Notebooks ramping up for PCI Express

Nvidia Corp., a leading designer of graphics chips, announced Monday that it has widespread support from the major manufacturers of notebooks for its proposed MXM graphics standard for add-on modules that will be using Intel’s new PCI Express bus.

PCI Express is the new higher performance Intel expansion bus architecture for servers, desktops, and notebooks as well as for communications devices such as edge servers. The PCI bus, which is based on parallel technology, was running out of steam, according to Jim Pappas, director of technology initiatives for the enterprise group at Intel. PC Express, using serial technology, has at least twice the performance.

Notebooks based on the new bus technology should start appearing this fall, according to Bill Henry, director of mobile product management at Nvidia.

Most of the major Taiwanese Original Design Manufacturers (ODMs) are behind the MXM design including Quanta Corp., Wistron Corp., FIC, Uniwil, Clevo Computer Co., AOpen Inc., Tatung Co., Arima Computer Corp., Asustek Computer Inc., and Mitac International Corp.

According to Henry, as the ODMs go so go the original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) such as Dell Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co., and Toshiba Corp. in the United States.

“Nowadays, the OEMs put out an RFQ to the Taiwanese manufacturers and basically (what) it says is ‘you guys decide how it all comes together,'” Henry said.

Up until now upgrading graphics on a notebook was not an option. With graphics upgradeability, there is now one less reason to buy a desktop PC, according to Rob Enderle, principal at Enderle Group.

A single standard for graphics modules will also allow manufacturers to offer more choices in graphic performance without having to redesign the motherboard and can be used as a competitive differentiator.

PCI Express replaces the previous AGP graphics standard and is about twice as fast, said Henry.

For IT departments running corporate software on upgraded PCI Express notebooks, no major problems should be encountered, according to Enderle. Enderle said that as long as a company is using a current Nvidia driver set, it will take PCI-Express graphic modules into account. However, if a system has an older Nvidia driver set, then that can create problems.

“They will have to load the updated driver. If they don’t it may not crash the system but it won’t run right,” said Enderle.

Notebook manufacturers are also expected to ship notebooks with PCI Express Card expansion modules rather than the current CardBus standard slots. CardBus cards will not be compatible with the new bus.

Desktops and workstations are expected to ship with PCI Express this summer. Notebooks will follow a few months after that, according to Pappas.

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