Intel beefs up 955X chipset with dual-graphics capability

Chicago (IL) - A cross-licensing agreement with Nvidia is beginning to kick in for Intel. The company plans to introduce a new high-end version of the 955X chipset which will enable users to run two Nvidia or ATI graphics cards in tandem.

News has reached us that Intel is getting more serious about the gaming crowd. While Nvidia’s nForce SLI chipset has been the only technology for Intel users to integrate two Nvidia graphic cards in their system until now, there will be another option early next year.

According to sources, Intel will then release the 975X chipset, essentially a 955X version with dual x8 capability and supports for two GeForce 6600 or higher cards. In terms of performance and price, the chipset will be positioned clearly above the 955X, but keep some distance to Nvidia’s recently launched nForce SLI x16 chipset.

The 975X is not listed on current Intel roadmaps, but is scheduled to debut with the Pentium D 900 ("Presler"), which is a 65 nm version of the current 90 nm Pentium D 800 series and comes with two dies in one package, VT support and more cache.

According to sources, the initial samples of the 975X are much more capable than especially Nvidia may have expected. Apparently, the chipset is not only capable of supporting SLI, but ATI’s upcoming dual-graphics technology "Crossfire" as well. Crossfire has not been officially launched, but boards have been appearing at several events in Silicon Valley, for example at a recent editor day hosted by ECS Elitegroup. Three first-tier motherboard builders contacted by Tom’s Hardware Guide said that Crossfire boards "are ready" and it simply depended on ATI when the technology would become available. Sources pointed to a mid-September time frame for a Crossfire launch.

Whether the 975X will support Crossfire or not is uncertain as of this time and appears to be more of a licensing than a technology issue. A launch date for the new Intel flagship chipset has not been set. However, "early February" would not be a bad guess", one source said.