Four years ago, NVIDIA previewed their first ever desktop chipset - the nForce 420 - at Computex.  The anticipation of NVIDIA's entry into the Athlon chipset market at the time was astounding. While they didn't get it right the first time around, by the end of nForce2's reign, VIA had relinquished the throne as the most desirable supplier of AMD chipsets.  Late last year, when NVIDIA announced that they had finally signed a cross licensing agreement with Intel, we knew it meant that NVIDIA's chipsets would soon be coming to the Intel platform, but honestly, we didn't really care.  We hadn't recommended an Intel CPU since the introduction of Prescott and this time around, NVIDIA's biggest competition wasn't VIA, it was Intel - and it's rare that you beat Intel in making chipsets for their own processors.

Honestly, Intel processors and even the platform haven't been interesting since the introduction of Prescott.  They have been too hot and poor performers, not to mention that the latest Intel platforms forced a transition to technologies that basically offered no performance benefits (DDR2, PCI Express).  A bit of that changed when Intel brought forth their dual core plans - assuming that they can actually guarantee availability, Intel is planning to ship more desktop dual core processors, at lower prices, than AMD this year.  As we mentioned in our preview of Intel's dual core Pentium D, the cheapest dual core processors will weigh in at $241 for the 2.8GHz models.  While for the same price you can get a much faster single core AMD CPU, the word "faster" applies selectively depending on what sort of usage models that you're looking at - whether it's heavy multitasking, or mostly running single applications.  We've already had that discussion, and the decision is still in your hands, but needless to say, Intel's processors have all of the sudden become much more interesting given the proposed price point for their entry-level dual core CPUs.  Now all of the sudden, there's some purpose to actually looking at the latest chipsets for the Intel platform. 

We have yet to recommend any of Intel's single core Prescott CPUs, and if you are looking for a single core Pentium 4, then you should already have a good idea of what chipsets there are out there.  But for dual core, the platform support is much more limited.  None of Intel's previous chipsets will support dual core, only their most recently announced 955X and 945 chipsets offer dual core support.  On the NVIDIA side, their nForce4 SLI Intel Edition chipset does support dual core, but NVIDIA stipulates that the motherboard manufacturers must implement that support properly on the design side.  As long as the motherboard manufacturer states that their nForce4 board supports Intel's dual core, you should be sitting pretty.  Chipsets from all manufacturers, including ATI, SiS and VIA will undoubtedly offer dual core support, but the fact of the matter is that their release is further down the line. What we're looking at today are the two heavyweights that are supposed to be available in the channel by the end of this month.


The Delicate Competition

The NVIDIA/Intel relationship is a very interesting one; as with any of these types of relationships, it is not one borne out of love, but rather necessity. At the end of the day, Intel would still be happier if there was no threat from companies like NVIDIA.  Because of this fine line between a partnership and a competitor, NVIDIA has to play their role very carefully - they don't want to be viewed as more of a competitor than a partner in the eyes of Intel.  By selling a chipset that is significantly more expensive than Intel's most expensive 955X, NVIDIA secures their position as a valuable partner, and not a competitor. 

You've already heard that NVIDIA's nForce4 SLI Intel Edition chipset costs about $80, but what about Intel's 955X and 945?  For once, Intel is actually the cheaper alternative - their 955X costs motherboard manufacturers $50 ($53 with ICH7R), while the 945P costs a mere $38.  For motherboard prices, this means that you can expect at least a $30 price premium for a nForce4 SLI Intel Edition board compared to a 955X board; compared to a 945P, you can expect closer to a $40 price premium.  It's not tremendous, but given that motherboards tend to hover in the low $100s, even a $30 difference is significant. 

At this point, NVIDIA hasn't announced any plans to bring a non-SLI version of the nForce4 to the Intel platform, and the vast majority of motherboard manufacturers are waiting for just that.  A lower cost nForce4 chipset would obviously translate into more sales for the motherboard manufacturers. However, it could very well be that NVIDIA doesn't want to try and take on Intel in the same price bracket.  At the same time, NVIDIA is a very successful company, so it remains to be seen how far over the line they will tread in the name of expanding their sales.

Intel’s 955X Chipset
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  • segagenesis - Thursday, April 14, 2005 - link

    #44 - I dont think its *that* silly to say such a thing. DDR2 and PCI-E are still new technologies and apart from newer mainboards coming with onboard PCI-E gigabit lan, there hasnt been anything worthy of note for the mainstream user. Getting off the PCI bus is good but it takes time for us to migrate to it. Let alone were talking about technology thats barely penetrating the market thats already saturated with people who are perfectly happy with thier current systems. Remember how long it took for us to get off ISA completely.

    There are alot of 2-3ghz PCI systems out there and to Average Joe User (tm) you can spin PCI-E as much as you want but unless they are in the market for a new computer they really dont give a damn. Same thing for Athlon 64 or Pentium D. How do you convince someone who uses AOL they need THAT much power?

