nForce3-250Gb: On-Chip Gigabit LAN

nVidia is very proud of their on-chip implementation of Gigabit LAN. The concept is very similar to Intel's CSA bus, which was introduced with the Intel 875 chipset, in that it moves communications off the slower PCI to a faster bus. However, nVidia carries the concept even further by implementing their Gigabit LAN on the single-chip nForce3-250GB. This removes the 1Gb LAN from all buses and allows performance at the internal speed of the chip.

Fast Ethernet (10/100) was really not a concern on the PCI bus. In the traditional arrangement, the Ethernet controller resided on the PCI bus.



The PCI bus was not really an issue for the fast Ethernet 100Mb/sec connection because even at maximum speed, Fast 100 did not exceed PCI bandwidth. However, Gigabit LAN, at 1000Mb/sec can exceed the bandwidth of the PCI bus easily. With nForce3-250GB, nVidia has moved the Ethernet to the chip itself.



This frees Gigabit Ethernet from the bottleneck of the PCI bus, but the nVidia Gigabit LAN is still recognized as if it were a PCI device. nVidia also recognizes that their 3rd generation MCP Ethernet is not the only solution off the confines of the PCI bus, but they claim that their solution is the fastest available. nVidia showed standard benchmarks where input/output on their Gigabit LAN was more than twice as fast as PCI Gigabit Ethernet.

This all sounds good for the business user where it is easy to justify Gigabit LAN, but the practical reality is that even broadband connections are still too slow for home users to saturate a PCI Gigabit LAN. When we brought this up, nVidia pointed out several realities where their on-chip Gigabit LAN would make a difference today.

1. LAN Party Gamers - The prices of Gigabit switches has dropped to the point they are becoming practical as switches at LAN parties. The nVidia on-chip Gigabit LAN will be the fastest machine at any LAN Party using Gigabit switches.
2. Multimedia on Home Networks - Anyone moving multimedia files on their home network will see a real increase in speed with on-chip Gigabit LAN.


3. File sharing - Sharing files between computers can be accelerated with the tenfold increase in throughput with Gigabit Ethernet. Digital videos and photographs, music, computer games, and text files with lots of graphics are some of the types of large files shared between home computers.
4. Longer Computer Lifespan - with Gigabit LAN moving into the mainstream, a fast on-chip solution like the nF3-250GB Gigabit Ethernet will extend the useful life of the computer.

Business users have an easier time realizing the immediate benefits of nVidia's on-chip Gigabit LAN. Anything a business does on their LAN is that much faster with Gigabit LAN moved on-chip and off the PCI bus.

nVidia has assembled an impressive communications team with deep experience in the communications industry. That depth of experience shows in the design of the communications capabilities of nForce3-250Gb. It is the most impressive chipset Gigabit LAN that we have seen, and this will be the reason to buy an nForce3-250Gb board for some.

nForce3-250Gb: WORKING AGP/PCI Lock nForce3-250Gb: On-Chip Firewall
POST A COMMENT

71 Comments

View All Comments

  • Visual - Friday, March 26, 2004 - link

    This chipset looks promising, I like it. And a great article about it :)

    I'm a bit curious about the raid - do you guys think it may be possible to implement a hot-swappable raid array with integrated raid controllers anytime soon?

    Maybe you can make an article testing the performance boost from using a 4-drive raid 0 array with this baby?

    Another thing that interests me - are there any mobos with IGP for Athlon64? I know it won't be a performer, I'm just curious if it even exists. Also is anything being heared about some new DX9 IGP anytime soon(hopefully with this chipset)? It'd also be cool if having an AGP card doesn't disable the IGP, like the ati-intel chipsets... Well I guess I'm dreaming now, but I'd like to see your comments or any info you have on nVidia's IGP plans. I guess you AT folks could ask nVidia about this :)

    Thanks,
    Visual
    Reply
  • Reflex - Thursday, March 25, 2004 - link

    #59: Try measuring your bandwidth with a 4 drive RAID 0 array using fast drives on that setup and then put the same array in an Intel or AMD chipset system. nVidia's PCI implementation is not very good at all. Reply
  • MichaelD - Thursday, March 25, 2004 - link

    [q] Actually, to date nVidia has had a *very* troublesome PCI implementation, anyone with a PCI RAID controller and a 4 disk RAID 0 array can tell you that. It is so bad, in fact, that prototype NF3-150 boards for Opteron used AMD PCI chips just to avoid using the nForce3 integrated PCI bus. I am not certain if these boards ever reached production status however.[/q]

