nForce3-250Gb: WORKING AGP/PCI Lock

It should not be a surprise that the first thing we confirmed is a working PCI/AGP lock. After discovering that none of the previous Athlon 64 chipsets had a working AGP lock, we went immediately to a test to verify that the AGP lock was indeed working. We used PC Geiger that was used for measuring PCI in PCI Speed and Overclocking: A Closer Look at A64 and P4 Chipsets. With FSB set at 249 and AGP frequency set to 67, we measured a PCI speed of 33.3MHz.



This is the expected results for a working AGP lock. We certainly can confirm that the AGP lock is working on the nForce3-250GB Reference Board, and we'll take another look when shipping nF3-250 boards start showing up in a couple of weeks.

FSB Overclocking Results

Reference Boards are not really designed for overclocking, and there are normally not any voltage adjustments available as we would see on production motherboards. However, with PCI/AGP lock available, we were anxious to see if the nForce3-250Gb did indeed overclock better. This was also an opportunity to verify a working PCI/AGP lock by a different method.

Front Side Bus Overclocking Testbed
Default Voltage
Processor: Athlon 64 3400+
2.2GHz
CPU Voltage: 1.5V (default)
Cooling: AMD Stock Athlon 64 Heatsink/Fan
Power Supply: Powmax 350W
Maximum OC: 2442MHz (+11%)@222x12
2375Mhz@250FSBx9.5 (+25% FSB)

The above overclocking setup at default voltage allowed us to reach a stable Frequency of 250 at 800 HyperTransport with AGP/PCI fixed at 33/66. The limit of this CPU at default voltage is apparently somewhere around 2450MHz, since we could not reach 250FSB with a 10 multiplier. That would have represented 2.5GHz, had we been successful.

Important here is the fact that we reached the absolute highest FSB setting of the Reference Board, which is 250. This is further evidence that the AGP lock is indeed working on nforce3-250.

We asked nVidia about the issues with the nForce3-150 AGP/PCI lock, which are apparently fixed in nF3-250. nVidia assured us that the AGP lock was indeed working in the 150 Reference Board, but that the BIOS implementations by manufacturers with the 150 chipset were not correct. Therefore, the shipping boards for nF3-150 did not have a consistently working AGP lock. nVidia also assured us that they were working more closely with manufacturers on the nF3-250 launch to make sure manufacturers were delivering nF3-250 boards with working AGP lock.

We tested nVidia's claim and found the Reference nF3-150 board did have a working AGP lock. The AGP lock is also definitely working on the 250 Reference Board, and we sincerely hope we will find the same working lock on shipping nF3-250 motherboards. We will be looking closely at production nF3-250 boards to verify a working AGP lock.

Reference Boards are rarely a good indication of the true overclocking abilities of a chipset because they are designed to qualify and demonstrate a chipset at design parameters. The features are definitely here for the best overclocking in current Athlon 64 chipsets. It is also worth mentioning that the Athlon 64 Multiplier Utility, available as shareware from CPU-Z, worked fine on the nForce3-250. While it was designed for the 150 chipset, nVidia saw no reason why it should not work properly and we did confirm that the multiplier adjust utility works.

nForce3-250Gb Reference Board: Basic Features nForce3-250Gb: On-Chip Gigabit LAN
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  • Reflex - Wednesday, March 24, 2004 - link

    #39: In my honest opinion, the lack of Soundstorm is an improvement. The APU they were using was a lot of marketing, but relatively poor quality. Even the 'cheap' off brands had better chips available, and nowadays with Via's Envy line the Soundstorm is very, very out of date. I think its absence represents the reality that nVidia did not see enough of a benefit in trying to become a full fledged audio processing company, and since most motherboards without nForce chipsets have other solutions it wasn't a huge value-add(many NF2 boards did not even utilize the nVidia solution).

    Any serious enthusiast would be using a Turtle Beach, M-Audio(or other Via Envy solution), or Audigy anyways, at least if sound quality mattered to them at all. Soundstorm was decent in its time, but they did not try to compete when the next generation arrived(Audigy/Envy) and they weren't top of the line when they were introduced(TB Santa Cruz had that crown).

    Its a risk/reward scenerio, and the rewards did not outweigh the risks of the heavy investment it would take to keep up with the big boys.
    Reply
  • GoatHerderEd - Wednesday, March 24, 2004 - link

    Why did I say it is mostly for servers, and also it would be good for laptops. erg! You get the point. Reply
  • GoatHerderEd - Wednesday, March 24, 2004 - link

    I don’t understand why they don’t have fire wire. It can’t be that hard to include it, and MB manufacturers would be very happy with that since they wouldn’t need to mess with another chip and leads. It would also help in the whole SFF and laptop areas.

    For all the people wining about the sound, I still think they are aiming this at servers and workstations. Plus gamers would want the pci sound anyways, I know people who add pci sound even with the awesome nforce 2 sound, go figure.

    Finally, enough bitching about the typos, once is enough. I don’t see you with a reference board in hand!
    Reply
  • jlfowler78 - Tuesday, March 23, 2004 - link

    I'm disappointed there's no PCI-Express support. What's the deal with that? When will nVidia make a chipset like the n3-250 plus PCI-Express? Geez, even SiS has a good chipset w/ PCI-E. Reply
  • xt8088 - Tuesday, March 23, 2004 - link

    Have at another NForce 3 250 review at http://www.hexus.net/content/reviews/review.php?dX...

    This review mentioned the lack of APU, and it had the benchmark tests.
    Reply
  • Shinei - Tuesday, March 23, 2004 - link

    I'm fairly certain that this is just a generic board to test the chipset out with, it's not going to be the final product put out by GigaByte or Abit... After all, most nForce2 boards have 3 DIMM slots, while the GigaByte GA-7Nxxx series all had 4...

    Now that nVidia's shown that they can still make motherboard chipsets, I think it's time they showed us they can still make video cards that rock your pants off.
    Reply
  • Regs - Tuesday, March 23, 2004 - link

    Wow @ 2.4 Ghz. But Only 2 DIMMs for RAM? Please tell me other boards will have more than 2! Im running with 2x 256 + 1 x 512 Dimm. It would kill my bank account to waste another 100 bucks on ram. Reply
  • TrogdorJW - Tuesday, March 23, 2004 - link

    #31 - You ever tried to make a gaming engine multi-threaded? How about making it really multi-threaded so that you might get a 50-100% boost in performance by adding a second processor? I won't say it can't be done, but it is a *major* change in design philosophy and coding. My experience with multi-threaded applications is that they are much more complex to get working properly. The only game so far that I've heard of trying to use multi-threading was Quake 3, and it didn't work very well. I think the estimate of 3 or more years before games start taking advantage of multi-threading is pretty optimistic, but we'll see. Reply
  • Doormat - Tuesday, March 23, 2004 - link

    Wow, this is the first product in a few months that has been interesting (though, the coming NV40/R420 war will be fun to watch).

    The gigE interests me because I'm looking at a home media network that would be seperate from my normal network, and looking at putting out simulatenous DVD/HDTV feeds over the network was kinda iffy on 100Mbit networks (HD can be up to 19Mbit/s, DVDs are probably anywhere from 2Mbit/s to 4 or 5Mbit/s).

    My only gripe is that the socket 939 chips arent ready yet. I'm waiting for those to show up before I make a move.
    Reply
  • wassup4u2 - Tuesday, March 23, 2004 - link

    Then again, the NF3-150 reference board had a "working" AGP/PCI lock... Reply

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