Elitegroup's 915P-A Provides An Upgrade Path With AGP Express
The 915P-A by ECS offers both x16 PCI Express and AGP-compatible slots.
Whenever Intel’s latest chipset generation is under discussion, two hot issues dominate. The first is the Pentium 4 Prescott’s tremendous heat dissipation. The second is the lack of support for AGP in the Intel 900 chipset series, which forces upgrading users to buy a new PCI Express graphics card. Since there is no performance reason yet to make the switch from AGP to PCI Express, many users hesitate to upgrade.
While the nature of this platform change is rather significant, lots of existing systems running CPUs in the range of 1 to 2 GHz can easily be upgraded by simply exchanging the graphics card. In fact, many gamers decide to go this route, since the performance impact is much more noticeable than what changing the motherboard and CPU can do.
ECS catered to this problem at a pretty early stage, showcasing a 915-based prototype motherboard at Computex 2004 that featured an AGP slot in addition to the default x16 PCI Express one. Unfortunately, since then, Intel decided to drop support for the legacy AGP slot entirely.
One possible compatibility option would have been to place a bridge chip on the motherboard to allow an AGP slot to work via PCI Express. As you can imagine, this piece of silicon would have made any motherboard more expensive. And from a user’s perspective, we would rather spend extra money on a PCI Express graphics board than on a makeshift solution.
ECS decided to pick an interface option that actually is much closer to AGP : the good old PCI bus. While PCI’s bandwidth is somewhat pathetic by today’s standards, ECS seems to have evaluated its performance as satisfactory for an interim transitory solution. Let’s take a look at it and see how it fares.