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
POST A COMMENT

46 Comments

View All Comments

  • jeremyk442 - Monday, March 29, 2004 - link

    I was disappointed to see a comparison of the 10k RAID to a single 7200 drive. How does that show us the benefits of RAID when the 10K vs 7200 variable is in the mix. Also, performance tests of mixing SATA and IDE in RAID setups would be nice.

    Also, in comparison of the NVIDIA vs ATI graphics cards, the NVIDIA card was not tested on the other platforms (or at least it wasn't graphed) making it difficult to determine the benefit that the 250Gb chipset gives it. Also, I wanted some more commentary on why the chipset gives the NVIDIA card a performance advantage. It seems a little suspicious to me.
    Reply
  • Reflex - Monday, March 29, 2004 - link

    #24 beat me to the punch. Even the digital output capabilities of SoundStorm are rather inferior compared to other solutions. Its not a great sound chip, but then I covered this territory in part one.

    Honestly, this chipset seems lacking to me. The best part of it is the gigabit ethernet, but even that is overkill for most setups. If it had included PCI-Ex I woulda considered it a better solution, but as it is I'd rather just wait...
    Reply
  • Odeen - Monday, March 29, 2004 - link

    "Apparently you COMPLETLY overlooked the fact that most (all, AFAIK) SoundStorm boards offered digital output which bypassed those codec's completly. Which just happens to be EXACTLY what I use, and was a major selling point, allowing me to send out my DD/DTS signal to my amp for DVD's as I use for regular computer use. VERY handy."

    It's a nice solution, but a flawed one. It's not DTS, it's just a 640K/second 6-channel Dolby Digital stream that, because it's generated in real-time, doesn't use any "tricks" to boost effective bandwidth, just six independent channels occupying a little over 100K each, 5-to-1 compression ratio or so.

    As 3dsoundsurge.com tests of the nVidia Soundstorm show, the compression essentially nukes ALL frequencies over 18,000hz. I would think that, as a sound purist, you'd object to listening to compressed audio, especially quick-and-dirty compressed audio, day in and day out.

    I'd be much happier if Soundstorm either used firewire audio out for compatible receivers, which has enough bandwidth for a DVD-Audio stream(6 channel uncompressed 24/96 or stereo 24/192), or some sort of multiple digital outputs, each carrying a straight SPDIF stereo stream.
    Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Monday, March 29, 2004 - link

    #21 -
    We showed some benchmarks of Gigabit LAN in Part 1, Page 6 of the nForce3-250 review. We also discussed throughput benchmarks in Part 1 of the article and in front page comments in reply to questions.

    With a benchmark that could actually supply 2Gb/sec to test on-chip Gb LAN, throughput for a PCI-based Gb card was around 840kb/sec, while the on-chip LAN was about 1870kb/sec - more than double the throughput.

    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. Instead, we talked about where the on-chip Gb LAN would make a big difference - LAN gaming with Gigabit switches, Corporate Gigabit LAN, file-sharing on Gigabit home network. You will not, for instance, see any difference today in broad-band network connections available to most users. nVidia's on-chip LAN is a great idea that will become even more useful in the future.
    Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Monday, March 29, 2004 - link

    #19 -

    nVidia calls their version for Socket 939 'nForce3-250Gb Ultra', much as VIA calls K8T800 for Socket 940 the 'K8T800 Pro', and SiS calls their 939 version 755FX and not 755. Ultra, in the case of nVidia, means 1000 HT capable. I mention in the review that any of the chipsets can be used on 754 boards if the manufacturer chooses. It is also clear that the review board is based on the nForce3-250GB Ultra with 1000 HT that will be used in Socket 939 boards in the future.
    Reply
  • Phiro - Monday, March 29, 2004 - link

    One comment, one demand/request.

    Comment: I like nvidia's onboard sound, but if really want to decouple it from the motherboard and sell them as stand-alone cards, that's fine with me too.

    Demand/Request: You had a gigabit ethernet nforce3 and you never even benchmarked the damn thing? WTF is wrong with you people? Holy jeebus - even if you don't have the hardware from other manufactors to do some good benchmarks, you could at least show us what your reference board gets talking to card X or whatever, or better yet two 250gb's xfering files to each other over a crossover cable.

    Reply
  • Regs - Monday, March 29, 2004 - link

    I want to see the K8T vs Nforce 250GB at their highest stable over clocks. I think the K8T can maybe reach 220 HTT with some difficulties, while the 250 can reach 240HTT. Then lets see some benchmarks. Reply
  • amalinov - Monday, March 29, 2004 - link

    OK. Nvidia have not included SoundStorm in nf3, becouse it is cheaper to manufacture (and design) this way.

    Also I see that you have corrected the 6.1 to 6-channel.

    what about the "dual channel Ultra-version"?

    #16, It is posible to make a S939 dual-channel board with current nf3-250 (and also with nf3-150, SiS760, K8M800, K8T800, SiS755, ALi, AMD, etc. - ALL Opteron/A64 chipsets). Regarding PCI Express and PCI-X - they can be added to such board (based on existing chipset) too. for PCI-X - AMD8131 chip, for PCI Express - some not-yet-announced chip. Becouse of HyperTransport it is possible to combine nf3-250 with any other HT-tunnel controller supporting PCI-X, PCI Express and other interfaces.
    Another question is if some mobo manufacturer will do that. Becouse of cost reasons mobo manufacturers tend to make crimpled products not utilizing all chipset functions (nf3 with only 2 UATA channels instead of 3, etc.), so wanting even more than this seems unrealistic.
    Reply
  • amalinov - Monday, March 29, 2004 - link

    OK. Nvidia have not included SoundStorm in nf3, becouse it is cheaper to manufacture (and design) this way.

    Also I see that you have corrected the 6.1 to 6-channel.

    what about the "dual channel Ultra-version"?

    #16, It is posible to make a S939 dual-channel board with current nf3-250 (and also with nf3-150, SiS760, K8M800, K8T800, SiS755, ALi, AMD, etc. - ALL Opteron/A64 chipsets). Regarding PCI Express and PCI-X - they can be added to such board (based on existing chipset) too. for PCI-X - AMD8131 chip, for PCI Express - some not-yet-announced chip. Becouse of HyperTransport it is possible to combine nf3-250 with any other HT-tunnel controller supporting PCI-X, PCI Express and other interfaces.
    Another question is if some mobo manufacturer will do that. Becouse of cost reasons mobo manufacturers tend to make crimpled products not utilizing all chipset functions (nf3 with only 2 UATA channels instead of 3, etc.), so wanting even more than this seems unrealistic.
    Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Monday, March 29, 2004 - link

    #12 -
    We did not say Sound Storm could not be included on a single-chip, we said there was only so much real-estate PRACTICALLY available on a single chip. As complexity goes up, yields generally go down - raising the price of a chipset. This is a competetive market.

    The next line in the review mentioned that nVidia is working on other sound solutions which may be included in a future chipset or separate card. This may be the most important reason why we did not see Sound Storm in nF3-250.
    Reply

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now