nForce4: PCI Express and SLI for Athlon 64

by Wesley Fink on 10/19/2004 12:01 AM EST


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  • ImJacksAmygdala - Saturday, October 23, 2004 - link


    That is an interesting idea and I can see the appeal for both the SFF and HTPC enthusiast markets.

    I wonder if ATI's dual graphics incarnation could use this with their new DX9.0 integrated graphics chip. That would be cool indeed.

  • Ivo - Saturday, October 23, 2004 - link

    Recently I posted my opinion that SLI is not important for a small form-factor HTPC. Meanwhile I changed my mind (hope, this still is not a crime :-))

    In the past the Integrated Graphic Processor was a synonym for 'moderate 2D and sparse 3D performance'. Now, an IGP could be combined in a SLI scheme with an AGP or PCIe Graphic Card. Than, for 2D and simple 3D applications (Office etc.) the IGP (with DVI-out!) will work, and the GC will be idle (Cool-and-Quiet!). For intensive 3D applications the GC will wake up, adding performance.

    I suppose, such an user- and environment-friendly scheme could sell more chipsets AND GCs than the two GCs SLI-solution from NF4.
  • Addlepate - Friday, October 22, 2004 - link

    Found an answer to my question here:

    Looks like second week of November, SLI not until Late Nov / early Dec.
  • quanta - Friday, October 22, 2004 - link

    Accoring to 3DSS's detailed Sound Blaster Audigy review[1], encoding sounds to Dolby Digital 5.1 format may actually be bad idea, since the streams have to be compressed, then decompressed at the speakers end, and adds latency.

    If you want better 5.1, forget the Dolby encoder. Just plug the speakers to S/PDIF ports, and let the analog conversion be done there.

  • Addlepate - Friday, October 22, 2004 - link

    Anyone able to predict when the first of these boards will be available retail, from Newegg or similar sites? Reply
  • quanta - Friday, October 22, 2004 - link

    #92, from the documents I've read about DDICE, it doesn't seem to be a bandwidth issue at all. What 'hardware Dolby 5.1 encoding' does is just converting data stream targeted to different speaker into another format. As for the 'interactive' part, it's just marketing speak for 'user applications taking advantage of hardware mixers, and choose what and how to mix based of application driven events.' This is well within the capability of major DSP-based soundcards, though your DSP performance may vary.

    As for 'hardware' mixing, it means little for DSP-based APU. For example, if an APU runs a microcode program that reads a MIDI, mixing all tracks into 5.1 streams, then does AC-3 encoding before sending out to speakers, is it still 'hardware' mixing? I prefer to call it 'non-CPU programmable controller mixing', but marketers didn't seem to agree. Anyway, I suspect what 'hardware accelerated DDICE' is just a combination of channel/effect mixing, then feed the streams to the converters, by using an APU. The extra bandwidth needed to load the conversion program will not be sufficient to stress the PCI bus, if done properly. Therefore the lack of 'hardware' DDICE support is a latency problem rather than bandwidth problem.
  • rjm55 - Friday, October 22, 2004 - link

    92 and 93 -
    Anyone reading the comments can't help but notice that you believe it is tragic SoundStorm is not a part of nForce4. That's your opinion, which is your right, but lots of others don't agree with you. nVidia has not had SoundStorm in any of their A64 chipsets for the last year and a half, so why are you just waking up to that fact?

    What I don't understand is that you seem angry the reviewer and AnandTech aren't as upset as you obviously are. I thought it was a balanced and fair review and good reading. But then again I never thought a review had to agree with me on every point to be worth reading.

    Your anger should be directed at nVidia and not at the reviewer or AnandTech IMHO.
  • Filibuster - Friday, October 22, 2004 - link

    #93, the first thread you referenced has information on a Cmedia chip which can do Dolby Digital encoding.

    It appears there will be cards with it soon...pci cards.

    The bandwidth thing is blown way out of proportion...its a PR thing that nobody caught.
    Do the simple math: 48000 samples per second * 24 bits per sample * 6 channels = ~7Mbit/second....not even a full megabyte per/sec for uncompressed 48khz/24bit/6 channel audio. AC3 is smaller yet, since it is compressed. Its more of a cpu power thing, since SS does the encoding instead of the cpu.

    My old 1.3Ghz PVR machine uses way more PCI bandwidth than that and its perfect. 2 tv tuners recording at 7Mbit/s each and it runs smooth as glass.
  • ImJacksAmygdala - Thursday, October 21, 2004 - link

    If you want to see exactly why the lack of SS2 on the nforce4 is such a big deal take a look at these threads. It goes into the details of why SS was so different from any other available solution and why we may never see it again from Nvidia even in a stand alone sound card.

    I hope those links work... If not check out the AVS forums and do a search on the subject.

    You can also see some great replies from people on this subject at The Tech Report here..

    If you read all of the user replies you will finally understand why enthusiasts wanted SoundStorm2 so badly and why NO other solution exists currently on the market.

    So what are our options now and in the near future? Will a SS type solution become available as a PCIexpress card?

