A Closer Look at the nForce3-250 Family



The nVidia Reference Board was shipped with the latest nForce3-250Gb chipset. Gb stands for Gigabit, which refers to the included on-chip Gigabit Ethernet. The Reference Board also included 1000MHz HyperTransport, but this is a concession to the Reference Board and is not a feature for Socket 754 boards. Basically, there are currently two 250 chipsets for Socket 754 Athlon 64:

1. nForce3-250 - basic value chipset for 754, 800HT, does not include on-chip Gigabit LAN or on-chip Firewall.
2. nForce3-250Gb - 800HT, includes Gigabit LAN and on-chip Firewall.

With the coming introduction of Socket 939, there will also be two additional versions of the chipset introduced:

3. nForce3-250Gb Ultra - 1000HT, Gigabit LAN, Firewall, Dual-Channel unbuffered, for Athlon 64/Athlon 64 FX.
4. nForce3-250Gb Ultra PRO - 1000HT, Gigabit LAN, Firewall, for Opteron.

To make the 4 versions even more interesting, the Ultra can even be used for Socket 754 processors if the manufacturer chooses. In fact, there are designs for top Athlon 64 boards that nVidia says will use the Ultra chipset to provide 1000 HyperTransport to Socket 754. This would, theoretically, bring added overclocking headroom to current Athlon 64 CPU's. In fact, the nVidia Reference Board that we received used the Ultra chip and provided 1000 HyperTransport. We can confirm that dropping the multiplier to 9.5, and dropping HT to 800 allowed us to reach 250 FSB easily, which was the FSB limit on the Reference Board - all at default voltage.

To add even more to the pot, all of the nF3-250 versions of the chipset can be used in Multiple Processor designs. If the manufacturer chooses, any of the chipsets can be used theoretically in 1, 2, 4, 8, or even 16 CPU setups. Of course, the capabilities of the processors available for any given board will have an impact on how far you can go with multiple CPUs.

With the nForce3-250, nVidia also takes a giant leap in features to make the new chipset second to none. Features that are now part of the single-chip nForce3-250Gb MCP include 8 SATA ports, 4-channel SATA RAID plus 4-Channel IDE RAID, on-chip Gigabit Ethernet, on-chip Firewall, and software 6-channel audio.

Index nForce3-250 Specifications
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  • Reflex - Tuesday, March 23, 2004 - link

    Once again, the only person who said anything about gaming performance and dual CPU rigs in reference to today's environment is you, Prisoner. I fire up a game on my PC maybe once a month, so honestly buying ANY pc component for gaming reasons is more than a little rediculous in my case(thats what I have an Xbox for).

    However I have plenty of reasons to run dual CPU's, I mess around with making my own DVD's, occasionally I am known to compile a kernel, etc. These are becoming increasingly popular in the average home as well, especially with DVD recorders getting cheap and people wanting to convert those home movies.

    As for games, my only point was that the installed base is being created now. I'd recon that at this point there are more HT compatible P4's sold than there are NV30 or R300 class and higher graphics cards on the market, and they are already developing games targetted for those platforms. All it really would take is Epic and id making their next generation engines more multi-threading friendly and you'd see mass adoption since those engines form the basis for a huge number of games. The potential for major increases in gaming performance is there, it just has not been tapped yet.

    However, as I said, gaming is a relatively *minor* reason for dual CPU adoption. Believe it or not, most people don't do any sort of serious gaming on their PC, so it would really never be much of a selling point...
    Reply
  • JADS - Tuesday, March 23, 2004 - link

    #27 what is your obsession with games? Anyway my argument that dual CPU systems are highly relevant to enthusiasts stands and that has very little to do with games and more with multi-tasking and highly demanding applications such as video editing, image rendering, code compilation, server duties, etc...

    Anyway the gap between a dual and single CPU systems with regards to games really is quite small these days and mostly it is down to the board in question being focussed on stability and reliability rather than outright performance. I'm guessing you wouldn't want for games performance from a dual Athlon FX-53 system on an nVidia nForce3-250 chipset.
    Reply
  • AMDfreak - Tuesday, March 23, 2004 - link

    I'll be waiting for PCI Express versions too. It doesn't appear that the jump to A64 is going to give me enough of a speed increase over an OC'd Barton until I'm ready to replace my 9800 Pro anyway. Reply
  • truApostle - Tuesday, March 23, 2004 - link

    all your base belong to them Reply
  • prisoner881 - Tuesday, March 23, 2004 - link

    #24 and #25, the idea of buying "ahead of the curve" for technology has historically been a stupid, cost-ineffective idea. Buying a duallie system today (at mucho $$$) because you expect to find duallie-ready games in the next three to five years is just dumb use of your money. I say three to five years because that's how long it's going to be before gaming companies produce software that either demands dual CPU's or demands Hyperthreading. In the meantime, you'll have one very expensive processor on a very expensive motherboard just sitting around twiddling its thumbs. And by the time these games DO come out, both of your CPU's (and very likely your motherboard as well) will be obsolete. Such is the way of things.

    Now, one of you DID touch on a good reason to get a duallie system, namely if you're doing compute-intensive stuff like 3D rendering. I happen to do that for a living, and I've got 8 dual Athlon systems in a render farm. Much more cost effective than single CPU systems, but none of them will ever win any points in a gaming match.
    Reply
  • agent2099 - Tuesday, March 23, 2004 - link

    AC97 Audio? This is a step backwards from Nforce2. Where is the MCP-T?
    Reply
  • JADS - Tuesday, March 23, 2004 - link

    #22 I didn't say specifically for games, I said enthusiast. A dual CPU system is inherently more flexible, be it compiling code faster, to rendering pictures quicker to multi-tasking using many apps. How many enthsiasts simply run one program at a time? I know I don't and could make use of a powerful dual CPU system.

    Dual CPU systems do not need to run with ECC/Registered memory although typically due to the target market this is a feature. Running a dual processor FX system with standard DDR memory could be a very fast and cost effective machine.
    Reply
  • Reflex - Tuesday, March 23, 2004 - link

    #22: I agree with you until you get to the part about 'never will'. HyperThreading is making developers consider making thier apps multi-threaded, and starting sometime next year multi-core CPU's will be introduced most likely. When most machines sold have the ability to process more than one thread at a time, it would be pretty stupid to ignore that factor.

    So for now, multiple CPU's is not that helpful for *gaming*, although it is for many other applications. In the future, however, I expect it to be very helpful for everything, including gaming.
    Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Tuesday, March 23, 2004 - link

    #4 -
    Ass-kissing has never been my forte. I consider myself an equal-opportunity offender. After finding none of the AGP locks worked on Round 1 chipsets, you better believe I would test for myself whatever I am told about the new boards.

    Frankly I really like nF3-250GB, but I also hear good things about SiS 755FX for 939 (1200HT) and VIA's update for 939. After some of the crap we've had to endure with Round 1 chipsets, it will be nice to have some good Athlon 64 choices in Round 2.
    Reply
  • prisoner881 - Tuesday, March 23, 2004 - link

    #20, gamers that buy dual-CPU systems are just being stupid. Practically no game out there makes good use of more than one CPU, and none are planned. Add to that the overhead of having additional CPU's in the system, the cost of a dual system versus a single, and the slower memory (Reg'd ECC), and you've got a tremendous waste of money. I have *never* seen a dual-CPU game box outrun a single-CPU game box, and I doubt we ever will. Reply

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