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
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  • draven31 - Thursday, March 25, 2004 - link

    Yes, the lack of PCI Express is a disappointment

    But, so is the lack of PCI-X. It means that system integrators and postproduction facilities will be hesitant about using NF3-250 motherboards for workstations because a significant portion of the current NLE cards want at least a 64-bit PCI slot, if not a PCI-X 66, 100, or 133.

    This lack of PCI-X slots on Athlon64 motherboards (you have to get a dual opteron board to get them) means i may have to go Intel for my next systems, and i was really hoping to get an Athlon64 because Lightwave runs best on them overall.
    Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Wednesday, March 24, 2004 - link

    #49 -
    I heartily DISAGREE with your conclusions. As you will see soon enough DDR2 is at present the same performance as DDR (at best) at twice the price or more. While I do appreciate the potential of DDR2, the current execution is like Prescott - much ado about very little.

    As for your bandwidth, we are talking about an Athlon 64 and NOT an Intel CPU. Intel design and deep pipes keep it constantly starved for bandwidth; A64 on the other hand has been shown to perform just about as well with current single-channel DDR as it does with much greater bandwidth dual-channel DDR. This actual performance certainly refutes your claim for the A64 "needing DDR2". Even dual-channel is more a checklist item most consumers demand than it is a huge performance booster on A64. But dual-cahnnel will indeed be a part of socket 939 - doubling memory bandwidth for an Athlon 64 that already competes quite well with single-channel memory.

    I do agree with your point about hard-drive throughput, and there is little to complain about in the nF3-250Gb design in that regard.

    Talk to memory manufacturers about DDR2. Most are extremely frustrated at having to add huge buffering to even get the 533 stuff to work. In addition latencies are so high at 4-4-4-8 that any performance gain is pretty much nullified. And the cost is prohibitive (sound like early Rambus?). Things WILL improve with time on DDR2, but your sweeping pronouncements are just misinformed.

    Reply
  • jcoltrin - Wednesday, March 24, 2004 - link

    PCI Express and Hyperthreading won't make a bit of difference in today's games. The only benefit I can think of with nForce3 is *maybe* better sound, and gigabit LAN. PCI Express has been shown to only produce minimal effects on fps, and who cares about hyperthreading unless you enjoy burning CD's and compressing your latest movie while playing a FPS. What this chipset really needed, and the ref . board doesn't support is DDR2. Memory bandwidth and SATA hard drives are the only thing that's going to unleash the power of our already over-kill video cards and load the expansive levels in an acceptable time. Why this article failed to acknowledge this I don't understand. Reply
  • Reflex - Wednesday, March 24, 2004 - link

    #46: For purely gaming purposes the Soundstorm does an adequate job. No complaints there. But many people use their PC for more than gaming, and anyone who cares about the actual quality of the sound coming out, especially for music playback would care about the differences. Yes the S/N ratio is very poor on SoundStorm setups. Anyone who cares about excellent reproduction would not be using SPDIF cables as well, they would demand a coax solution for digital output(Turtle Beach SC for instance offers this).

    Like I said, it was a leap over what was included on motherboards when it was first released, but it has stagnated since then and the competition is far ahead now. Even Creative Labs, which is not even remotely close to being a leader in sound quality, is far beyond the SoundStorm nowadays. Now give me a SS solution with 24/96 capabilities and 106 S/N ratio and they would be back in the hunt. But that won't happen, nVidia is not a audio company.
    Reply
  • Pumpkinierre - Wednesday, March 24, 2004 - link

    The dually is good if you're running a game and other apps even if they are single threaded. I don't of course but many do, to switch quickly to avoid the boss or for 10 minutes relaxation while working. There is some loss of performance as a result of the cpus watching each other but with the present design and power of the opteron it wouldnt be noticeable. I'd like a dually.

    Reply
  • BikeDude - Wednesday, March 24, 2004 - link

    #41: Soundstorm=poor quality in what way? S/N? I'm using the SPDIF connector and get 5.1 surround in most of today's games and DVD movies. What other audio solution features Dolby encoding in hardware? I have not seen (heard) one yet.

    SoundStorm is the only audio solution that offers Audigy2 much competition when it comes to CPU usage in games.

    When something better appears, I'll switch in a second, but for now I dread my next motherboard upgrade as it'll mean I'll have to go back to standard audiocables again (and no less than three at that, in addition to the SPDIF cable!). :-(

    As for USB2: It sucks. Compare external drive solutions, the old firewire400 interface wins every time. If nVidia has really cut firewire support, lets atleast hope they get USB 2.0 support right this time. I had to install an extra USB 2.0 controller to get my Thrustmaster FF wheel working for more than five minutes at a time (I tried with both Epox 8RDA3+ and ABit AN7 motherboards).
    Reply
  • GoatHerderEd - Wednesday, March 24, 2004 - link

    #44:
    My bro is a BeOS fan too! How fun is that?
    Reply
  • iwantedT - Wednesday, March 24, 2004 - link

    personally i wouldnt mind a dual cpu a64 solution. In my experience, it means a hell of a lot more time between upgrades. Hell, i've even still got a dual celeron 500 bp6 setup that is quite usable still, even tho its running BeOS, ie. support is kinda dead :) Reply
  • ripdude - Wednesday, March 24, 2004 - link

    Good article I must say, though the lack of PCI-Express is a small disappointment.

    Also, the conclusion states that socket 939 is a couple of months away, is there a bit more certain release date? Perhaps somewhere in april/may?
    Reply
  • Reflex - Wednesday, March 24, 2004 - link

    Trogdor: Yes multi-threading is more complicated, however its a shift that everyone *is* making. There is really very little excuse to make single threaded applications on today's hardware and operating system environments, its an issue more of an established method of doing things giving way *very* slowly to new ways. For an industry that embraces most new technology, its strange that they did not change their design philosophies long ago, really once Win9x(and Pentium CPU's) became a standard the infrastructure was in place... Reply

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