NVIDIA's CK8-04; The Best K8 MCP (On Paper)by Kristopher Kubicki on August 20, 2004 3:50 AM EST
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We have had very extensive coverage on PCIe solutions from VIA and SiS, and today we complete the circle with some in depth information from NVIDIA's CK8-04; a chipset many have already decided to call nForce4. NVIDIA takes a firm stance in its roadmaps that this next revision of core logic will not use the nForce4 misnomer, so we will continue to call it CK8-04 until NVIDIA calls it something else. We first saw CK8-04 at Computex in June - and even then it supported dual PEG adaptors.
As expected, CrushedK8-04 will come in three flavors, CK8-04 SLI, CK8-04 Ultra and CK8-04. The Ultra and SLI chipsets are simply improvements upon one another, with the SLI chipset being the highest end solution. Vanilla flavored CK8-04 is very much the same as nForce3 250Gb, with the addition of 7.1 high definition audio and PCI Express. We also get four SATA 150 ports. RAID, 10 USB ports. Gigabit Ethernet and a hardware firewall.
The Ultra revision makes things a little more interesting; offering SATA 3Gb/s and an obscure device called the Secure Networking Processor. NVIDIA claims the "processor" enhances networking security, reduces CPU overhead and contains specialized features that defend against hacker attacks. Although we will have to see it to believe it, this journalist suspects it is probably nothing more than a tweaked ruleset for QoS and *maybe* some denial of service protection (hopefully outbound as well as inbound).
Finally, the SLI version of CK8-04 ties everything together with an additional switching PEG solution. Even though the CK8-04 only supports 20 PCIe lanes, NVIDIA's elegant graphic solution runs 16 lanes into what appears to be a separate switching bridge chip. This bridge can be electrically configured to either run all 16 lanes to one PEG interface, or 8 lanes to two PEG interfaces. Remember, PCIe supports 250MBps per lane, so as long as the video card can electrically support itself on 8 lanes, the theoretical 2GBps (full duplex) per video card of a dual x8 configuration is more than enough for upcoming video card solutions for many revisions to come. Current 8X AGP solutions run at 2.1GBps (half duplex) video bandwidth without coming in reach of taxing out the bus.
NVIDIA makes note in the roadmap that the Ultra and Non-Ultra revisions will only support single CPUs. We can only assume the SLI version will not widely be marketed for multiple Opterons, but it sure would be nice to give AMD and VIA some competition in that field. Samples of the new cores are shipping now and should launch early September. In reality, we probably won't see working cores for a few weeks still, but definitely expect to see boards on the shelves before Q3 is out.