    Food for tought.
    Reply
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Thursday, April 14, 2005 - link

    Motley

    I agree that there are huge benefits to PCI Express, but for pretty much the entire life span of the 925X/915 platforms none of PCI Express' potential was even remotely tapped into. So here we are today, where PCI Express devices are finally starting to appear and we are given a brand new chipset, one that supports dual core.

    I didn't mean to come off as saying that PCI Express and DDR2 are bad technologies, but the 925X/915 platform as a whole was not aided by their inclusion during its life span. The 955/945 chipsets will succeed in those areas where the 925X/915 did not, although it is worth pointing out that while Intel remains on a 800MHz FSB - DDR2 continues to do nothing for performance, even on 955X.

    Take care,
    Anand
    Reply
  • Motley - Thursday, April 14, 2005 - link

    "Honestly, Intel processors and even the platform haven’t been interesting since the introduction of Prescott. They have been too hot and poor performers, not to mention that the latest Intel platforms forced a transition to technologies that basically offered no performance benefits (DDR2, PCI Express)".

    I find it absolutely disturbing that even anandtech would say something as silly as this. Sure, if all you care about is graphics performance, PCI-E isn't that big of a deal. But drop in a Gigabit ethernet card, SCSI controller running a fast/wide raid, or *gasp* iSCSI. You'll see the difference immediately. To say there is no performance benefit is just totally missing the point that PCI-E is an improvement over PCI. Get your head out of games for a minute and you'll see.
    Reply
  • anandtechrocks - Thursday, April 14, 2005 - link

    For someone who is desperately trying to prove that he has the biggest “IT knowledge Penis” you sure do come across as a profane school child overclockingoodness. Reply
  • segagenesis - Thursday, April 14, 2005 - link

    Now now everone, dont stoop down to his level.

    Granted when you talk about how everyone who reads this site are a "bunch of idiots" and then talk about how vast your knowledge of IT is all the while not being able to back it up, this just shows immaturity and makes it hard to believe what you claim is even true. And yeah, when you have to stoop to correcting minor spelling errors (when you yourself were in the wrong) to prove a point it means you havent got a leg to stand on.

    Not to mention having a fanboyism on something is actually a BAD thing to have in the IT industry. If you are so well intwined on a certain piece of hardware (say, all Intel and f*** everything else) then its a dangerous situation where you wont be trying alternatives. Possibly cheaper or better alternatives at that. Say your in a company and you have a specific solid mindset on something, Joe Blow 2.0 comes in as a new hire. Joe Blow 2.0 pitches cheaper, faster, better solution but you diss it because there cant be possibly anything better than what you have. Joe Blow 2.0 wins a contract and you look stupid. Don't try this at work kids.

    The only defense I imagine he could possibly conjure up right now is currently in the market there is the "Nobody got fired for buying Intel" mentality where companies and such are wary of trying non-Intel products mainly because... Dell and other major manufacturers wont offer it in any quantity. All the systems here are Dell and its sometimes its a blessing and a curse. Of course, even the "Nobody got fired for buying IBM" mentality slowly faded so it depends on what the market wants.

    Just dont criticize all pc enthusiasts because they want something other than the norm, thanks Questar.
    Reply
  • Rapsven - Thursday, April 14, 2005 - link

    "In 2005 I will purchase 11,500 desktop/notebook systems, and 900-975 servers."

    So basically, if we were to take that piece of an ego boost for a fact, you're probably an arrogant executive who thinks he knows everything and nobody can prove him wrong.

    In reality, you're probably just a 16 year old "know-it-all" who has to be a grammar Nazi to prove your stupid little points that don't really mean anything in the first place.

    For the moment, NVIDIA and Intel have a cross-licensing contract, so it's basically eye for an eye. Intel gets SLI, NVIDIA gets to make chipsets for Intel based systems. Since none of us actually know the exact specifications of the contract, I guess we can't make any comments on that, can we? But if NVIDIA eats up Intel's marketshare in chipsets, it's definitely a problem for Intel.

    Go away, your comments are worthless.
    Reply
  • overclockingoodness - Thursday, April 14, 2005 - link

    #38: I definitely agree. LOL

    After reading Anand's comments, it looks like Questar doesn't know anything he claims he does. Apparenlty, you've got to learn about business as well.

    Take care Dumbass and have fun wasting your company's funds on Intel CPUs.
    Reply
  • overclockingoodness - Thursday, April 14, 2005 - link

    I hope Anand's comments shut you up Questar. Reply
  • mlittl3 - Thursday, April 14, 2005 - link

    #35,

    Man, I feel sorry for the company that is going to get all the crap that Questar is going to buy.

    Maybe he works for Transmeta. :)
    Reply
  • overclockingoodness - Thursday, April 14, 2005 - link

    #34: By worthless I do mean that they are not worthy enough to consider for high-end performance. I was refeering to the enthusiast community than anything else.

    #35: It's quite unfortunate that you work in the industry. So, let me guess - all of these servers/laptops/desktops will have "Intel Inside". I guess it's quite stupid of the management of your company to give you such a huge responsibility, since you obviously don't know anything about it.

    And if you own your own company then I can only wonder when your company will go down.
    Reply

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