nForce3-250 - Part 1: Taking Athlon 64 to the Next Levelby Wesley Fink on March 23, 2004 11:55 AM EST
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ConclusionnVidia was roundly criticized for the lack of up-to-date features in their first Athlon 64 chipset. That criticism turned to utter disappointment when enthusiasts discovered the additional overclocking limitations of the 600MHz HyperTransport and the non-working AGP locks on motherboards that appeared in the marketplace. In fairness, performance at stock speeds was just as good with nForce3-150 chipsets with Athlon 64 as it was with competing chipsets, but this was not what we have come to expect from nVidia on their chipsets for AMD. nVidia says that they never expected AMD sales to take off until the introduction of Socket 939. It is very clear that nForce3-250 was designed first for 939, and the fact that we are seeing it now for Socket 754 is only because you can now buy 754 and Socket 939 is still probably a couple of months away.
No one can complain about the feature-set of the single-chip nForce3-250. It competes with any chipset that we have looked at or heard about. We were also excited to test a Socket 754 board with the Ultra chipset providing the option of not just 800 HyperTransport, but the 1000 HyperTransport that we will be seeing when Socket 939 is introduced. We expect that some enterprising companies who cater to the computer enthusiast, will slip in some Socket 754 boards based on the Ultra chipset with a Gigahertz HyperTransport.
The ultra-speedy on-chip Gigabit Ethernet is more than a checklist feature. If you are a LAN gamer or transfer large files on your network, you will find the speed truly impressive. Removing LAN from the confines of PCI is an idea whose time has come, and nVidia's solution is the fastest on the market. The on-chip Firewall is also a great idea that will be appreciated particularly by LAN gamers. nVidia won the hearts of die-hard gamers with nForce2, and they certainly will win them back again with nForce3-250Gb. No matter how you look at nF3-250 features, there is a gamer in the background who nVidia is trying to satisfy.
The Raid controller capabilities of nForce3-250 are a quantum leap over the integrated home storage solutions that we have seen thus far. Intel will also introduce much-enhanced storage capabilities with their upcoming Alderwood and Grantsdale chipsets, but nVidia certainly impressed us with their hot-spare and on-the-fly rebuild demonstrations. However, we think most users will find the controller that treats IDE and SATA drives the same - allowing them to be combined in any way - to be the most useful feature that they have seen in a long time.
If you haven't figured it out, we are impressed with the features of nForce3-250Gb. They are much more than fluff and check-list items; users will find many features truly unique and truly useful. In Part 2, we will take a closer look at the performance of nForce3-250GB. We will compare performance to other Athlon 64 chipsets and take a closer look at how ATI and nVidia graphics compare in performance on nForce3-250.