The nForce4 Family

The nVidia Reference Board was shipped with the nForce4 Ultra chipset. The features of the nForce4 chipset family should be very familiar to nForce3-250 users, since it builds upon the feature set of the nForce3-250 family that was introduced in April. All of the new nForce4 chipsets support 20-lane PCI Express, native Gigabit Ethernet (on-chip), full nVidia RAID features, 10 USB 2.0 ports, nVidia Firewall 2.0, and the new nTune Performance utility. From there, however, the 3 members in the new nForce4 family differ a bit in features depending on the target market for the chipset.



nForce4 - the basic value chipset for 939 and754. This is the chipset that you will likely find in Socket 754 and low-end Socket 939 boards selling for less than $100. The nF4 is targeted at value boards, but it still includes on-chip gigabit Ethernet capabilities, support for 10 USB, full nVidia "any drive" Raid capabilities, support for nVidia Firewall 2.0, and support for the nTune Performance Utility. Four SATA drives are supported at current 1.5GB/s speeds plus four PATA (IDE) devices. The big disadvantage of the vanilla nF4 chipset is that it only supports 800 Hyper Transport. In addition, the HT bus is locked on the basic nF4 to prevent overclocking of the Hyper Transport. This means that the basic nForce4 is not a good choice for the enthusiast, who is better served by the Ultra and SLI chipsets.



nForce4 Ultra - the mainstream nF4 designed for boards that will sell in the $100 to $150 price range. In addition to nF4 features, you will find full support for an unlocked 1000 Hyper Transport, support for 3Gb/s SATA drives, and nVidia's secure networking engine, which is called ActiveArmor.


nForce4 SLI - the high-end version of the nF4 is designed for boards that will sell at $150 or more. The nF4 SLI is the only version to support programmable PCI Express lanes, which allows the use of either a single or dual Video Card. A single GPU is supported by an x16 PCIe slot, which can be reprogrammed to two x8 PCIe slots to support two video cards in SLI mode. All features are, otherwise, the same as nForce4 Ultra.

Index SLI Performance
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  • Aquila76 - Tuesday, October 19, 2004 - link

    Am I right in saying there is really no difference between the nForce4 and nForce3 boards except the SLI and PCIe and some subtle refinements? Performance wise they seem basically even.
    And to everyone b!tching about no Soundstorm, it disappeared with the nForce2 and even then most board makers used the Realtek chip instead of the nVidia MCP-T, so most of you haven't been using it for years now. Stop your complaining. Buy an actual card. Get on with enjoying gaming!
    Reply
  • knitecrow - Tuesday, October 19, 2004 - link

    This is what different nforce4 reviews had to say about soundstorm. Read, make your own conclusions and ask questions.


    PC Perspective
    http://www.pcper.com/article.php?aid=81&type=e...

    There has been a lot of rumors on the popular sites recently about SoundStorm and the future of NVIDIA's sound technologies. I can tell you for sure, coming from the head of the nForce marketing team, that SoundStorm team has been killed at NVIDIA -- no more development is going to happen in the near future. NVIDIA said that simply not enough motherboard manufacturers were putting it on their boards and utilizing the technology that was so expensive to continue to develop. Sorry guys!



    The Tech Report:
    http://techreport.com/onearticle.x/7485

    "NVIDIA is not resurrecting its SoundStorm audio solution in nForce4, and surprisingly enough, the nForce4 won't even support Intel's High Definition Audio standard, a.k.a. Azalia. Instead, the nForce4 will stick with AC'97 audio sans hardware acceleration."



    NEOSEEKRE
    http://www.neoseeker.com/Articles/Hardware/Preview...

