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.

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  • lsman - Tuesday, July 05, 2005 - link

    yet, "As you can see, none of the onboard audio solutions were quite as low in CPU utilization as the Creative SoundBlaster Live! Chip, which is used on the MSI K8N Neo4 Platinum."
    so creative on board is a reference? because you do not test the MSI K8N Neo4 platium.
    Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Tuesday, July 05, 2005 - link

    #2 -
    As we said several times in the roundup, we reviewed the MSI and Asus in the SLI roundup. The SLI and Ultra chipsets are exactly the same chipset with SLI enabled on the SLI chipset. We did not see what new information we could bring you by reviewing the Ultra versions fo the same boards. As you can see in the benchmarks in this roundup the DFI perfoms in Ultra exactly as it did in SLI.

    The MSI was an Editor's Choice in the SLI roundup and is a similar good choice as an Ultra board. There have been some issues with the Venice and San Diego overclocking and MSI has finally released a new BIOS to address these problems.

    The Asus was not a particularly good overclocker in the SLI roundup, and not an Editors Choice, but it was a decent performer at stock speeds.


    Reply
  • Djinni - Tuesday, July 05, 2005 - link

    Very good work, but I too would of liked to see the MSI K8N Neo4 Platinum in there since thats what I just bought yesterday :P Reply
  • MaxisOne - Tuesday, July 05, 2005 - link

    Nice .. but partially useless considering the Asus A8N-E and MSI offerings are missing from the lineup which is what im looking to compare to the DFI Ultra D Reply
  • ChrisSwede - Tuesday, July 05, 2005 - link

    Reply

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