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[ The PC Guide | Systems and Components Reference Guide | Motherboard and System Devices | System Chipset and Controllers | Popular Chipsets | Fifth Generation (Pentium Class) Intel Chipsets ]

Intel 430VX ("Triton II", a.k.a. "Triton III")

The 430VX chipset is technically also termed "Triton II" because Intel considers the HX and VX to be a "family" of sorts, two chipsets focusing on different segments of the market. While the HX is the more expensive solution intended for the business or power user, the VX is the cost-effective solution for the family PC or casual user. (The value of making these sorts of generalizations is totally lost on me personally, since my home machine often gets much more of a workout than my office machine does, but that's another topic entirely).

Despite Intel's efforts, the VX is often called the "Triton III", both to distinguish it from the HX, and as a marketing ploy to make it seem like it is "new and improved" or whatnot. This is very misleading, because the VX has in fact only one significant technical advantage over the HX, and is actually inferior in almost every other way to the HX set. In many ways it is more similar to the FX than the HX.

The VX chipset's advantages over the HX:

  • Lower cost.
  • Support for SDRAM.
  • Improved burst memory reads when using SDRAM (though the initial read is slower). The timing with SDRAM is 7-1-1-1 vs. the HX's 5-2-2-2 when using EDO RAM.

The VX chipset's disadvantages compared to HX:

  • No parity or ECC memory support.
  • No dual processor support.
  • Support for only 128 MB of system memory, like the FX.
  • Support for only 64 MB of cached system memory, again, like the FX.
  • Slower memory timings when using EDO memory (but faster than the FX).
  • Fewer PCI I/O buffers (but more than the FX).
  • No independent device timing for IDE/ATA devices.
  • Fewer supported motherboard SIMM or DIMM slots.

The advantage of SDRAM over EDO RAM in Pentium systems is questionable; while the raw speed of SDRAM is much higher than EDO, only 5 to 10 percent of requests for memory reads actually go to the memory. The vast majority are satisfied by the level 2 cache; the end result is that SDRAM does not lead to nearly as large an increase in performance as its presence might imply. Choosing memory technologies is discussed here. In some ways, the only advantage of buying SDRAM now is in the hopes that it will be able to be used in future systems, since SDRAM seems to be the direction that memory technology is headed to. However, even this is debatable, since it seems that with new technologies such as RAMbus DRAM being pursued by Intel, the future even of SDRAM is not secure. In addition, SDRAM specifications seem to change surprisingly often.

In many ways, the biggest drawback of the VX chipset is the reduced memory cacheability, something that didn't seem like a big deal in 1995 when 64 MB of RAM cost over $2,000. It will seem like a big deal very soon when users, finding EDO memory dropping to $3 a megabyte or less, try putting 96 MB in their system and find that it dramatically slows down. RAM cacheability is discussed in detail here.

Warning: Beware the so-called "VX Pro" chipset, which is not the 430VX but a cheaper imitator trying to confuse the buying public by making it sound like an enhanced 430VX chipset.

The 430VX chipset can today be basically considered obsolete, since there is no technical reason to use it over the newer 430TX chipset.

Next: Intel 430TX

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