] for all flavours of the AMD Sempron processor family," the company said earlier this year. That includes "nForce 2 IGP for 462-pin/AGP, nForce 3 250 for 754-pin/AGP and next-generation nForce MCPs for 939-pin/PCI Express" (our italics).
ATI is certainly ready to do battle with its rival on this turf: Soraya said his company wants to be the biggest supplier of Athlon 64-oriented PCI Express chipsets within a year. ®