    Those seem to be the two biggest questions currently. I don't care who makes it as long as it is possible on a AMD64/dual DRR/dual PCIexpress graphics platform. Otherwise I will continue to save my pennies.
  • ImJacksAmygdala - Thursday, October 21, 2004 - link

    "there are other good players on the market too :-)"

    Really? Please tell us one audio solution on the market that is capable of DDICE with SPDIF Optical outputs? Sorry, but you can't.=D

    The ONLY one is Nvidia's Sound Storm...

    The reason is that the PCI bus does not have enough bandwidth to do so. For that reason no PCI solution is capable of what Sound Storm can do with such a small foot print.

    DDICE (Dolby ® Digital real-time Interactive Content Encoder) is critical for several enthusiast markets. The same markets that can afforde Nvidia's top of the line graphics cards or even the more extreme dual SLI PCIexpress graphics solutions. The HTPC theater crowd, SFF HTPC crowd, and the Wide Screen PC Gaming super 1337 crowd both use home theater audio equipment that has better DACs and S/N than any computer sound card could achieve. On that high end equipment any noise from the source is just that much more horrible.

    Sound Storm is the only solution available that has digital SPDIF optical outputs for low noise that can hook up to HT audio amplifiers and the DDICE is the only solution for real-time hardware DD encoding applied to surround streams that allows you to do 5.1 gaming and movies using high quality home theater THX certified speakers with little overhead on the CPU. (DTS would even be better)

    It is possible that a PCIexpress card could be made that could use the bandwidth required for DDICE, but currently no solution exists except for Nvidias Sound Storm on a dated motherboard using a dated CPU socket.

    This effectively leaves many enthusiasts that are willing to shell out the extra cash required for the dolby license totally alienated in the market.

    Many in this crowd want the Cool n Quiet AMD64 CPU, but skipped the Nforce3 because of the lack of SoundStorm. Instead opting to wait for Nforce4 hoping Nvidia would see the light. Nope they didn't so I guess we are SOL and now we can only hope other chipset makers will add HD audio that is DDICE capable on the AMD64 platform, preferably one that offers dual 16X PCIexpress graphics cards.

    With the lack of SoundStorm2 the Nforce4 product line does not distinguish itself from the rest of the pack except for SLI, but even now there are other 16X dual PCIexpress graphics card chipsets on the way.

    Kinda sucks, I was really hoping I didn't have to wait any longer and I could build in November with the Nforce4 in time for HL2, I guess I'll just wait a little longer and see if a PCIexpress sound card comes out that can do what SoundStorm did.

  • Ivo - Thursday, October 21, 2004 - link

    The posting #90 is virtually answering mine (#89). Although, I have some additional remarks:

    The A64 CPU is incorporating the most sensitive part of former chipsets - the memory controller. So, mainly their features now seal the A64 chipsets, not the performance. It is a question of priorities. On my opinion, the on-chipset audio and the proper Cool & Quiet operation are more important for an SFF-HTPC than a SLI and a hardware firewall. Obviously, the NF4 does not target SFF-HTPCs. Hopefully other NVIDIA's chipset (with Div9x IGP and! audio) will target it soon. If not - there are other good players on the market too :-)
  • PrinceGaz - Thursday, October 21, 2004 - link

    The place for quality onboard audio is in a seperate chip on those motherboards that require it, not an expensive addition integrated into the main chipset that will be unused by many. That way the mobo manufacturer can include whatever level of sound support best fits the intended market.

    I personally think the nVidia hardware firewall is a more useful feature to have if (as the article suggests) it filters outbound as well as inbound packets without incurring CPU overhead (except when it needs to ask about an application it doesn't have a rule for). Its all very well having a router with a firewall but that won't stop applications from sending unwanted traffic. Outbound protection is just as important as inbound for a secure system.
  • Ivo - Thursday, October 21, 2004 - link

    Quality onboard audio is essential for SFF-HTPCs. A systematical underestimation of this developing market is, most likely, a fruitless way to go. Reply
  • bhtooefr - Thursday, October 21, 2004 - link

    NO, NO, NO! You cannot run two different cards in SLI. They have to be the same exact model. So, you couldn't run (say) a Leadtek GF6600GT and a BFG GF6800GTOC, or even a two cards with the same chip, and the same amout of RAM, if they're different brands. Reply
  • Shinei - Thursday, October 21, 2004 - link

    I have nothing but complaints about my onboard audio with my GA7N400Pro2. It was a 35% chance of booting up without the audio cracking, popping, or making any combination of odd noises; and on top of that, it had problems with rendering sounds properly in games (Halo in particular). So I dropped an Audigy 2 in my system (I have no idea why people whine about the SB drivers, I don't have any problems with them), and things work just fine now.
    Just remember, not everybody gets SoundStorm, and not everybody has the MCP-T southbridge; let alone one that works properly.
  • knitecrow - Wednesday, October 20, 2004 - link

    #84. I cannot be bothered to point out all the inaccuracies. Please read up on audio related information.

    RE: doom and creative
    Please see #65
    Creative forced ID to license and support EAX or face a lawsuit. (because of the similarity in some audio method they used)

    RE: "VIA Envy 24HT sound on it which can do multi-channel and everything in software with better quality than Creative's offerings"

    While true, VIA ENVY does an excellent job on hi-definition audio; its software 3d positioning audio is crap.
  • jm0ris0n - Wednesday, October 20, 2004 - link

    For the record you 'could' use 2 ati cards, but it isn't gonna work until they create SLI support.

