One of the nice things about a two-part review is that you get to address things you may have overlooked in Part 1. Since there has been so much discussion about Sound Storm in the comments for Part 1, a little more information about the sound capabilities of nForce3-250Gb is needed.

It was a bit surprising to see so much commentary about Sound Storm being absent from nF3-250Gb, since it was first removed from the previous generation nF3-150. There are several reasons Sound Storm is not a part of nForce3-250Gb:
  • Customer surveys by nVidia found that most buyers did not use Sound Storm, and that Sound Storm did not enter heavily into the decision to buy nForce. So, the decision was made to choose the on-chip LAN, firewall, and much-expanded RAID capabilities, which benefit greatly from being moved off the bus.
  • nVidia is committed to the one-chip chipset solution for Athlon 64. They are firmly convinced that the one-chip eliminates the potential bottlenecks of a north-south bridge communications bus. Even with the memory controller on the CPU, there is only so much real estate practically available on a single-chip chipset.
  • There are new sound solutions in the works for nVidia. You may see them in a future chipset or on a sound card. Final decisions have not been made.
nVidia includes the hooks for AC '97 6-channel audio in nForce3-250, much like competing Athlon 64 chipsets. This also means premium audio can be provided with the right Codec.

The other area that was questioned was nVidia's competence to deliver a decent RAID solution, given the past problems with IDE performance on earlier MCP platforms. We will provide a few disk benchmarks in the Performance tests. However, from a user's point of view, the memory testbed uses the same model SATA 10,000 rpm drives in an Intel RAID array that are being used in the nForce3-250Gb Reference Board RAID. We have not been a fan of past nVidia Disk solutions and normally skipped their IDE drivers, but this time around, the performance has been extremely stable and far less finicky than the Intel setup we use for testing. Keep in mind that this is a Reference Board; we will feel much more comfortable in reaching a conclusion about IDE/RAID stability and performance after testing production motherboards. One other point is that nF3-250Gb was shipped with prototype version 4.04 nForce Platform drivers, which have not yet been released.

There were also emails with questions about software that is part of the nForce3-250 package. This is also related to the Platform Drivers 4.04 and the BIOS of shipping motherboards, but the Reference Board has a very useful System Utility that allows basic overclocking (but no CPU multiplier option). The nVidia System Utility has been available since last fall, but only works if the board manufacturer enables it in BIOS. Also included is a working nVidia DVD Player à la ATI, a very flexible nVRAID Manager, and the usual nVidia Mixer for audio. Version 4.04 Platform drivers for Win2K/XP include:
  • Audio driver version 4.09
  • Audio utility version 4.09
  • Win2K Ethernet driver version 4.16
  • Win2K Ethernet NRM driver version 4.16
  • Network management tools version 4.16
  • GART driver version 3.77 (WHQL) with updated uninstaller files
  • Memory controller driver version 3.38 (WHQL) with updated uninstaller files
  • SMBus driver version 4.04 (WHQL) with updated uninstaller files
  • Installer version 4.16
  • Win2K IDE 2.5 driver version 4.15
Other questions regarded Linux support on nForce3-250Gb. nVidia emphasizes full support for Linux in their literature for nF3-250. We were assured that nF3-250 features will have drivers available for Linux if they are needed, and that all features will work in Linux. Linux users should be reassured to know that Linux was a significant part of the nVidia presentation - not a thrown-in afterthought as we often see when it comes to Linux.

nForce3-250Gb: IDE and RAID Benchmarks
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  • TrogdorJW - Monday, March 29, 2004 - link

    And for amalinov, lay off the caffeine/Bawls/whatever for a while and take a few chill pills. THG and AT got you down for not spending three pages clearly spelling out every nuance of Hypertransport in every single article that mentions them? OMG, how ever will we survive? If it's that important to you, maybe you should include the correct information rather than just ranting about the problem. For the record:

    In AMD Athlon 64/Opteron systems, the Hypertransport bus is clocked at 800 MHz and is double-pumped, yielding a theoretical rate of 1.6 GHz. However, that is both upstream and downstream rates, so if you want to get a bigger number you can call it 3.2 GHz full duplex speed. Normally, the Hypertransport bus is 16-bits wide, which would then give you 51.2 Gbps of bandwidth. Using marketing, you divide that by 8 and come up with 6.4 GBps of bandwidth.

    Now, of course, is a great time to get your pants in a bind about the lack of proper conversion between GHz and GBps. 1 GHz is 1 billion cycles per second, of course, while 1 GB is 1024*1024*1024 bytes. So in reality, the 6.4 GBps speed is inflated, and the real value is 5.96 GBps. But that requires more math skill and technical knowledge than most people possess, and so it's easier to just "fudge" the result. Intel, of course, has the same problem with their 800 FSB providing 6.4 GBps of bandwidth. Notice how in benchmarks, none of the current chipsets for any platform ever surpass 6 GBps of bandwidth? That's because they *can't*. Realistically, anything in the neighborhood of 5.5 GBps or so is "maxed out".

