A Closer Look at the nForce3-250 Family



The nVidia Reference Board was shipped with the latest nForce3-250Gb chipset. Gb stands for Gigabit, which refers to the included on-chip Gigabit Ethernet. The Reference Board also included 1000MHz HyperTransport, but this is a concession to the Reference Board and is not a feature for Socket 754 boards. Basically, there are currently two 250 chipsets for Socket 754 Athlon 64:

1. nForce3-250 - basic value chipset for 754, 800HT, does not include on-chip Gigabit LAN or on-chip Firewall.
2. nForce3-250Gb - 800HT, includes Gigabit LAN and on-chip Firewall.

With the coming introduction of Socket 939, there will also be two additional versions of the chipset introduced:

3. nForce3-250Gb Ultra - 1000HT, Gigabit LAN, Firewall, Dual-Channel unbuffered, for Athlon 64/Athlon 64 FX.
4. nForce3-250Gb Ultra PRO - 1000HT, Gigabit LAN, Firewall, for Opteron.

To make the 4 versions even more interesting, the Ultra can even be used for Socket 754 processors if the manufacturer chooses. In fact, there are designs for top Athlon 64 boards that nVidia says will use the Ultra chipset to provide 1000 HyperTransport to Socket 754. This would, theoretically, bring added overclocking headroom to current Athlon 64 CPU's. In fact, the nVidia Reference Board that we received used the Ultra chip and provided 1000 HyperTransport. We can confirm that dropping the multiplier to 9.5, and dropping HT to 800 allowed us to reach 250 FSB easily, which was the FSB limit on the Reference Board - all at default voltage.

To add even more to the pot, all of the nF3-250 versions of the chipset can be used in Multiple Processor designs. If the manufacturer chooses, any of the chipsets can be used theoretically in 1, 2, 4, 8, or even 16 CPU setups. Of course, the capabilities of the processors available for any given board will have an impact on how far you can go with multiple CPUs.

With the nForce3-250, nVidia also takes a giant leap in features to make the new chipset second to none. Features that are now part of the single-chip nForce3-250Gb MCP include 8 SATA ports, 4-channel SATA RAID plus 4-Channel IDE RAID, on-chip Gigabit Ethernet, on-chip Firewall, and software 6-channel audio.

Index nForce3-250 Specifications
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  • arswihart - Monday, April 05, 2004 - link

    In response to #19 sprockkets, sorry this is such a late response, I just checked for responses to my original post. The reason I want Firewire is for Audio Interface purposes, everything from the new Hercules Firewire audio device to Yamaha's MLAN 01X use fireware. Not everything of course, but Firewire is getting very pervasive in pro audio. Reply
  • draven31 - Saturday, March 27, 2004 - link

    note that the S/PDIF spec says that a 'fiber'interface is available... that is a optical S/PDIF. TOSLINK is a type od S/PDIF optical connector. Reply
  • Reflex - Saturday, March 27, 2004 - link

    It really depends on if gaming is your primary use of sound. An Audigy is good for gaming, PEROID. Music affecianado's need not apply. Furthermore, Creative has never really fixed their PCI bus bandwidth issues(possibly will become irrelevant with PCI Express), and can be problematic with other devices due to a crappy ACPI implementation.

    Your diss on the Envy also pretty much ignores its roots in the high end. It is not software audio. It does not do everything that the Audigy does for *gaming* in hardware, but for other functions its all in hardware. It is the ONLY card on the market that not only meets its specs, it exceeds them. The Audigy falls significantly short in several areas(signal to noise, and remember the original Audigy only had 19bit sound despite their 24bit claims, no idea if they fixed that on the Audigy 2 or not).

    For someone serious about sound, an Audigy is not a choice. For a pure gamer, it is an option(although honestly the difference between it and a Envy based solution is negligible). In gaming the Audigy has slightly less CPU utilization and a few more effects, but the sound quality is mediocre at best.

    Personally I do not find that the few effects it adds are worth the downsides of Creative cards. Also, I am more likely to listen to music on my PC than play games, although I do game occasionally. Soooooo....Creative is a poor choice in *my* situation. Your mileage may vary.
    Reply
  • Odeen - Saturday, March 27, 2004 - link

    In the great words of Woody Paige, "How many times do I have to straighten you guys out?"

    Soundstorm:
    Great DSP (which only matters for 3d sound rendering), and has absolutely NO impact on the audio quality, that's the job of the codec chip. Since ALL motherboard manufacturers insist on using the piss-poor Realtek ALC650 chip to do the sound output, the sound quality suffers.

    To see what Soundstorm can REALLY do, check out the Asus A7N266-C, which put 5.1 out on an ACR card that featured a Sigmatel codec, not the ALC650. By moving the analog part of the implementation away from the motherboard, and using quality analog parts, the sound quality (i.e. noise / frequency response / dynamic range)was greatly improved.