    So you can only sli 'sliable' cards !
  • PrinceGaz - Wednesday, October 20, 2004 - link

    #83- SoundStorm is unimportant, we all knew nForce 4 wouldn't have it months ago when no nForce 3 chipsets had it. I can't believe the fuss some people are making over something irrelevant.

    That MSI nForce 4 SLI board looks like it probably has VIA Envy 24HT sound on it which can do multi-channel and everything in software with better quality than Creative's offerings. Doom 3 was originally programmed and still uses software 3D sound because it is better than any EAX hardware solution, and the CPU processing power to do it is negligible these days. Hardware 3D sound is on its way out but people with Creative soundcards will probably want to continue using it as their dodgy drivers will give worse support for multiple software channels than EAX "accelerated" ones. Adding Creative EAX support was something John Carmack did so the Doom 3 engine can be used in future games by people with slower CPUs that maybe cannot take the audio overhead.

    Dedicated processing-power will be needed for video for several years at least, but all that is needed for audio is good analog circuitry or digital connections. If audio processing was so demanding, why don't even the "high-end" Creative cards have even a passive heatsink on the core? Its because what they do is trivial and can be done by your CPU.
  • ImJacksAmygdala - Wednesday, October 20, 2004 - link

    I was hyped about the Nforce4 and waited forever to upgrade, but because it does not have Sound Storm I will not be buying a Nforce4!

    "What was Nvidia thinking?" seems to be a common question posted all over the internet at the lack of Sound Storm.

    I was willing to pay extra and wait for SLI even though it is only 8x PCIexpress. Nvidia said they didn't want to add extra cost to the board because of a Dolby Digital license, but they think there is a market for SLI's extra cost? Ya probably because you have to buy another Nvidia graphics card....

    If I'm willing to pay extra for SLI I sure as hell am willing to pay for the added cost of Sound Storm!

    I wanted Sound Storm so I could hardware encode all sources to Dolby Digital for my HTPC wide screen gaming rig. I will now wait for VIA's dual PCIexpress solution because it is going to be dual 16X for graphics cards over Nvidia's 8x. I might even switch altogether and get 2 ATI PCIexpress graphics cards aswell for the VIA chipset dual PCIexpress graphics solution.

    If a Dolby Digital license is so expensive then maybe they should look at a DTS solution instead. That would be just as good if not better. And while Nvidia is at developing SoundStorm2 (after the backlash from a lack of SoundStorm on the Nforce4 you know they will) they need to fix the damn EAX problems everyone bitched about on the Nforce2 that got NO support!

    It is sad that I have NO other options to hardware encode Dolby Digital from any source on an Athlon64 system. I guess I'll have to settle with an Audigy2ZS, but I think I will even wait on that and see if Creative Labs develops a sound card for the PCIexpress bus that can handle hardware encoding of Dolby Digital and DTS from any source where the PCI bus was so limited....

    Like I said I will no longer be buying a Nvidia Nforce4 SLI board and 2 6800ultras now that there is no SoundStorm2. I will instead buy a Via chipset board and 2 ATI PCIexpress Graphics cards and use the onboard sound untill Creative Labs wakes up and makes a product that will do the same thing as SoundStorm using the increased bandwidth of the PCIexpress bus...

    Nvidia what were you thinking?!?!?!?

    Most people on all these tech forums keep saying if you're a l33t gamer with a big ass rig you'd have an Audigy 2 in some flavour for your sound anyways.[/myth]

    Not really, if your rig was really 1337 you would use the digital out and hook your 1337 rig to a real home theater audio amplifier that has better DACs and S/N than any computer sound card could ever have and you wouldn't have to worry about game support and compatibility for drivers either...

    And if I spend the cash on a dual PCIexpress graphics motherboard I might aswell NOT buy an PCI bus Audigy2 ZS incase Creative Labs makes a sound card that uses the bandwidth of the PCIexpress bus and makes a sound card that can do the same thing that the Nforce2 SoundStorm and encode Dolby Digital and DTS on the fly with little CPU hit...

    Nvidia what were you thinking?!?!?!?!

    I'm not a graphics card company specific fan at all, but just wait untill the benchmarks come out for HalfLife2 that use the newer drivers for dual PCIexpress solutions that favor ATI PCIexpress graphics cards and you will see that Nvidia may have already lost this round with the enthusiast market now that they have limited the Nforce4 to 8X SLI for Nvidia cards ONLY with no SoundStorm2...

    Other chipsets will have dual 16X PCIexpress graphics cards, HiDef audio, and not restrict dual graphics card brands... We shall see if this is indeed true in the very near future.
  • SynthDude2001 - Wednesday, October 20, 2004 - link

    Add me to the growing list of people extremely disappointed that there's no SoundStorm on the Nforce4. That was the major reason I was waiting for it (coming from an NF2 right now), but now I'm not even sure it's worth it anymore.

