Intel’s P67, H67 and H61 chipsets will lack native PCI support

Bridge chips to the rescue

INTEL’S NEXT GENERATION of consumer desktop chipsets will lack native support for the good old PCI bus which dates back to 1993. However, most of the motherboards, if not all, that we saw at Computex back in June still featured PCI slots and it only just dawned how this can be. It turns out that the bridge chip makers are going to be making some bucks here by selling PCI Express to PCI bridge chips.

IDT issued a press release today proclaiming that MiTAC has chosen them as the supplier for their needs of PCI Express to PCI bridge chips for MiTAC’s next generation of desktop PCs. IDT’s chip is called the PEB383 and it supports 32-bit PCI devices operating at either 33 or 66MHz. It’s available in either a QFP or QFN package at 14×14 or 10x10mm and is priced at $4.95 in quantities of 10,000.

This means that every motherboard with Intel’s P67, H67 and H61 chipsets that has PCI slots will cost an extra $4.95 to make, well, at least as long as the motherboard maker uses the IDT PEB383. We had a look at some of the board pictures we’d taken at Computex and just about all of them either had an additional chip next to the PCI slots, or space for one. We know for sure that ITE and Nuvoton will be offering solutions, but we’d expect companies like Texas Instruments, PLX, Marvell and others to join the fray.

The picture above is of the ITE IT8890E which we spotted on one of the boards that was on display at Computex, but there are no details of this chip on ITE’s website. Presumably products from companies like ITE and Nouvoton will be cheaper than some of the big brand competitors and there will likely be something of a price war in this market segment in the near future. As always it’s likely that the lowest bidder will emerge victorious, but it will also come down to how well the various bridge solutions work.

One concern here is for those that are still using PCI cards that are sensitive to latency, something that can be an issue when working with audio related products. Considering the cost of high-end audio production equipment, this could prove to be an issue for certain niche markets, although it’s unlikely to cause any real problems for the general consumer.

Intel’s business and enterprise oriented B65, Q67 and Q65 chipsets will retain support for the PCI bus for the time being, so businesses won’t have to worry about older add-on cards not being fully compatible. It almost seems like Intel is doing this to kill the PCI bus by force than out of necessity. We’d much rather see a swift death to the serial, parallel and floppy drive interfaces that are still hanging around despite being much older than the PCI bus.S|A

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