    Then of course we have the problem with the original Nforce3 150 only providing 800 MHz and 16-bit upstream with 600 MHz and 8-bit downstream (or vice versa if you prefer - me, I call going from RAM to CPU "up" and CPU to RAM "down", but others, like THG, differ). So on the Nforce3 150, your maximum upstream bandwidth (i.e. from the RAM to the CPU) was 3.2 GBps (really only 2.98 GBps because of the 1 GB = 1,000,000,000 "fudge"). Your downstream bandwidth (i.e. from the CPU to RAM) was only 1.2 GBps (once again, only 1.11 GBps really), with the total aggregate memory bandwidth being 4.4 GBps (4.09 GBps true speed).

    There. Do you feel better now? Is everyone enlightened? Probably not. Adding such a lengthy explanation to every fraggin' article that discusses chipsets would just be redundant bloat. Those who really care probably already know, and those who don't care will just get tired of hearing about it. You might as well dredge out the old hard drive manufacturer claim where 1,000,000 bytes = 1 MB and 1,000,000,000 bytes = 1 GB. But hey! There's a class action lawsuit on that already, so maybe we can get something done about Hypertransport and FSB bandwidth claims as well?
    Reply
  • TrogdorJW - Monday, March 29, 2004 - link

    Wow... lot's of hate in the comments today!

    Overall, the major change with NF250 seems to be the working PCI/AGP lock, plus some features that were often included via other chips on the high-end boards. I do like Nvidia's answer to Intel's CSA, even though I'm still running 100 Mbit. Maybe in the near future I'll upgrade to a GbE switch, but for now I only have one PC with a GbE port, so it's pointless. I'm a little surprised at the RAID CPU usage... almost looks like software RAID to me! 25%-35% CPU usage is way higher than I would consider acceptable!

    Anyway, here's my one big complaint: You show how NF250 + FX5950U was in general faster than NF250 + R9800XT. Big whoop. Since the only other comparison that isn't NF250-based is running on the SiS chipset with a 9800XT, we don't know whether the performance boost is due solely to the graphics card, solely to the chipset, or a combination of both. It's most likely a combination, but it would have been much better to include the FX5950U on the SiS motherboard as well. We have the baseline measurement for the 9800XT, but we don't have a baseline measurement for the FX5950U.
    Reply
  • notoriousformula - Monday, March 29, 2004 - link

    Stupid Anandtech Flash graphs, can't even copy and paste on word :-(..

    Overall Great review!

    PS: i don't have internet at home, i was trying to save the article to floppy disk.
    Reply
  • PrinceGaz - Monday, March 29, 2004 - link

    A little more investigation into the slight performance-increase nVidia cards gain on an nVidia mobo (or possibly a deliberate penalty non-nVidia cards receive?) would be interesting.

    I trust that no graphics-card reviews will even consider using nVidia chipset mobos (or other major gfx-card manufacturer) as the testing platform now it looks like they give their own cards an advantage, even if they offer the best performance overall on any card. It would be better to use a lower-performing platform than a biased one.
    Reply
  • Phiro - Monday, March 29, 2004 - link

    In ALL comparisons? You mean the ONE comparison, the mysterious 67 versus the INTEL 13 versus the NVIDIA 6, locked in a titanic struggle over the fate of the world's supply of Crayola magic markers! Who will win, and what doom awaits the survivors on Earth?

    Wait until the next exciting episode of AnandTech Z, where we'll spend 30 minutes of your time showing you 3 minutes of data!
    Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Monday, March 29, 2004 - link

    #28 -
    It was an INTEL PCI Gigabit Ethernet adapter in all comparisons to PCI Ethernet.

    #26 and #27 -
    I will add 10,000 rpm single drive benchmarks to the Sandra and PCMark2004 charts. As soon as the benchmarks are complete the charts on page 2 will be updated.
    Reply
  • amalinov - Monday, March 29, 2004 - link

    regarding Wesley Fink's #22:
    I understand the point about SiS755/FX, nf3-250Gb/Ultra, K8T800/Pro. If the difference between these models is "the smaller chipset supports max HT@1.6GHz, the bigger - HT@2GHz" (here I intentiosly use data frequency of HT, and not clock frequency - witch is half: 800MHz and 1GHz. This is becouse elsewere - for FSBs, and for Memory speeds all we use data frequency "800MHz P4 bus", "1000MHz GeforceFX memory", "550MHz DDR SDRAM").
    BUT if you add to this REAL difference the imaginary "smaller chipset supports S754, bigger supports S939" - this IS WRONG!!!
    but that is not my point. Here it is:
    in the article was written:
    ", on the dual-channel nForce3-250Gb Ultra version of this chipset."
    I want to emphasis that THERE IS NO and WILL BE NO "dual channel CHIPSET version" for A64, S754, S939, S940 or whatever. If Nvidia wants to make us to believe "buy newer and more costly nf3-250 ULTRA boards for S939" this does not mean that we (and mobo makers) should believe them and not use S939 CPUs with non-Ultra nf3s. HT2GHz will not bring any performance benefits anyway (it will be advantage to chipsets with integrated video. It will be advantage to 2-way, 4-way, 8-way Opteron systems. It will be advantage to chipsets with multiple PCI Express x16 and/or chipset with 8-drive RAID-array with SATA/300. But for normal use HT@2GHz will bring nothing over current HT@1.6GHz).