    Uh, no. Not in my experience. On my 8RDA+, I've used:

    Highpoint ATA133 Contoller Card
    3Ware7000-2 Two-channel IDE RAID card
    LSI Megaraid 1600 SCSI RAID card

    I've had zero problems. Wha'chu talkin' bout, Willis?
    Reply
  • Reflex - Thursday, March 25, 2004 - link

    #55: I did not say DDR2 was needed right now, its not and AMD is making the right decision. I was just pointing out that the latency penalty should not be a real issue since it moves more data. But time will tell.

    #54: I have not checked out the Catalina yet, however if it does not have a coax output, it will not find a home in my setup. SPDIF is a consumer level technology, championed by Sony, but it is not as high quality as coax simply due to the fact that the signal must be converted twice(to and from optical) which is never a good thing. Furthermore, the cables are frail and expensive. Professional level equipment never has SPDIF, it uses coax exclusively.

    Wesley: Glad they are dropping SoundStorm. Waste of time and effort in my opinion.
    Reply
  • BikeDude - Thursday, March 25, 2004 - link

    Thanks Wesley; a single chip implementation makes sense. Now show us the benchmarks! :) Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Thursday, March 25, 2004 - link

    #54 and others regarding Sound Storm -

    1 - nVidia is committed to the one-chip chipset for Athlon 64. They are firmly convinced that the one-chip eliminates the potential bottlenecks of a north-south bridge communications bus. Even with the the memory controller on the chip there is only so much real estate practically available on a single-chip chipset.

    2 - Customer surveys by nVidia found that most buyers did not use Sound Storm, and that Sound Storm did not enter heavily into the decision to buy nForce. So the decision was made to choose the on-chip LAN, firewall, and much-expanded RAID capabilities which benefit greatly from being moved off the bus.

    3 - There are new sound solutions in the works for nVidia. You may see them in a future chipset or on a sound card. Final decisions have not been made.
    Reply
  • Pumpkinierre - Thursday, March 25, 2004 - link

    #53, I'll believe it when I see the tests. It sounds like RAMBUS- that was supposed to be better at latency but turned out the opposite at over twice the cost at the time. Read the last paragraph of Wesley's post(#50)- he's closer to the industry and there are others expressing similar concerns. All these are things that Intel with its resources should iron out and AMD come in when its sorted, If AMD get to a third of the market and in the black then it can show leadership in these areas. Meanwhile stick to what they are best at cpus.
    Reply
  • BikeDude - Thursday, March 25, 2004 - link

    #48: Turtle Beach Catalina which I suspect is a newer card (it's more expensive :) ) than SC, seem to tout optical SPDIF output as a feature (doesn't mention coax at all) and it's merely pass-through SPDIF at that (no hardware Dolby encoding -- thus I'll end up with the additional three audio cables again). Are you sure you have all your facts straight?

    If you're a professional musician -- I agree, the SS isn't for you, but I thought nForce was primarily a chipset targetted at gamers?
    Reply
  • Reflex - Thursday, March 25, 2004 - link

    #52: Latency ends up about the same due to the fact that twice the operations per clock are happening in the same span as regular DDR. It does not, however, give you any real benefit, just higher scalability. The lack of DDR2 support also really has nothing to do with the chipset, its a CPU feature on Athlon64/FX architecture's, not a chipset one, so people bemoaning the lack of DDR2 need to look at AMD, not nVidia.

    Like I said before, the only feature needed from my point of view is PCI Express. I refuse to buy anymore PCI or AGP devices at this point knowing that in a year or two they will be useless. Unlike my CPU, I don't often change out my sound card, motherboard, SCSI card, or other such devices, so when it comes time to upgrade my system, PCI Express will be the order of the day for me.
    Reply
  • Pumpkinierre - Thursday, March 25, 2004 - link

    Good to see your real opinions, wesley #50. I too am worried about this slow latency DDR2 particularly with the a64 where I see system memory latency as being the bottleneck for improved gaming speed. AMD have got themselves a winner with a64/newcastle but still have mainboard issues as well as heavy debt. In these conditions, good poker dictates that you play conservatively. So I'm quite happy to see only DDR1 and PCI on the nF3-250 for the moment.
    Reply

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now