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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  • prisoner881 - Tuesday, March 23, 2004 - link

    #18, I know it's full duplex, but even then you will have a hard time getting full utlization under normal working conditions. Benchmarks are designed to run things at unrealistic rates. The point is, although I don't encourage it, you can certainly put Gigabit on the PCI bus and get very usable performance out of it. In most cases, the limiting factor is going to be CPU utilization anyway. Reply
  • JADS - Tuesday, March 23, 2004 - link

    External HDDs could make good use of a Firewire connection, especially now it is whizzing along at 800MBit/s.

    The multi CPU implementation sounds interesting, of course AMD will completely fail to capitalise on it by not making the FX dual processor capable. How many enthusiasts (AMD wise) could resist the chance of dual FX-53s, especially with the possibility of overclocking them? You have the distinction between the 2xx series and the FX due the removal of ECC/Registered memory in the FX 939 series, so they essentially serve two different markets.
    Reply
  • sprockkets - Tuesday, March 23, 2004 - link

    Why would you need firewire with USB2? OK, ipod and camcorders.

    I have one question. Since you use a browser to configure the firewall, does this mean it is OS independant, i.e., I can use it in Linux without needing drivers to run it?
    Soundstorm not present on here, oh well, almost all uATX boards had the MCP and not MCP-T so it didn't matter anyhow, and it doesn't work in Linux anyhow. VIA sound is troublesome in Linux too. I rather use my own sound card. Just hope there is a driver for the cool LAN adapter.
    Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Tuesday, March 23, 2004 - link

    #10 -
    LAN is Duplex. Gigabit on PCI with overhead can do about 820mb/sec in industry standard tests. nVidia's on-chip LAN could output about 1840 mb/sec in the benchmarks we have seen. This is more than twice as fast IF you have a source that can actually output 1GB in both directions.

    #11 -
    PCI Express will be seen on Intel boards very soon. AMD boards will not move as rapidly to the Intel PCI Express standard.

    #12 -
    Firewire is not on-chip. Undoubtedly many mfgs will add firewire with an additional chip on-board nF3-250.
    Reply
  • fla56 - Tuesday, March 23, 2004 - link

    ''No one can possibly complain about the feature-set of nForce3-250''

    to add my vote to what's already been said, no firewire for my iPod and no SoundStorm/DolbyDigital for that lovely Yamaha amp I just bought mean i think someone needs to calm down a little about all that excitement (and learn a little about the difference between megabits and bytes by the sound of things)

    i wonder if they'll release Soundstorm as a PCI eXpress card....
    Reply
  • Reflex - Tuesday, March 23, 2004 - link

    #8: Actually, to date nVidia has had a *very* troublesome PCI implementation, anyone with a PCI RAID controller and a 4 disk RAID 0 array can tell you that. It is so bad, in fact, that prototype NF3-150 boards for Opteron used AMD PCI chips just to avoid using the nForce3 integrated PCI bus. I am not certain if these boards ever reached production status however.

    As for this chipset, it looks nice, but honestly I'll wait until there is a PCI Express solution out there, I was just forced due to power problems destroying my equipment to upgrade my motherboard prematurely, and I don't intend to buy another until the next wave of features is available...
    Reply
  • DAPUNISHER - Tuesday, March 23, 2004 - link

    Keep your eyes open for my AN50R listing for sale at rock bottom pricing in the FS/FT forum when the 250 is on shelves :D Reply
  • fla56 - Tuesday, March 23, 2004 - link

    Reply
  • prisoner881 - Tuesday, March 23, 2004 - link

    Looks like another error on the "Conclusion" page. Last sentence, second paragraph says "We expect that some enterprising companies, which specializes in catering to the computer enthusiast, will slip in some Socket 954 boards based on the Ultra chipset with a Gigahertz HyperTransport."

    Socket 954? Methinks that ought to be Socket 754.
    Reply
  • arswihart - Tuesday, March 23, 2004 - link

    What about firewire connectors, do you guys think they'll be added to production boards? Reply

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