    I'd need to dump my AGP 6800GT and find a PCI-E one (most likely losing money in the process), and I'd have to shell out the money for a separate sound card as well. Not looking so attractive at this point...
  • suave3747 - Wednesday, October 20, 2004 - link


    According to nVidia's website regarding the nForce 4 SLI, it states that the board will have 20 lanes of PCIe. It also states that there will be 3 PCIe 1x slots. I assume that the SLI board will have the option of using 1 PCIe 16x and 3 PCIe 1x slots, or 2 PCIe 8x slots and 3 PCIe 1x slots. Therefore, there is really no "lack" of PCIe 1x slots on the board. That board pictured was probably just a poor representation of the actual retail board.

    The thing I am curious to know is whether there will be a reasonable amount of standard PCI slots available for use until PCIe cards for sound and whatnot become more prevalent.
  • stelleg151 - Wednesday, October 20, 2004 - link

    Wesley, now that your done testing the board, if you need someone to take it off your hands I would be willing to take that burden. Reply
  • ThePlagiarmaster - Tuesday, October 19, 2004 - link


    I'm wondering why the dvd2avi divx 5.1.1 show such close results here. With basically the same machines on hardocp, they show the athlon64 beating Intel's best by HUGE margins (like 20% faster than the 3.6 and almost the same over the 3.4ee)

    You guys showed the same thing no too long ago, but I can't find the article now. The paragraph under the graphs of the A64 winning said Intel lost the last thing they used to win in the benches. The article appears gone? What happened here, why so different from dvd2avi results at hardocp? They used the same divx 5.1.1 so it's not the encoder or the frontend. Heck even the 3500+ dominated the 3.6 and 3.4ee (more than 10%).

    Whatever it is, I think a bit of research needs to be done on what's best for AMD, and what's best for Intel and pit them against each other. Clearly AMD people would run the way hardocp does (though it looks no different than what's used here). While you state you can show whatever you want, perhaps you should be showing the BEST for each platform. Would people really go home and run in a way that makes their cpu look like crap?

    When you're talking about cutting 20% off of encoding, that adds up to a lot of time. I'd argue with the statement about divx 5.1.1 exploiting sse3 and making Intel a usual winner. Hardocp has been using 5.1.1 and A64's kill p4's with it (and have for a long time on their site). Is it AutoGK that throws things out of whack? Does it favor Intel so much that it causes a 20+ percent reversal? If it's truly based on dvd2avi how could it be so far out of whack compared to hardocp's scores? I think your readers would want to know which way to encode the fastest with whichever cpu they choose. Why would people want to know what the middle ground is and lose 20% cpu performance? Maybe Xmpeg for Intel, and pure dvd2avi for AMD?
  • Wesley Fink - Tuesday, October 19, 2004 - link

    #73 -
    The earlier results are on on different test bed with a different video card. If you check out results on the same setup at you will see that the Asus is performing about the same as the other K8T800 boards. It is true that the nVidia nF3 and nF4 perform best with an nVidia card which we have pointed out many times in the past.
  • Saist - Tuesday, October 19, 2004 - link

    just wanted to make a couple of comments:

    Nvidia's Soundstorm was a result of it's partnership with Microsoft and the Xbox. Since Nvidia is no longer being funded by Microsoft and is no longer involved with Xbox2, there is little reason from Nvidia's viewpoint to continue researching audio.

    I also will state that if you are scared of Creative and you want more powerful audio. Get a freaking Via Envy chip. Those are only $20-$30 with shipping and match the Creative Offerings pretty nicely.
  • Saist - Tuesday, October 19, 2004 - link

  • Noli - Tuesday, October 19, 2004 - link

    For all those disappointed with old AC97 codec sound chip on nf4, why not wait for via's K8T890 with better envy sound? (ok it's still not as good as soundstorm but it's better than AC97 right?). K8T890 also should have dual vid cards and also NCQ disk support... (but admittedly lacks ntune style bios extras).

    One thing I want to know is if K8T890 only supports nvidia SLI?? Presume so cause it's branded dual GFX. Would be awesome to be able to double up with less noisy ATI cards though. Also, seem to remember that Alienware's dual card solution was NOT SLI and seemed to produce consistent 90%+ frame rate improvements. Anyone know if/when this is coming out?! If so, 90%+ beats nvidia at their own game (and from a computer 'vendor' - ha!).

    Disappointed that dual vid cards might be limited to nvidia - 6800GTs are good but still prefer ATI and 2 nvidia cards would prob be too noisy for me...
  • Spinne - Tuesday, October 19, 2004 - link

    When will the nTune software be avaiable? NVidia's download site has a page for nTune, but the download link at the bottom still points to the old System Utility. Reply
  • Rza79 - Tuesday, October 19, 2004 - link

    Correct me if i'm wrong but this how i see it:

    First check this review:


    Check the Business Winstone test scores:
    nForce3 => 30.1
    K8T800 => 28.9

    Now this review:
    nForce3 => 30.1
    K8T800 => 26.9


    Now Multimedia Winstone:
    nForce3 => 37.4
    K8T800 => 36.9

    In this review:
    nForce3 => 36.9
    K8T800 => 33.4


    This can't be right?
    If the Asus board really performs this bad, then they should have taken another board.

    It's harder to judge about the gaming test since they use a different card. Above that, Geforce cards tend to perform better on a nForce platform. So my guess is to have a fair review they should have used a ATI based card like the X800.

