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home : reviews : nForce Analysis

Benjamin Sun
February 13, 2002

NVIDIA's nForce
Bringing motherboard features and performance to a whole new level...

Power to the N. Recently, when given the opportunity to review NVIDIA's latest product, I jumped at the chance. Having used Intel CPUs and motherboards designed for Intel motherboards, for all of my computing needs since I've used computers, I wasn't quite sure what to expect from NVIDIA's nForce Athlon platform, it being NVIDIA's first motherboard chipset. Having used a VIA 693 and 694 before, with tons of problems (mainly to do with a SB Live audio card), I was hoping for 3 things: Compatibility, Stability, and Performance.

This review will focus on those 3 important factors in deciding whether the nForce is worth the price. Compatibility will be tested with a variety of video cards and soundcards. After all, even though NVIDIA is the motherboard manufacturer, not everyone has a GeForce class card or wants to use the on board sound of the nForce. Going hand in hand with compatibility is stability. How stable is the motherboard under demanding conditions? Finally, performance - if a buyer is going to purchase a new system, it's important to see exactly what you're getting.

The Xbox and nForce
Microsoft first announced the Xbox in March of the year 2000. At the time, NVIDIA was contracted to develop the graphics chip and sound chip for the future console, but someone also needed to develop the motherboard for the Xbox. NVIDIA stepped up to the plate in conjunction with Intel  (the CPU supplier for the Xbox) to develop the motherboard. What's interesting is that the nForce seems to have been designed originally for the AMD Athlon CPU architecture.

The Xbox motherboard is really the first motherboard based using DDR memory for system memory for Intel CPUs in production (for the Xbox). What's interesting is the motherboard bodes well for an eventual Intel motherboard, should NVIDIA get a Front Side Bus license from them in the very near future. With cooperation between Intel and NVIDIA on the Xbox, a PC translation shouldn't be hard to do.

With more than 1.1 million Xboxes shipped to retailers so far, and Microsoft forecasting around 6 million Xboxes by March of 2002 for launches in Europe, Japan and 1Q 2002 North American units, I would imagine NVIDIA's main concentration for their motherboard production will be on Xbox motherboard production. It's hard to imagine NVIDIA, or for that matter, any AMD motherboard chipset maker selling over 5-6 million motherboards.

nForce Platform Processing Architecture
The nForce Platform introduces 3 major innovations to motherboard chipsets, which I will go into more detail as I go along. They are Distributed Platform Processing, the Integrated Graphics Processor and the Media Communications Processor. All of which are a significant upgrade to the PC platform's capabilities.
nForce Logo
NVIDIA® Corporation (Nasdaq: NVDA) is the recognized global leader in advanced graphics processing technology for mainstream platforms. The unmatched breadth of NVIDIA's product line provides stunning 3D, 2D, and high-definition digital video and television for every audience and price point of the desktop computer market.

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