As we talked about in the launch review of the nForce3-250 chipset, the high-end versions of the nF3-250 feature nVidia on-chip LAN and nVidia Firewall built into the chip. Since the original chipset launch, it has been clear that readers were very confused about what the nVidia on-chip LAN actually was and which boards had the on-chip LAN.

We have been working with nVidia to try to provide some answers to your questions and clear up the confusion. This should make your buying decision a little easier when shopping for nForce3-250 motherboards.

What is nVidia On-Chip LAN?

The Gigabit LAN capabilities on certain nForce3-250 chipsets is not really a fully integrated LAN. Like solutions in a few other chipsets that remove the LAN from the confines of the PCI bus, nVidia provides a port for direct communication of a Gigabit LAN PHY (Physical Layer) with the nForce3-250 family chipset. There is still an external Gigabit LAN chip providing PHY Gigabit LAN capabilities, which communicates directly with the nF3-250 chipset.

As a result, you cannot determine if an nVidia nForce3-250 family board has on-chip Gigabit LAN merely by looking at the specifications for other brand LAN chipsets. The on-chip LAN will still have an external Gigabit LAN chip providing PHY Gigabit capabilities. This makes the on-chip LAN more like a port to communicate with the external Gigabit LAN PHY than it is a fully integrated Gigabit LAN chip. The end results are the same however - removing the Gigabit LAN from the constraints of the slower PCI bus.

Do ALL nForce3-250 chipsets have On-Chip Gigabit LAN?

The answer to this question has been spelled out in the chipset reviews for the various nForce3-250 family, but it is still a source of confusion. The ONLY nForce3-250 chipsets with on-chip Gigabit LAN are the nForce3-250Gb and the nForce3 Ultra. The other chipsets in the nForce3-250 family do not offer on-chip Gigabit LAN or nVidia on-chip Firewall.

This means that a motherboard based on the nForce3-250, without a Gb or Ultra extension, does not have the nVidia on-chip LAN or nVidia Firewall.

How Can You Tell if a Board Has On-Chip Gigabit LAN?
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  • sprockkets - Friday, August 06, 2004 - link

    The PHY is the physical layer of the networking; it generates the signal, while the chipset is the controller or brains of the outfit. The PHY part has the MAC address on it, so figure layer 2.


    The Gigabyte K8NSNXP or the 939 version uses both a Marvell controller on the PCI bus but also 10/100 ethernet from the NF3250 controller, not on the pci bus. So yes, while it does use the nvidia Lan via a PHY, it's not Gb.
    Reply
  • mechBgon - Friday, August 06, 2004 - link

    Here is a diagram from Gigabyte's manual for their nF3 Ultra board:

    http://www.omnicast.net/~tmcfadden/Images/Gigabyte...

    As you can see, the gigabit chip is crammed onto the PCI bus with a bunch of other high-bandwidth stuff. The same holds true for their 754 board. Either nVidia or Gigabyte needs to get their facts straight here.
    Reply
  • thebluesgnr - Friday, August 06, 2004 - link

    nVidia's response is pretty standard. What I mean is, why would a company use the version of the chipset that adds Gigabit LAN (and the firewall it offers) only to NOT use it? It beats me why Gigabyte did it.

    I wonder, is VIA's Gigabit lan on the PCI bus? They call it "VIA Velocity™ Gigabit Ethernet
    (PCI companion controller)".

    #2,
    there's also the MSI K7N2 Delta2 Platinum. That one is already available on newegg.

    Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Friday, August 06, 2004 - link

    gtech41 - Do you disagree about any others that nVidia listed, or are the Gigabyte boards your only concern? I have forwarded your comments to nVidia and asked for clarification, since the 'Ultra" logo is definitely used in Gigabyte packaging.

    We published the list and information nVidia sent us in response to our questions about which boards had on-chip LAN and how our readers could tell for themselves.
    Reply
  • gtech41 - Friday, August 06, 2004 - link

    #4-You can't use an external LAN conrroller, just an external physical layer. Go to Marvell's website and look at the difference beteween the chip used on the Gigabyte boards and the one used on the Asus. Reply
  • Potem - Friday, August 06, 2004 - link

    The nVidia list of models is confusing given that we generally use the names and not the model numbers everywhere else. http://www.msicomputer.com/product/p_spec.asp?mode... says the K8N Neo2 Platinum is MSI Part No: MS-7025-010 (also says this board has the nVidia nForce 3 Ultra chip)

    Also teased by the August 2 listing for the DFI NF3-250Gb Infinity. It even farther from releasing than the MSI K8N_Neo2_Platinum. (Wish my second machine had waited a few more weeks to blow up)
    Reply
  • xxxfubar187xxx - Friday, August 06, 2004 - link

    I don't know why I'm hearing so much about this nForce 3 onboard Gigabit LAN. I bought the MSI K8N Neo Platinum board and had nothing but problems with the on board LAN. I disabled the firewall through the BIOS and still wasn't able to use it with Bittorrent Clients, Gamespy and Xbconnect. I ended up installing my old 3Com card and everything works perfectly. I hope NVIDIA has some new drivers soon. Reply
  • HermosaBeach - Friday, August 06, 2004 - link

    Thanks for the article. It makes it easier for me to separate high performance GB LAN from either non GB or PCI GB based MBs :)

    Dave
    Reply
  • jesusmailhellion - Friday, August 06, 2004 - link

    My Chaintech Zenith MB uses Broadcom's GbE Gigabit controller. I think it's good MB manufacturers have a choice to use other chipsets. Reply
  • ViRGE - Friday, August 06, 2004 - link

    Wesley, would you mind explaining what a PHY is? I mean, how can the NIC be on-chip if it still requires a seperate chip? Reply

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