    Second thing they always forget to mention is the Serial ATA driver for the Via board. I mean this can be an important factor.

    I agree with post nr. 69 & 70.

    Lately i'm starting to lose faith in reviews from Anandtech, just like i did with Tomhardware a couple of years ago. Seems like you can't get reliable reviews with the big review sites anymore.
  • Wesley Fink - Tuesday, October 19, 2004 - link

    #70 -
    We will be rewiewing the K8T890 as soon as we receive a retail board. Thus far none have shipped.

    The K8T890 reviews at other sites in September were based on a traveling preview board which VIA did not make available to all of the major review sites.

  • geogecko - Tuesday, October 19, 2004 - link


    Hmm...that search result at pulls up 12595 results. Far to many for me to look through...

    Did you copy the link correctly?

    Thanks for the information. If the link won't work, an official part number from newegg (or vendor part number) will work for me.

  • thebluesgnr - Tuesday, October 19, 2004 - link

    I'm a little disapointed that the original article didn't say anything about sound, and that it still doesn't in the "Final words..." page. No, I don't meand SoundStorm.

    From AT's previous article on CK8-04: "Vanilla flavored CK8-04 is very much the same as nForce3 250Gb, with the addition of 7.1 high definition audio and PCI Express".

    So, they dropped the high def audio?
    If that's the case both Intel and VIA (if the information on the VT8251 is confirmed) are ahead in this area, which is, for many, much more important than some silly hardware firewall.

    In closing, I'm disapointed at AnandTech for:

    1) being excessively positive about nForce4 (no mention of lack of high def audio, no mention of any disadvantages of SLI, like higher price of the motherboard and power consumption of two cards, or lack of PCI-E x1 in that MSI mobo);

    2) completely ignoring the release of VIA K8T890 and KT880 chipsets.

    The KT880 has been out for months, there are motherboards in retail (the K7V88 in particular seems to be doing very well, given the number of user reviews and their ratings on newegg).
    Also, you reviewed the [b]nVidia[/b] nForce2 Ultra 400Gb chipset, so "socket A is dead" is not really an answer I'd understand.

  • haris - Tuesday, October 19, 2004 - link

    What's the big deal about SLI? The average increase in performance will probably be around 50-60%. That's nothing to be ashamed about, but at what cost do you get it? Two 6600's still cost almost as much as one high end card, so there is little/no cost savings. What about the power requirements and noise level. That machine has got to be a freaking monster to work/play on. Reply
  • KristopherKubicki - Tuesday, October 19, 2004 - link


  • mrdudesir - Tuesday, October 19, 2004 - link

    First off, each slot is an x16 slot physically but only 8x of actual bandwith. However that still means that each slot has 4GB/s of bandwith, way more than any modern cards used. There will not be any performance hit, simply because the slots have plenty of excess bandwith.
  • geogecko - Tuesday, October 19, 2004 - link

    Can I get an exact part number of the Corsair 3200XL memory you are talking about on the test platform? I've been looking for it, but I've not seeing this 3208v1.1 number anywere...

    Thanks. By the way, which memory is better, the OCZ or the Corsair?
  • knitecrow - Tuesday, October 19, 2004 - link

    All you guys about doom3 don't need hardware, should read:

    Basically creative said it invented a particular 3d positioning method, Id was forced to license and support EAX HD.

    #62, Not unlike a CPU, a GPU is programmable to a certain degree. I am sure you can make it do almost anything.... but a dedicated solution will always be more efficient.

    #63 -- "A card based around the VIA Envy 24HT is all anyone needs."


    Envy24 cards do jack for 3d positional audio. If you compare a software based vs hardware based solution, the hardware based stuff (soundstorm, creative noiseblaster stuff) always win out. They are more accurate in their positioning and reproduction.
  • quanta - Tuesday, October 19, 2004 - link

    Actually, id licensed EAX HD for use with Doom 3. Even without EAX HD support, Doom 3 will just send the audio streams to DirectSound 3D engine for mixing purposes, which will take advantage of 3d audio accelerations if any. Reply
  • PrinceGaz - Tuesday, October 19, 2004 - link

    Doom 3 doesn't use hardware accelerated sound, so SoundStorm has no benefit. If you are having problems with the sound, you might want to adjust hardware acceleration or something.

    Sound only takes a tiny amount of CPU power when you've got a processor like a 3800+ so it doesn't really matter whether or not its hardware accelerated. Its even less important when you consider that games are increasingly GPU bound, and that theres plenty of CPU power spare for processing sound. A card based around the VIA Envy 24HT is all anyone needs.
  • quanta - Tuesday, October 19, 2004 - link

    #54/57, the decision to dump dedicated SoundStorm hardware actually made a lot of sense, because NVIDIA already has a powerful VPU that can be used as an APU if the company wanted. In fact, NVIDIA can just license AVEX[1], which currently only works on NVIDIA processors, and if NVIDIA play the cards right, it can just bought the BionicFX company now/soon and keep an edge over the competitions all to itself.

