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home : reviews : nForce2 Preview

Written by Giovanni Glass
July 15, 2002

NVIDIA nForce2 Preview
NVIDIA announces their next-generation digital platform!

We live in a digital world. Today, NVIDIA announces their next-generation digital platform architecture, the nForce2. It was not long ago, NVIDIA was the new-comer to the motherboard market. Riding off the coat-tails of the XBOX, the nForce was NVIDIA's chance to enter a market; that before XBOX, they could only tempt to enter. Right now the XBOX isn't doing as well as Microsoft wanted. Sales are lower than projections and stocks are down for both companies especially for NVIDIA. But NVIDIA isn't stopping. The nForce2 is NVIDIA's best foot forward as the multimedia platform for today's digital user.

nForce History
Beforce we get into nForce2, a little information into the XBOX and nForce is needed. The nForce architecture is closely related to Microsoft's XBOX game console. Back when Microsoft was designing and preparing for the XBOX, they approached many industry leaders in the PC market to create a game console. NVIDIA's reputation for delivering graphics chipsets on a six month cycle without fail helped give NVIDIA credence to approach Microsoft for the potentially large and lucrative project. NVIDIA naturally jumped at the chance, and they ultimately won the project to design the XBOX graphics and I/O. Microsoft funded NVIDIA up-front $200 million dollars for research and development of the XBOX architecture. This boiled down to two chips powering the XBOX. The first is the XGPU which doubled as a graphics chip (NV2A) and a northbridge memory controller. The second was the MCPX which functioned as the southbridge I/O controller. Since the XBOX architecture is PC based, NVIDIA, being thoughtful and having a CEO named Jen-Hsun Huang, used the resulting XBOX architecture built from all the R&D to create an actual PC. The result is NVIDIA's nForce, a PC architecture with all the bells and whistles that made the XBOX the most advanced game console ever built.

The nForce is a first generation motherboard for NVIDIA. It shows. From announcement of the nForce to the actual release of 3rd party boards, it took many months to bring the nForce to market. Not only that, there were many quality control issues across all levels of the nForce from the actual board designs to the 3rd party board manufacturers. The nForce was NVIDIA's first motherboard, the odds are against them. It's one thing to design the XBOX which has clear design parameters. It's a totally different thing to design a PC motherboard. Issues such as supporting legacy hardware (ie. I/O ports, PCI, AGP, memory), legacy hardware bugs (yes, documented and undocumented bugs!), design Windows and Linux compliant device drivers (ie. networking, audio, video, USB, IDE), and AMD's Athlon/Duron processor. I'll talk more specifics about some of those issues I've witnessed later on. The nForce ultimately did ship last year - albeit somewhat late. On the system level, it performed on par with products in it's class, namely VIA's KT266A/KT333 and SiS's 730/740 series. But, when it came to on-board graphics, audio, and networking performance, the nForce outperformed and outfeatured competitor solutions many times over. Overall, it was a slow but positive learning experience for NVIDIA.
nForce2 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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