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VIDEO CARDS

Video Hardware, Part 3
By: Addison-Wesley/Prentice Hall PTR
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    2004-11-22

    Table of Contents:
  • Video Hardware, Part 3
  • Video Adapter Components
  • The Video Processor
  • Video RAM
  • Video RAM Speed
  • Video Bus Width
  • The Video Driver
  • Multiple Monitors
  • 3D Graphics Accelerators
  • Common 3D Techniques
  • Texture Mapping Filtering Enhancements
  • Hardware Acceleration Versus Software Acceleration

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    Video Hardware, Part 3


    (Page 1 of 12 )

    Picking the right video card isn't just a matter of which is faster, but rather a matter of what you need to get done. But what to look for? In this third part of chapter 15 of Scott Mueller's Upgrading and Repairing PCs (16th ed., Que, ISBN 0789731738), learn about the hardware in video cards, including details on what makes certain cards good for games and CAD design while others flop.

    Upgrading and Repairing PCsIntegrated Video/Motherboard Chipsets

    Although built-in video has been a staple of low-cost computing for a number of years, until the late 1990s most motherboard-based video simply moved the standard video components discussed earlier in this chapter to the motherboard. Many low-cost systems—especially those using the semiproprietary LPX motherboard form factor—have incorporated standard VGA-type video circuits on the motherboard. The performance and features of the built-in video differed only slightly from add-on cards using the same or similar chipsets, and in most cases the built-in video could be replaced by adding a video card. Some motherboard-based video also had provisions for memory upgrades.

    See "LPX," p. 207.

    However, in recent years the move toward increasing integration on the motherboard has led to the development of chipsets that include 3D accelerated video and audio support as part of the chipset design. In effect, the motherboard chipset takes the place of most of the video card components listed earlier and uses a portion of main system memory as video memory. The use of main system memory for video memory is often referred to as unified memory architecture (UMA) , and although this memory-sharing method was also used by some built-in video that used its own chipset, it has become much more common with the rise of integrated motherboard chipsets.

    The pioneer of integrated chipsets containing video (and audio) features was Cyrix (now owned by VIA Technologies). While Cyrix was owned by National Semiconductor, it developed a two-chip product called MediaGX. MediaGX incorporated the functions of a CPU, memory controller, sound, and video and made very low-cost computers possible (although with performance significantly slower than that of Pentium-class systems with similar clock speeds). National Semiconductor retained the MediaGX after it sold Cyrix to VIA Technologies. National Semiconductor went on to develop improved versions of the MediaGX, called the Geode GX1 and Geode GX2, for use in thin clients (a terminal that runs Windows and has a high-res display), interactive set-top boxes, and other embedded devices. National Semiconductor sold its information appliance business, including the Geode family, to Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) in August 2003. AMD currently offers a variety of Geode-based solutions.

    Intel became the next major player to develop integrated chipsets, with its 810 chipset for the Pentium III and Celeron processors. The 810 (codenamed Whitney before its official release) heralded the beginning of widespread industry support for this design. Intel later followed the release of the 810 series (810 and 810E) with the 815 series for the Pentium III and Celeron, most of which also feature integrated video. Currently, Intel offers integrated video for the Pentium 4 and Celeron 4 processors in the 845 and 865 families. Table 15.8 compares the major video features of Intel's 8xx-series chipsets, which include integrated video. Note that chipsets listed together share the same video features but differ in other ways such as memory support, I/O features, and so forth.