    As for the SLI, I think it will be too confusing for end users, and the dual slot design will likely be short-lived. Think about it, there are only 20 PCIE lanes on nForce 4, and each video card uses 16, so at least one card only runs a fraction of the speed, crippling performance. It may be technically correct that current apps don't need all 32 lanes, but it will be tech support nightmare for video card manufacturers from users who expected full blown performance. It will be much easier to just build a 16/20/32/etc-lane PCIE video card with two VPUs in it. That way users don't have to worry about the upgrade restrictions and performance issues, and easier for video card makers to sell dual VPU products. Sure, you lose the upgradability, but without tech support problems, card makers don't have to worry about people buying fewer cards because they want to wait for cheaper, more user friendly SLI solutions.

  • AlphaFox - Tuesday, October 19, 2004 - link

    I take it no one here has used soundstorm with doom3: crackling and cutting out, having to reset the sound all the time. pain in the butt, how is it great?? Reply
  • jm0ris0n - Tuesday, October 19, 2004 - link

    I still think that Anyone who would want SLI-PCIe WOULD NOT use onboard sound. Reply
  • Viper96720 - Tuesday, October 19, 2004 - link

    Ah i see I thought that was agp it is the 16x pci-e. Reply
  • LotoBak - Tuesday, October 19, 2004 - link

    55 -
    I take it your refering to this pic

    That long slot is NOT agp. It is PCIe 16x. The two above it are PCIe 4x I believe (could be wrong on the 4x)
  • jediknight - Tuesday, October 19, 2004 - link

    nVidia's decision to dump SoundStorm makes no sense. If it was a business decision because the OEMs and media (??) as an earlier posted pointed out.. how can they justify the extra expense of SLI? What OEM is going to use that high-end tech? (Hint: Not Alienware.. they've got their own stuff)

    The same people who want SLI want SoundStorm.. these enthusiasts are nVidia's core business (not by sales volume, by prestige, reputation, etc. in the marketplace) and not listening to your customers is a bad idea in my book..
  • jm0ris0n - Tuesday, October 19, 2004 - link

    I could care less about the soundstorm :-p

    *Drool@SLI goodness :-D*
  • Viper96720 - Tuesday, October 19, 2004 - link

    #45 the board has AGP in case you didn't notice the long brown slot next to the PCI. The 2 small ones right above the audio is the PCI-E. Reply
  • RebolMan - Tuesday, October 19, 2004 - link

    The reason soundstorm is nice is because it outpreforms "real" cards - thus leading to better enjoyment of said games by soaking up less CPU time!

    It produces a _better_ gaming experience in terms of sound, and still gets better frame-rates than a PC equipped with a SB Audigy Platinum Pro!


    Why don't vendors pay as much attention to "APU" performance as they do to GPU performance?
  • RebolMan - Tuesday, October 19, 2004 - link

    BAH! Where's my SoundStorm!!!?!?!? Reply
  • Aquila76 - Tuesday, October 19, 2004 - link

    #44 - That dual SLI board (page 3) looks like an MSI (VIA chipset? has an Envy controller at top) board, not the nForce4 SLI reference board. The nVidia reference board design may be different. Reply
  • 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!
  • 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

    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:

    "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."


    **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.
  • 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
  • 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!
  • 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...
  • 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.
  • 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:
  • SMT - Tuesday, October 19, 2004 - link

    GG putting DOOM3 on the DX9 page. Reply
  • R3MF - Tuesday, October 19, 2004 - link

    lol, i have an NF7-S too.

    somehow, despite all the good things about the NF3 250GB chipset i just wasn't compelled to go and buy an A64 rig, it may have had something to do with an adverse fear of Creative Scabs cards.
  • Araemo - Tuesday, October 19, 2004 - link

    #35, you may be right about their driver writers..

    but they still write better drivers than any other consumer-level audio I've used in quite some time. (Ensoniq had decent drivers in the day, but guess who bought them?)

    Now isn't THAT a scary thought?

    Granted, I'm currently using soundstorm on my NF7-S, but I dislike the limited hardware 3d channels. I've had usefull sounds in games(like the gun that is shooting at me) be silent, while I hear other sounds like my footsteps, and the other 30 guns around me..
  • Araemo - Tuesday, October 19, 2004 - link

    "So any chipset that supports pci-e should handle sli just fine, as long as the mobo maker puts two physical 16x slot connectors, regardless of their actual bandwidth."

    a 1x lane w/ a 16x connector would not be enough bandwidth for the second card.

    Yes, 4x is enough for most current games, just like noone currently needs AGP8x.

    However, having one video card on a 16x lane and one on a 4x lane is a very screwy setup. What if that second video card temporarily needs the lions share of the bandwidth? Using two 8x lanes w/ 16x connectors seems like a much better way to me, if only because it balances the load between the cards better.
  • Speedo - Tuesday, October 19, 2004 - link

    Here's another one, dissapointed about no updated audio sollution. Going from an nForce2 sollution, slapping in an old SB Live card or something doesn't sound that exciting... Reply
  • knitecrow - Tuesday, October 19, 2004 - link

    I am not sure how NVIDIA came to the conclusion that audio was not a factor in buying decision. But it is the stupidest thing i have heard.

    If my memory serves, didn't NVIDIA originally say somewhere that they didn't see a need for audio based on the hardware reviews?

    Anyway, the conclusion is all wrong. For those of us building media PC to hook up to an audio receiver, the original soundstorm on nforce2 was a great option.

