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Reviewed by: Carl Nelson [01.31.05]
Manufactured by: VIA

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The Southbridge


The VT8251 communicates with the Northbridge via.. VIA's.. Ultra V-Link interconnect. Ultra V-Link provides up to 1066 MB/s of bandwidth, which honestly doesn't sound like much for a PCI-E chipset. To contrast, Intel's 925X and ICH6R have 2 GB/s to work with, which is probably what allows them to support up to four x1 PCI-E slots instead of two.

A quick overview of some of the features of VT8251:

Sound: VIA's Vinyl Audio makes its appearance here; in the form of either Six-TRAC, VIA's standard 20 bit/96Khz AC97 solution, or the Envy24PT controller, which is the Hi-Definition solution. Since VIA recently worked out a deal with Q-Sound, the gaming features of these audio solutions should be among the best seen on integrated chipsets.

Drive Controller: VT8251 will be the most advanced SATA controller for a while; it supports the upcoming SATA-II standard, which means up to 300 MB/s transfer rate, and NCQ. More interestingly, it supports RAID5, something I have been waiting for from a southbridge for a while now. If you were ever stuck between deciding whether you want the performance benefit from RAID0 or the security of RAID1, then RAID5 is for you. Using three or more drives, both parity and redundancy are striped across ALL drives. Perhaps we'll get more into it at a later time, when we can test the performance of each RAID level. RAID Morphing is also supported, which is nice for array upgrades and recovery.

Other than that, the Southbridge doesn't bring much new to the table.

With full support for Intel's highest end CPU's, including the 1066 FSB Extreme Edition, DDR2, and PCI-E support, the PT Series from VIA look like they could be at the very least a viable low-cost alternative to Intel's admitedley expensive solutions.

And with backwards compatibility offered by the ability to have both DDR and DDR2 slots, and a true AGP slot along with PCI-E, the upgrade path for Intel users just got a LOT easier.

I am not going to draw a full conclusion about these chipsets until we get some in for performance testing. VIA was tight-lipped regarding overclocking, but as you know, they have never been shy about allowing us to push P4's to the limit.