    Table 15.8 Integrated Video Features of Intel 8xx Chipsets

    Chipset

    Supported Processors

    Integrated Graphics Type

    External AGP Graphics Support

    Video Memory Size

    810, 810E, 810E 2

    Pentium III, Celeron III

    Intel 3D with Direct AGP

    6MB 1, 10MB 2, 12MB 3

    815, 815E

    Pentium III, Celeron III

    Intel 3D with Direct AGP

    AGP 4x

    6MB 1, 10MB 2, 12MB 3

    815G, 815EG

    Pentium III, Celeron III

    Intel 3D with Direct AGP

    6MB 1, 10MB 2, 12MB 3

    845GL

    Pentium 4, Celeron 4

    Intel Extreme Graphics

    32MB 4, 64MB 5

    845G, 845GE

    Pentium 4, Celeron 4

    Intel Extreme Graphics

    AGP 4x

    32MB 6, 64MB 7

    845GV

    Pentium 4, Celeron 4

    Intel Extreme Graphics

    32MB 6, 64MB 7

    865GV

    Pentium 4, Celeron 4

    Intel Extreme Graphics 2

    32MB 4, 64MB 5

    865G

    Pentium 4, Celeron 4

    Intel Extreme Graphics 2

    AGP 8x

    32MB 4, 64MB 5

    915G 8

    Pentium 4, Celeron 4

    Intel Extreme Graphics 3

    PCI Express x16

    32MB 4, 64MB 5

    915GV, 915GL 8

    Pentium 4, Celeron 4

    Intel Extreme Graphics 3

    32MB 4, 64MB 5



    1. Systems with 32MB of RAM, PV 5.x, or greater graphics drivers.
    2. Systems with 64MB of RAM, PV 5.x, or greater graphics drivers.
    3. Systems with 128MB or more of RAM, PV 5.x, or greater graphics drivers.
    4. Systems with up to 128MB of RAM.
    5. Systems with more than 128MB of RAM.
    6. Systems with up to 255MB of RAM.
    7. Systems with 256MB or more of RAM.
    8. This family of chipsets was code-named Grantsdale before its release.
    Intel 3D with Direct AGP—Basic 2D and 3D acceleration.
    Intel Extreme Graphics—Supports alpha blending, fog, anisotropic filtering, hardware motion compensation, and advanced textures.
    Intel Extreme Graphics 2—Enhanced version of original Extreme Graphics, adding better memory management, zone rendering, and faster pixel and texturing rendering.
    Intel Extreme Graphics 3—Enhanced version of Extreme Graphics 2, adding support for most DirectX 9 features (does not support vertex shaders) and optional dual-display support.


    Besides Intel, other major vendors of integrated chipsets include NVIDIA, VIA, ATI, and Acer Labs. Table 15.9 compares the video features of major integrated chipsets from these vendors.

    Table 15.9 Video Features of Current Non-Intel Integrated Chipsets

    Vendor

    Chipset

    External AGP Supported Processors

    Integrated Graphics Type

    Graphics Support

    Video Memory Size

    ATI

    RADEON IGP 9100

    Intel Pentium 4, Celeron 4

    ATI RADEON 9000

    AGP 8x

    Up to 128MB

    ATI

    RADEON IGP 9100PRO

    Intel Pentium 4, Celeron 4

    ATI RADEON 9000

    AGP 8x

    Up to 128MB

    NVIDIA

    nForce2

    AMD Athlon/Duron/ Athlon XP

    NVIDIA GeForce4 MX420

    AGP 8x

    Up to 64MB

    SiS

    SiS661FX

    Intel Pentium 4, Celeron 4

    SiS Ultra-AGPII Mirage

    AGP 8x

    Up to 64MB

    SiS

    SiS760

    AMD Athlon 64, Opteron

    SiS Ultra-AGPII Mirage 2

    AGP 8x

    Up to 128MB

    SiS

    SiS741

    AMD Athlon XP/ Athlon/Duron

    SiS Ultra-AGPII Mirage

    AGP 8x

    Up to 64MB

    VIA

    PM880, PM800

    Intel Pentium 4, Celeron 4

    S3 Graphics Unichrome Pro

    AGP 8x

    Up to 64MB

    VIA

    K8M800

    AMD Athlon 64, Opteron

    S3 Graphics Unichrome Pro

    AGP 8x

    Up to 64MB

    VIA

    KM400

    AMD Athlon XP/ Athlon/Duron

    S3 Graphics Unichrome

    AGP 8x

    Up to 64MB


    Although a serious 3D gamer will not be satisfied with the performance of most integrated chipsets (NVIDIA's nForce2 and ATI's RADEON 9100 IGPs being notable exceptions), business, home/office, and casual gamers will find that integrated chipset-based video on Pentium 4, Athlon XP, or Athlon 64 platforms are satisfactory in performance and provide cost savings compared with separate video cards. If you decide to buy a motherboard with an integrated chipset, I recommend that you select one that also supports an AGP 8x or PCI Express x16 video expansion slot. This enables you to add a faster video card in the future if you decide you need it.

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