    For gamers who did not want to pay $100 for creative cards, sound storm provided a better solution than your typical mobo audio that didn’t have any DSP.

    Many hardware enthusiasts love soundstorm. Anandtech is a hardware enthusiast site. I think it has a role to play in advocating consumer needs. Everyone made such a fuss over AGP/PCI bus locks (a feature that only interests overclockers, a minority) that NVIDIA and VIA had to put locks in.

    I have to agree with #34
    It does seem a bit draconian to make no mention of it at all. The criticism should be leveled against manufactures when required.

    To say the issue has been dealt with or that it is old news, is simply being lazy.

    The lack of soundstorm is a big problem. Its real, its relevant and it effects readers of Anandtech.

  • R3MF - Tuesday, October 19, 2004 - link

    and nor has any other preview made mention! what parts of the NDA have not expired, and when will they expire are questions i'd like the answer too.

    either nVidia has an ace up its sleeve, or it has nothing and structured the NDA in such a way that the initial wave of publicity across the web focused on the NF4's good points, and did not dwell on the lack of SS2.

    i could forgive nVidia the lack of SS2, but not limiting audio to AC97. i loath Creative Labs gear with a passion, if only cos there drivers appear to be written by a bunch of howling monkeys jumping up and down in a skip full of broken keyboards, i do not want to be forced to buy one!
  • R3MF - Tuesday, October 19, 2004 - link

    but why did your preview make [b]NO[/b] mention of audio at all? to the point whereby it seems you are being arm-twisted to avoid the subject entirely? Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Tuesday, October 19, 2004 - link

    Audio Comments -
    nVidia has not had SoundStorm on any nForce3 chipset. This means that for the past year+ SoundStorm has been "missing" on any nVidia chipset for Athlon 64.

    We raised this issue for nForce3-150, then for nForce3-250 at By now the change in nVidia audio on A64 is only news to those who are still using an nF2 motherboard.

    nVidia has hinted that an updated audio solution is possibly in the works, which may come to market as a standalone card. But don't hold your breath. The data we have seen showed SoundStorm had little impact on the buying decision, which is one of the reasons nVidia dropped it for Athlon 64.
  • R3MF - Tuesday, October 19, 2004 - link

    i swear the anand data-sheet on the CK8 chipset indicated that the sound would be some variety of high-definition audio, but on checking the link now (via nforcershq) the audio is only listed as just that, audio? Reply
  • tc2k04 - Tuesday, October 19, 2004 - link

    I'm going to back people up on the annoyance of not having soundstorm or atleast something about the audio system. Any nforce2 owner knows how good sounstorm is, i've got an audigy2, and any non EAX source goes through soundstorm for me.

    I can't believe for enthusiast motherboards, they are touting features like firewalls, 90% of us use routers, its just not that exciting anymore.


  • Wonga - Tuesday, October 19, 2004 - link

    I think I read somewhere (probably The Inquirer) that nVidia isn't including Soundstorm cos they don't want to pay for a Dolby Digital licence or something.

    If people don't like the onboard solution, they can just slap an old Sound Blaster Live in the system for peanuts. I do that and it keeps me happy.
  • don - Tuesday, October 19, 2004 - link

    NDA breaker .... Reply
  • knitecrow - Tuesday, October 19, 2004 - link

    there is this online petition

  • knitecrow - Tuesday, October 19, 2004 - link

    dude, where is my soundstorm?

    This is a rip off to the general consumer, and would have hoped that Anandtech would have picked up on it and made a mention of the problem --

    What doesn't nvidia get? there is a huge demand for soundstorm.

    Nforce4 is a step back from all the other chipsets in terms of audio.

    Intel is pushing hi-def audio, via has got its ENVY series, why would nvidia leave out soundstorm

    boooo nforce4

    booo Anandtech for not pickup on this
  • mrdudesir - Tuesday, October 19, 2004 - link

    One more thing,
    Would all the monitor hookups on the cards be active. That would be great cause you could put to gether quite a nice 4 monitor workstation for pretty cheap. you could get those 2 6600GT's and 4 Viewsonic VP171's for about ~$2200. No more expensive then a high end 20"-23" display, and a lot better picture and performance and space (564 square inches vs only 373 for an apple 23" HD Cinema).
    Just wondering.
  • mrdudesir - Tuesday, October 19, 2004 - link

    holy crap i want one so bad.
    BTW, if any one wants a nice big tax write off, my college TV station is looking to replace our PII and PIII video editing and station machines. So if anyone has some extra hardware laying about.....
    (No joke, we really, really need new gear).
  • zhena - Tuesday, October 19, 2004 - link

    wait a min,
    I've seen benchmarks on the web for NVIDIA SLI cards. I don't remember which exact cards were used, but I do remember that one ran in a 16x slot and the other ran in an 4x slot with a 16x connector.

    The point, the 4x slot has more than enough bandwidth because it worked perfectly. With no perfomance loss.

    Wish I had the link somewhere.

