Over the last year or so, it could be said that VIA's K8T890 chipset didn't achieve the penetration into the enthusiast market that the chipset giant was expecting, although the chipset is said to be shipping well with mainstream solutions. Much like ATI, VIA were caught out by NVIDIA's surprise introduction of nForce4 SLI.
Nobody expected NVIDIA's SLI to be quite as successful as it has proved to be over the last 12 months, but the launch of GeForce 7-series months ahead of ATI's next-generation Radeon X1000-series video cards meant that SLI became even more attractive - it became the clear choice for high-end enthusiasts wanting to use the AMD platform.
With the recent release of 80 Forceware display drivers and mainstream SLI with GeForce 6600 a little earlier, you could say that SLI is getting ever closer to becoming the first choice for enthusiasts, no matter how much money they have to spend. However, if ATI and VIA have anything to do with it, their own chipsets will prevent nForce4's march to domination in the enthusiast sector.
Today, VIA are announcing a new chipset that it hopes will be adopted by a new generation of AMD enthusiasts, the K8T900. As well as bringing together technologies and features such as RapidFire, DriveStation and V-MAP, the K8T900 also introduces MultiChrome, a multi-graphics card technology built around S3 Graphics' recently announced S27 Chrome series. S3 Graphics is a VIA subsidiary, and these new GPUs will be manufactured on an advanced Fujitsu 90nm manufacturing process and promises to deliver the best Performance-per-Watt in the industry.
V-MAP: V-MAP is VIA's modular architecture platform, which delivers data throughput speeds of up to 1066MB/sec from the VT8251 South Bridge to the K8T900 North Bridge via the Ultra V-Link bus. Both the VT8251 and K8T900 are pin compatible with previous solutions, so it is possible for motherboard manufacturers and OEMs to make minimal changes to motherboard designs in order to use their preferred chipset combination. Also, it is worth noting that VT8251 supports all processor platforms and V-MAP enables it to be used with North Bridges like PT880 and PT894 Pro for the Pentium 4 platform.
RapidFire: RapidFire technology is a feature that enables a dramatic increase in performance for all of the latest high-bandwidth video cards. It enhances the K8T900 PCI-Express controller, allowing the chipset to deliver enhanced PCI-Express performance with reductions in communication latency, improved signal quality and power consumption reductions too.
VT8251 South Bridge: The South Bridge falls reasonably well in line with NVIDIA's nForce4 core logic, featuring four integrated SATA II ports with RAID 0, 1, 0+1, 5 and JBOD modes all possible on all four ports. Motherboard manufacturers do not have to implement additional disk controller devices in order to make use of advanced features like Native Command Queuing and the ability to hot swap devices. There is also support for four ATA-133 devices too.
Interestingly, the VT8251 only includes a single 10/100 Ethernet port, opposed to the Gigabit Ethernet found integrated into competing chipset solutions. NVIDIA's partners have typically opted to implement dual Gigabit Ethernet into their nForce4 solutions - one via the PCI-Express bus and one integrated into the chipset protected by the NVIDIA firewall. We suspect that VIA's partners will opt to implement a PCI-Express Gigabit Ethernet controller on their K8T900/VT8251 solutions.