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VIA's New South Bridge: VT82C686B Supporting UltraATA/100

VIA Chipsets Now Supporting UltraATA/100

Hard drives with the latest IDE interface (UltraATA/100) have been available for some months now. Technically, this new standard is not really a big step forward, as it was 'just realized' by tightening the bus timings. Former IDE standards used to double the transfer speed with every new generation: After 16,6 MB/s at PIO4, UltraDMA/33 enabled 33 MB/s. Today's standard UltraDMA/66 (or UltraATA/66) is now being replaced by UltraATA/100.

Thanks to those little changes, manufacturers could easily adopt the new standard for their current IDE hard drives. Still, there is no drive available which data transfer rate from the physical disk media would be fast enough to benefit from the vast interface bandwidth. Due to this, critics characterize the catchword "UltraATA/100" as being rather loaded with advertising appeal than with any substance. So far, people who wanted to have ATA/100 support were either forced to obtain a motherboard with Intel's i815e, i820e or i840e chipset, or a separate PCI controller card, with chips from Promise, AMI or HighPoint. With the inclusion of this standard to VIA's chipsets, UltraATA/100 should now be widely available, even in low-cost systems.

The first chipset with native ATA/100 support was Intel's Solano (815E), which was the initial product making use of Intel's ICH2 south bridge chip. Three months later, VIA has finally completed their south bridge chip VT82C686B. Thanks to VIA's modular chipset architecture, the new South Bridge can be used with VIA-chipsets for Athlon/Duron as well as for Pentium III/Celeron. We will now take a look at VIA's renewed products.