    regarding #29:
    I don't want to flame. I THINK that I make only a "constructive criticism". Before I have sended some emails to a motherboard reviewer at AnandTech and later (after 1-2-3 reviews) they taked into account my remarks and changed the wrong sounding of a minor thing (about the space between the AGP and DIMMs). So I can only congratulate them! Here again Wesley Fink answers my "flames" and I am gratefull. I also so hope that the quality of writing will improve becouse of such critic/flames.
    Reply
  • Ilmater - Monday, March 29, 2004 - link

    "Also, another topic not well understood at Anandtech, Tom's, etc.: A64/Opteron FSB speed, HyperTransport speed, etc. - they (the writers) are mixing up clock frequency in MHz, data frequency in DDR and MHz, bandwith in GB/s. They think FSB and HyperTransport is the same thing. They think that HyperTransport is 800MHz (or maybe 200MHz "quadrupelt") - maybe becouse of similarity with P4. They think that their nf3-250Gb has a "250MHz FSB". They don't explain to the users on what depends the memory clock in a A64 system."

    Easy trigger. amalinov, I think you're jumping the gun here a bit. What TRULY makes or breaks a review, IMHO, is the conclusions drawn from the given data and the suite of tests performed. You people are psychotic, and I feel bad for those at AT. CALM DOWN!

    First off, 90% of all online hardware review sites mix up the bus rate, the data throughput, and the bandwidth. Yes, they should establish a standard, but to come in here flaming about it is ridiculous. Voice your opinions calmly on a board and I'm sure they'll address them. I'm very impressed with their response to criticism here. If you find that they don't address your concerns, then post in the forums and concensus about it. That's a much better means to an end.

    Secondly, the reason I left Tom's was because they seemed to grab RIDICULOUS conclusions from given data. There would be two benchmarks right next to each other and they'd claim statistical insignificance, but then there would be another with less of a difference and they'd claim that one was STOMPING the other. They seemed to favor certain manufacturers.

    However, I do not feel that AT falls victim to that.

    So, amalinov, while I feel that some of your criticisms are valid, I feel that you should voice them differently and ease off the flames.

    Now I get to voice my opinion, and I agree with jeremyk442 in #26, and I feel these were glaring omissions. IMO, those SATA/RAID benchmarks are mostly worthless. Just some (hopefully) helpful criticism, I think you should think about what you really want the benchmarks to show before you run them. While it's nice as a side note to show people looking to possibly upgrade to a RAID array how two WD Raptor 10k drives (a very likely upgrade choice) in RAID 0 compare to a single 7200 RPM drive (a common starting point for those looking to upgrade), that's a different article. These benches should be to show the benefit of this RAID array vs. others, or at least a single drive (drive x) vs. two of the same drives (two drive x's).

    For the most part, I thought it was a pretty good article and very interesting, but there were some glaring problems.
    Reply
  • Phiro - Monday, March 29, 2004 - link

    Wesley Fink:

    "We showed some benchmarks of Gigabit LAN in Part 1, Page 6 of the nForce3-250 review."

    You call those benchmarks? #1, it ain't plural. You put one crummy graph up. #2, a first grader would be ashamed of a bar graph like that. What is it a benchmark of, how long it took you to color it in with your Crayola marker? 67 to 13 to 6? Of what? To what? Doing what? "PCI Gigabit Ethernet" - what brand? It's no brand - all that is, is a drawing of THEORETICAL speeds!

    "We also discussed throughput benchmarks in Part 1 of the article and in front page comments in reply to questions. "

    Geez, I'm sorry, I didn't wade through 70 comments looking for it. Also, I apologize for thinking that part 2 of your review, you know, the part you said "will contain benchmarks", might actually.. contain a benchmark!

    "We chose NOT to publish these benchmarks in a splashier way because you will actually see the doubling of performance only in somewhat rare situations on today's systems."

    First off, you can quit thinking you know how we use our computers. You don't. Benchmark the shit, take our feedback, improve your process, rinse, repeat. With a fat banner ad or two around the frame, you make your money. The moment you start thinking for us = the wrong moment.


    "You will not, for instance, see any difference today in broad-band network connections available to most users."

    Just post the goddamned numbers flyboy, and read your editorial to your dog, who gives a much bigger crap than the rest of us.

    Look, I tried to ask nice - I even said "jeebus" up there instead of worse word. But all you want to do is make excuses and explain how it's not really your fault.

    It's really your fault.
    Reply
  • Nighteye2 - Monday, March 29, 2004 - link

    Why is the RAID comparison against an Intel solution? That's throws in too many variables...

    The ASUS K8V also has SATA RAID, so why not compare it to that? That'll also be more useful for people looking to buy an Athlon 64 system...
    Reply

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