    Dolby Digital encoding:
    Don't forget that DD is COMPRESSED. You can't fit six channels of even 16bit/44.1khz audio into a single SPDIF stream. By utilizing DD, you're taking this nice audio generated for you and mp3'ing it on the fly.

    3DSoundSurge.com reviewed the Soundstorm APU and found that the Dolby Digital generated was just six independent streams compressed and "wrapped into" a DD stream. Things like joint stereo weren't utilized at all to share audio information between channels in order to raise the effective bitrate (i.e. if I use 1/2 the bandwidth to describe what's common between two channels, and 1/4 the bandwidth to describe the differences for each channel, then each channel uses an effective 75% bandwidth, instead of just 50%. Ceteris paribus, bitrate = kwalitee. So, DD encoding is a neat idea, but it's a flawed one.
    That said, why not just integrate six or eight digital outputs on a soundcard using VersaJacks? That way, we harness just the 3D audio rendering power of Soundstorm but leave the analog part to external DACs and amplifiers that are chosen by the user.

    It would eliminate the single-cable convinience, but you'd be getting bit-perfect digital output, and it'd be up to the user to pick the DACs and amps he likes. Unfortunately, there don't seem to be any receivers with multichannel digital inputs, but a man can dream of optimal solutions, can't he? :)

    That said, a gamer should still have an Audigy. Since every game out there now uses some form of EAX, you get the best results from using hardware that was designed to support that API, not third-party hardware using someone else's drivers (e.g. Sensaura)

    Speaking of 3D audio rendering, the Via Envy SUCKS. You guys need to realize that Via Envy is just a C-Media 8738 with 7.1 and nice DACs. It's SOFTWARE AUDIO, people, it's AC'97 that sounds a little better than most. It's an eight channel, 24/192- and 24/96-supporting Sound Blaster freakin' Pro! Not that there's anything wrong with that, but, again, all things being equal, playing an EAX-supporting game will have an Audigy2-equipped machine in front, followed by the Soundstorm-equipped machine, followed by a Via Envy-equipped machine.

    Finally, firewire.
    Firewire = good. Chipset-level firewire = gooder. Keep in mind that Firewire has bus-mastering capability, whereas with USB and USB2, the CPU has to handhold every bit going across the bus. Do you really want your shiny new Athlon64 playing crossing guard with USB2 streams, or would you rather have the bits maneuver themselves across independently? Thought so :)

    Chipset-level firewire is good for a simple reason that you only have 133MB/sec maximum theoretical bandwidth. A 400Mb/sec (or 50MB/sec) can eat up to half of your practical PCI bandwidth. Whereas, if it IS integrated, you're only taxing the intra-chipset bandwidth, which is plentiful on A64 boards, and has been plentiful ever since we've gone away from using the PCI bus as the NB/SB interconnect (i.e. the AMD 760 chipset on the AMD side and the Intel BX, which were the last two chipsets to do that).

    WHEW.
    Reply
  • Reflex - Saturday, March 27, 2004 - link

    Whoops, you are correct, I was getting SPDIF mixed up with Toslink cables. My mistake. Heh, I do make those occasionally it seems.

    My point was about the optical Toslink cables, not the digital output itself. However, all that aside, the Soundstorm is still a very low quality integrated sound solution...
    Reply
  • Foxbat121 - Friday, March 26, 2004 - link

    Please check this link for S/PDIF information:
    http://www.mtsu.edu/~dsmitche/rim420/materials/Int...
    Reply
  • Foxbat121 - Friday, March 26, 2004 - link

    #64,

    I don't know what you're talking about. SPDIF is not an optical output. And you don't use optical cable at all. There is also no converter. You ran a coax cable directly from sound card to your receiver's coax input. And it's all digital. There will be no signal loss even if you convert them. However, if you're talking about the different sample rate that causes sound quality issue due to the re-sampling, that is true for most SPDIF ports on board or on sound cards. But that has much to do with the design of the sound card rather than anything else.
    Reply
  • Reflex - Friday, March 26, 2004 - link

    #62: If you are going from an optical output to a coax input, you *are* converting the signal. In a straight optical to optical link, it is being converted first inside the source device and again on the reciever. So yes you are converting the signal. Reply
  • Foxbat121 - Friday, March 26, 2004 - link

    #56,

    While it is true that most people do not base their mobo purchase decision on APU capability, however when it comes to use the PC as HTPC or simply want to play games on your big screen HDTV, the DD real-time encoding plays a big role on chose which mobo to be in your HTPC. Instead of have to connect 3 analog sound wires and pay big $$ to have a receiver to support multi-channel analog input, you can use a SPDIF/Coax digital connection to get all your sound (desktop, game and DVDs) from PC to the HT.
    Reply
  • Foxbat121 - Friday, March 26, 2004 - link

    #58,

    SPDIF is compatible with coax and all you need is a mono mini-jack to RCA adapter so that you can connect it directly to your coax input on the receiver. There is no double conversion needed. I believe that how most people connect their PC to the receiver.
    Reply

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