In the last year, NVIDIA has risen to the top of the AMD Athlon 64 chipset market with their nForce series of single-chip solutions. As Socket 939 has matured, nForce4 has gained the dominant position in the AMD motherboard market. VIA, who has never been able to ship a competitive solution to NVIDIA's SLI, has moved down the pecking order somewhat, and is now more regarded as a value chipset, along with SiS, in the Athlon 64 market.

Recently, ATI has demonstrated some very interesting chipsets for the Athlon 64, and a Crossfire multi-GPU video solution to compete with NVIDIA's industry leading SLI. But the ATI chipsets and Crossfire boards have yet to ship, so they still remain a potential competitor for the future. At the low-end ULI, which is what remains of the former ALi chipset maker, has also been showing some very interesting chipsets for Athlon 64. There are new players emerging in the AMD market, but for now, the nForce4 chipset is King of the Athlon 64 hill. For that reason, people care quite a bit about how the various nForce4 motherboards compare in performance and features.

Several months ago, we took our first look at nForce4 production boards in nForce4 SLI Roundup: Painful and Rewarding. That look was very early in the nForce4 cycle, and we had our own share of problems getting all the features to work on those early nF4 boards. We persevered and did complete the roundup, finding a couple of boards that stood out from the crowd as Editor's Choices. This time around, we are looking at boards based on the single GPU nForce4 Ultra chipset. Keep in mind that nForce4 Ultra and nForce4 SLI are the exact same chipset, with the only difference being that the SLI function is enabled on the SLI version. There are no performance differences in the SLI and Ultra chipsets, or even the base nForce4 for that matter. These chipsets differ only in which features are available to the buyer - but they beat with the same heart.

The fact that the nForce4, nForce4 Ultra, and nForce4 SLI are identical core chips is important to anyone comparing board performance. SLI can be an expensive option, and if you don't require it, the nForce4 Ultra provides a single video solution with a chipset that performs exactly the same as the SLI chipset in single video. If you can give up a few more features, then the base nForce4 is an even cheaper solution that can give the same level of single video performance. This means that you can look at the performance of one member of the nForce4 family - an nForce4 SLI motherboard tested with single video, for example - and be fairly confident that the lower members of that family have a chipset that performs exactly the same. The different motherboard designs and chips selected for features might have some small impact on final performance for different nForce4 boards from the same manufacturer, but the differences will mainly be the available features on the various boards.

Processor Architecture
POST A COMMENT

75 Comments

View All Comments

  • yacoub - Wednesday, July 06, 2005 - link

    #33 - Wesley, that's awesome news. Can you post that somewhere more important so buyers know to be on the lookout for it? =) Reply
  • kyparrish - Wednesday, July 06, 2005 - link

    Good article!

    I'm seriously considering dumping my DFI S754/NC 3200+ setup for that Epox board and a cheap S939 A64 :)
    Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Wednesday, July 06, 2005 - link

    #29 and #31 - UPDATE: I have talked with contacts in the Memory Industry and Samsung TCCD is now available again from Samsung. TCCD disappeared for a few months but production didn't really stop. TCC5 is DDR466 and TCCD is DDR500, but both chips come off the same line and are binned for speed grade. Samsung stopped binning for DDR500 grade until recently - and left this job to the memory makers.

    Recently Samsung has told memory makers they are binning once again for DDR500/TCCD and the TCCD chips are available again. It will take a few weeks for the pipelines to fill but TCCD is not dead. Some companies are staying with TCC5 at a lower cost and binning for the top performance unless the yields start to go down.
    Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Wednesday, July 06, 2005 - link

    #24 - The base nForce4 is sometimes called the nForce4 X4 and runs at 800 HTT, while the Ultra and SLI run at 1000HT. When 1000HT was first introduced we found no real difference in performance at 800HT and 1000HT. What the 1000HT did provide was quite a bit more overclocking headroom. A reader may have an example of where 1000HT outperforms 800HT but the real world difference is negligible.

    #28 - There are now more than 60 BIOS releases for the DFI nF4, many customized for particular memory types. Only 3 have been posted to their website. For the latest DFI nF4 BIOS a good place to check is www.xtremesystems.org or the BIOS Files Forum at www.bleedinedge.com. There is now a 7/04 BIOS that is reported to be more stable in upper memory ratios (433,466,500) with Rev. E chips.

    #29 - You are overstating the TCCD situation. Corsair still sells TCCD, as do several other memory vendors. There is no doubt TCCD is drying up everywhere but Corsair, and that will continue. New TCC5 dimms that are said to perform like TCCD are in process in at least one memory company. We have requested these new TCC5-based dimms and will share our findings as soon as we receive the memory. There are also some new BH5 dimms that we thought were gone forever. We have even seen the new BH5 binned and advertised as DDR500 2-2-2 at higher voltages around 3.3V.
    Reply
  • yacoub - Wednesday, July 06, 2005 - link

    Well, while this review -has- convinced me to go with the DFI board over the Chaintech, that is purely due to the audio CPU usage issues of the onboard vs daughterboard. I'm shocked at how much difference that makes.

    That said, most of the memory testing (and thus most of the review) was meaningless to me (and everyone else who doesn't have access to TCCD memory anymore). =/
    Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Wednesday, July 06, 2005 - link

    #17 - Thanks for pointing out the errors. They have been corrected. Do you want a job proof reading :-)

    Reply
  • yacoub - Wednesday, July 06, 2005 - link

    Regarding the tRAS recommendation:

    Can we petition Anandtech to stop using memory that the consumer can't get anymore? (Namely TCCD-based Plat Rev2.) Go pick up some TCC5 and do your tests with what the consumer is actually going to be receiving so your tests actually mean something.
    Reply
  • mongoosesRawesome - Wednesday, July 06, 2005 - link

    What BIOS version did you use with the DFI? It reads: "Award 7/01/2005 Release" in your list of features for the DFI, but I could not find that BIOS release on their website. Reply
  • AsiLuc - Wednesday, July 06, 2005 - link

    Sorry I meant: GA-K8NF9
    http://www.giga-byte.com/MotherBoard/Products/Prod...
    Reply
  • AsiLuc - Wednesday, July 06, 2005 - link

    I'd liked to see the Gigabyte GA-K8NP9 reviewed, because it has passive southbridge cooling (silence :) ) and is cheap. Reply

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now