    So any chipset that supports pci-e should handle sli just fine, as long as the mobo maker puts two physical 16x slot connectors, regardless of their actual bandwidth.
  • stelleg151 - Tuesday, October 19, 2004 - link

    Will mobo manufacturers increase the possible Bus speeds? Please say yes, I would love one but I want to get to 290... Page 7 says max is 250, that is not ok.. Reply
  • plewis00 - Tuesday, October 19, 2004 - link

    Can you run, say a 6600GT and 6800 Ultra in SLI? Seeing as they are both Nvidia and the SLI connector should be in the same place? Reply
  • Viper96720 - Tuesday, October 19, 2004 - link

    Hope a 754 version of the sli capable board is made. Woldn't mind getting the board and a 6600GT. Then getting the second 6600 later on. Since I got an 754pin cpu already. Guess I know what I want for Christmas. Reply
  • swatX - Tuesday, October 19, 2004 - link

    drool!!!!!!!!!! Reply
  • ViRGE - Tuesday, October 19, 2004 - link

    #17, there is no Soundstorm, it's a figment of everyone's imaginations. Nvidia has already stated with the nForce 3 that they really aren't interested in doing another advanced sound solution (in part due to Creative's purchase of Sensaura, I'm sure), so there's no reason to really harp on them. Reply
  • Rys - Tuesday, October 19, 2004 - link

    NDA has yet to expire on nForce4 (5.5 hours early at the time of posting this). Reply
  • Davediego - Tuesday, October 19, 2004 - link

    What happened to SoundStorm2? Why isn't audio even mentioned in this article other than 1 line in the basic feature table on pg7? This is a major feature many many enthusiasts have been waiting for, and if it doesnt exist in nforce4 why is anandtech not harping nvidia for it? Reply
  • allnighter - Tuesday, October 19, 2004 - link

    Not trying to be rude, but there is an abundance of good articles on nVidia's SLi that will help better understanding and answer many of the questions asked here.
    #15 I believe each card will load textures for the part it will render and the driver will handle that load on the fly.
  • Kovie - Tuesday, October 19, 2004 - link

    Probably a stupid question but does anyone know if in SLI mode the system has to keep two separate copies of textures in video memory (each card has the same textures loaded) or if they can just keep it on one card and make two 128mb cards into a 256mb? Reply
  • Doormat - Tuesday, October 19, 2004 - link

    Is that SATA 3Gb/s real SATA II? I remember seeing something about switches that allow 4 drives to hook into 1 sata 2 port. Is that a feature NF4 supports? Reply
  • xsilver - Tuesday, October 19, 2004 - link

    A little off topic.. but why doesn't intel bring out 1066 products now? my year old northwood is already running 1000 fsb... Reply
  • GhandiInstinct - Tuesday, October 19, 2004 - link

    Roger that, also can the SLI or Alienware have Agp also? Will the N4 have agp? Reply
  • Zac42 - Tuesday, October 19, 2004 - link

    I think that it has to be two Nvidia cards with an SLI connector. You are thinking of the alienware video array, which theoretically can use two different branded cards. Reply
  • GhandiInstinct - Tuesday, October 19, 2004 - link


    So in SLI, I can put any two video cards together? No matter the spec difference or maker difference? New and old? Future and past?
  • microAmp - Tuesday, October 19, 2004 - link

    I take it the SLI benchmarks from nVidia were done at about 1600 x 1200 resoultion? Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Tuesday, October 19, 2004 - link

    Kris -
    Anand and I got some hands-on time with the SLI system while we were visiting nVidia. The benchmarks we ran confirmed the numbers reported for the 6800 Ultra single and SLI. The test system was an Asus SLI motherboard with a 4000+ CPU. While we did not personally run benchmarks with the 6600GT SLI or the 6800GT SLI we have no reson to doubt nVidia's numbers based on what we did confirm.

    The Reference board is NOT SLI, which is why SLI testing was limited to our time with nVidia.
  • KristopherKubicki - Tuesday, October 19, 2004 - link

    #6 those are NVIDIA's benchmarks, not actual 3rd party confirmed benchmarks.

  • Wesley Fink - Tuesday, October 19, 2004 - link

    #2 and #4 -
    SLI Performance tests are in a table on page 3. Two 6600GTs don't outperform a 6800 Ultra, but they do outperform a 6800 GT.
  • ksherman - Tuesday, October 19, 2004 - link

    #4, from what ive heard, it is probablyh likely that two 6600GTs would definetly cream the 6800 ultra. I do agree that we need some SLI benchies!!! Reply
  • ariafrost - Tuesday, October 19, 2004 - link

    *Drool* Anyone know how much of a performance boost would come from SLI yet? I'm wondering if two 6600GTs would outperform a 6800 ultra. Reply
  • glennpratt - Tuesday, October 19, 2004 - link

    Page 2

    "While nVidia was not ready to ship nForce4 SLI reference boards for review, they were demonstrating a major manufacturer's nF4 SLI board with a pair of nVidia 6800 Ultra video cards. We also got to play with the SLI system with an Athlon 64 4000+ CPU, confirming benchmarks that were supplied by nVidia."
  • Jincuteguy - Tuesday, October 19, 2004 - link

    why didn't anand did any SLI performance test? i thoguht this board suppose to have SLI. Reply
  • glennpratt - Tuesday, October 19, 2004 - link

    Drool... I need to graduate from college already... Reply

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