    **Soundstorm, I Hardly Knew Ye, I Bid You Adieu**
    One of the big features of the original nForce and the Xbox was Soundstorm. What made Soundstorm special was real time Dolby Digital encoding courtesy of the DSP on the MCP-T unit. With a backlash against Creative, Soundstorm was one of the few viable non-Creative solutions available to gamers. Unfortunately Soundstorm is officially dead for the foreseeable future. NVIDIA claimed that there was not enough interest either from the media (don't blame me I voted for Kang) or from the OEMs - there were not enough OEMs who wanted to pick up the more expensive MCP-T. All in all it was a business solution and it did not make sense for NVIDIA financially so it was axed. There is no conspiracy - it was not a licensing issue (Creative bought out Sensuara who provided a 3D Audio Algorithms to most third party sound manufacturers including NVIDIA). The nForce 4 will support 7.1 channel audio, there just will not be any DSP as with Soundstorm.
    Reply
  • LotoBak - Tuesday, October 19, 2004 - link

    45 - Agreed... AGP owners left in the cold? or is there plans for a bridge.... (perhaps by the mb manufacterers)
    /me eyes up the nf3-250
    Reply
  • mickyb - Tuesday, October 19, 2004 - link

    Enough about Soundstorm....we all want it, but it's not coming. What I want to know is why there are no benchmarks or detail review on nTune? The marketing graph shows performance improvement and it has adjustments on PCIe. I want to know if you can tune the NF4 to increase the performance of Far Cry. Also, with the performance increase of SLI vs. the price of a single card, I think I would go for purchasing a faster single card. It looks like 2 6600GTs will not perform up to par with a single 6800GT.

    Go Astros!
    Reply
  • glennpratt - Tuesday, October 19, 2004 - link

    I would like to add that I too want soundstorm back. Noone has DICE, and noone has drivers that just work without all the crap. I cant stand having crappy built in sound then having to go buy a card and disable the onboard. what a waste. Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Tuesday, October 19, 2004 - link

    Comments about nForce4 Reference board audio, a link to past review info about nVidia Athlon 64 audio, and a link to the Realtek ALC850 codec information has been added to page 7. Reply
  • Akira1224 - Tuesday, October 19, 2004 - link

    I can't get excited about this.... I just bought a 6800GT AGP card and from what I have seen none of the solutions support AGP. Unless I hear something else... I'll pass. Reply
  • PrinceGaz - Tuesday, October 19, 2004 - link

    If that SLI reference board is representative of production boards, then theres a heavy price to pay for SLI. Adding the second PCIe 16x slot takes up the space of two normal (PCI or PCIe 1x) slots.

    On that reference board you have just three ordinary PCI slots and NO PCIe 1x slots whatsoever. That means you won't be able to use any standard PCIe cards with it. You are also left with only two ordinary PCI slots after putting a second gfx-card in (as the gfx-card will prevent the use of the adjacent PCI slot). Another PCI slot will be used up if you want good audio, leaving just one free. Thats a slight problem as I'd want to add at least a TV-tuner card and also a dial-up modem for my emergency internet connection, and there aren't enough sockets!

    Personally I think the nForce4 Pro is the best choice. If I had a 6600GT and wanted more performance, I'd sell it on eBay and put the money towards a new faster card.

    Someone asked if using two SLI cards effectively gives double the texture memory (two 128MB cards become a 256MB equivalent), or if all the textures must be loaded into both cards (so its still 128MB total). The answer is all textures needed must be loaded into both cards as there isn't enough bandwidth to swap textures between them on the fly. Thats another reason to sell your card and get a new faster one, than buying a second slow one.

    The lack of SoundStorm is irrelevant. It hasn't stopped people buying nForce 3 in droves and it certainly won't stop many from buying nForce 4 boards. If you want better sound, buy a proper soundcard (proper != Creative). Of course ensure you don't run out of PCI/PCIe sockets if you have an SLI board...
    Reply
  • Myrandex - Tuesday, October 19, 2004 - link

    I have an Audigy 2 sound card and actually like it a lot. If I had soundstorm, I probably wouldn't use it unless it was somewhat revolutionary. My dad has an A7N8x-DX and loves it though.
    Jason
    Reply
  • icarus4586 - Tuesday, October 19, 2004 - link

    The setup I saw originally for SLI was an Intel Tumwater (workstation) setup with an x16 slot and an x8 slot, both with x16 connectors. I'm sure this or 2x8 would work better than the x16 x4 setup.
    And I'm pretty sure that you need to have to of the same cards for SLI. (ie 2x 6600GT, OR 6800, or whatever). I think they can be made by different board partners (like, say, eVGA for one and ASUS for the other would work.)
    Soundstorm? There's something on Inquirer about it:
    http://www.chipzilla.com/?article=19148
    http://www.chipzilla.com/Default.aspx?article=1912...
    Reply

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