Conclusion

nVidia 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.


nForce3-250Gb: 4-Drive SATA RAID and IDE RAID
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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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