At launch, there were really just two Athlon 64 chipsets - the nVidia nForce3 150 and VIA K8T800. As we have discussed in reviews of boards based on these chipsets, neither one really meets the specifications that we would like to see in Athlon 64 chipsets. Later, SiS introduced the promising 755 chipset, but no one has brought the kind of 755 boards that we hoped to see to market. In addition, our recent tests of the PCI locks on all 3 Athlon 64 chipsets found that none of them really worked. Given this background, we were more than ready for a new chipset for Athlon 64 that would fix many of the issues.

nVidia has stated all along that nForce3-150 was an interim chipset. The 150 chipset was criticized widely for using just 600 HyperTransport when the AMD specification was 800, and almost everyone found fault with the out-dated feature set with nF3-150. In fairness, we could find no performance differences at all between the VIA 800HT and the nVidia 600HT in tests of Socket 754 Athlon 64, but there was certainly no compelling reason to choose nF3-150 over the more feature-rich solutions from both VIA and SiS. With VIA and SiS, you also did not have to compromise on HyperTransport speed since both run at 800HT.

The non-working PCI lock that we later found on nF3-150 also came as a huge surprise. nVidia tells us, and we did confirm, that the PCI lock does work on the nVidia Reference Board for nF3-150, but they are also aware that it did not work in production nF3-150 motherboards. nVidia assures us that this BIOS programming issue is fixed in nF3-250.

Into this very confusing climate for Athlon 64 chipsets, nVidia is launching the completely revised nForce3-250. The market for Athlon 64 is now growing rapidly, and nVidia simply wants to be the only choice for the gamer and computer enthusiast when buying an Athlon 64. This time around, nVidia certainly looks like they have the goods to make nForce3-250 everything that the market is looking for.

Since there is so much that is new in the nForce3-250, the review will come to you in two parts. Part 1 takes a close look at the features of nForce3-250; Part 2 will concentrate on actual performance of the nForce3-250 Reference Board compared to other Athlon 64 boards that we have tested. Since nVidia claims that nForce3-250 performs best with nVidia's latest graphics cards, benchmarks will also compare performance of an nVidia 5950 Ultra, 9800 XT, and our standard ATI 9800 PRO on the nF3-250 chipset.

A Closer Look at the nForce3-250 Family
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  • Curt Oien - Tuesday, March 23, 2004 - link

    PCI EXPRESS ? Reply
  • prisoner881 - Tuesday, March 23, 2004 - link

    There's a huge gaffe on the On-Chip Gigabit page. It states that Fast Ethernet runs at "100MB/sec" and Gigabit runs at "1000MB/sec." "MB" is shorthand for mega<i>bytes</i>, not mega<i>bits</i>. Megabits should be abbreviated "Mb."

    Normally I wouldn't be this anally-retentive, but the poor usage leads to another problem later on down the page. The article states that Gigabit Ethernet running at "1000MB/sec" is faster than the PCI bus which runs at "133MB/sec." The PCI rate figure is correct, but the Gigabit figure makes it look like Gigabit is about 8 times faster than the PCI bus itself. <i>It's not!</i> The PCI bus runs at (133Mbytes/sec X 8 bits/byte = ) 1064Mbit/sec, which faster than Gigabit. The article is very misleading in this respect.

    In truth, the PCI bus can almost never reach its peak 133MB/sec rate (usually it's around 100MB/sec) but then again Gigabit can't reach it's peak either.

    Regardless, the article is completely incorrect when it indicates a Gigabit card would overwhelm a PCI bus. This is not true.
    Reply
  • BikeDude - Tuesday, March 23, 2004 - link

    Argh... I keep forgetting that it's 1000Mbps _full duplex_... nVidia are indeed correct, the PCI bus is only half that speed. :-/

    --
    Rune
    Reply
  • BikeDude - Tuesday, March 23, 2004 - link

    First off: GB is GigaByte. Wesley wrote "GB" more than once while actually referring to Gigabit (bit has lowercase b).

    Next, 1000Mbps is roughly 125MB/s (theoretical peak I expect). 33MHz 32-bit PCI is roughly 133MB/s. I dislike PCI Gb implementations as the next guy, but I'd still like to know how nVidia managed to come up with the half speed figure? Perhaps nVidia's PCI-bus implementation is sub-par? (which is a real issue! Via has struggled with really bad PCI performance for years :-( )

    Finally there's 6-channel audio; What happened with Soundstorm and Dolby encoding implemented in hardware? (I currently use only the SPDIF connectors on my nForce2 and get surround sound both in games and while playing DVDs -- is there no way to get this functionality with Athlon64?)

    Hopefully the next article will shed some light on some of these issues. Cheers! :)

    --
    Rune
    Reply
  • KristopherKubicki - Tuesday, March 23, 2004 - link

    gigE is awesome and worth it. i dunno about the firewall but eh. 45MB/s network transfers are fun.

    Kristopher
    Reply
  • Verdant - Tuesday, March 23, 2004 - link

    schweet... when is my 16x nforce 250 mobo comming the the mail? Reply
  • klah - Tuesday, March 23, 2004 - link

    hmmm.. seems that last page was slipped in from the November SiS article. weird.

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

    yeah, the SiS 755FX plug at the end was sort of a red-herring - didn't fit at all with the article, which was soley about Nvidia, it didn't need SiS's recent efforts tacked on the end at the last second.

    A couple things:

    1) to all you nay-sayers about the worth of gigabit ethernet - I thumb my nose at you! Let's not play chicken or the egg games here, let's just usher in new *desired* technology as smoothly as possible - having gigabit ethernet will push me to replace my netgear 10/100 switched hub, not the other way around.

    2) Anandtech, what's with the nvidia ass kissing? When you say things like 'Nvidia assured us.." and "We did test Nvidia's claim... [and we believe it]" - come on, a little healthy doubt is a good thing. Just because they supplied you with a reference nforce3 250 mobo doesn't mean you have to see how far you can stick your tongue up their butt. Honestly, the article felt like it leaned toward Nvidia abit. Believe it or not, you can report on a product without it sounding like some money changes hands or something.
    Reply
  • mechBgon - Tuesday, March 23, 2004 - link

    *drool* Reply
  • bldkc - Tuesday, March 23, 2004 - link

    What's with the SiS 755 crap at the end of the article? Someone didn't proof read, huh? That is also obvious in the spelling errors. Excellent article. Better than recent ones. I do wish that you had been able to include the performance portion, cuz now I'm itching to see them.
    One thing tho, how many people have several gigabit systems at home? I know I will not upgrade any of mine until they are replaced, so it will be awhile. Therefore I am not too excited at this point, especially if the high speed wireless standards work out to high enough throughput to allow real time multi-media transfers. Love the on chip firewall, but Zonealarm is still the only useful application specific solution I know of. Not that I'm an expert, I am far from it, but the Blackice debacle was seen coming long ago.
    Reply

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