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 - Tuesday, March 23, 2004 - link

    Once again, the only person who said anything about gaming performance and dual CPU rigs in reference to today's environment is you, Prisoner. I fire up a game on my PC maybe once a month, so honestly buying ANY pc component for gaming reasons is more than a little rediculous in my case(thats what I have an Xbox for).

    However I have plenty of reasons to run dual CPU's, I mess around with making my own DVD's, occasionally I am known to compile a kernel, etc. These are becoming increasingly popular in the average home as well, especially with DVD recorders getting cheap and people wanting to convert those home movies.

    As for games, my only point was that the installed base is being created now. I'd recon that at this point there are more HT compatible P4's sold than there are NV30 or R300 class and higher graphics cards on the market, and they are already developing games targetted for those platforms. All it really would take is Epic and id making their next generation engines more multi-threading friendly and you'd see mass adoption since those engines form the basis for a huge number of games. The potential for major increases in gaming performance is there, it just has not been tapped yet.

    However, as I said, gaming is a relatively *minor* reason for dual CPU adoption. Believe it or not, most people don't do any sort of serious gaming on their PC, so it would really never be much of a selling point...
    Reply
  • JADS - Tuesday, March 23, 2004 - link

    #27 what is your obsession with games? Anyway my argument that dual CPU systems are highly relevant to enthusiasts stands and that has very little to do with games and more with multi-tasking and highly demanding applications such as video editing, image rendering, code compilation, server duties, etc...

    Anyway the gap between a dual and single CPU systems with regards to games really is quite small these days and mostly it is down to the board in question being focussed on stability and reliability rather than outright performance. I'm guessing you wouldn't want for games performance from a dual Athlon FX-53 system on an nVidia nForce3-250 chipset.
    Reply
  • AMDfreak - Tuesday, March 23, 2004 - link

    I'll be waiting for PCI Express versions too. It doesn't appear that the jump to A64 is going to give me enough of a speed increase over an OC'd Barton until I'm ready to replace my 9800 Pro anyway. Reply
  • truApostle - Tuesday, March 23, 2004 - link

    all your base belong to them Reply
  • prisoner881 - Tuesday, March 23, 2004 - link

    #24 and #25, the idea of buying "ahead of the curve" for technology has historically been a stupid, cost-ineffective idea. Buying a duallie system today (at mucho $$$) because you expect to find duallie-ready games in the next three to five years is just dumb use of your money. I say three to five years because that's how long it's going to be before gaming companies produce software that either demands dual CPU's or demands Hyperthreading. In the meantime, you'll have one very expensive processor on a very expensive motherboard just sitting around twiddling its thumbs. And by the time these games DO come out, both of your CPU's (and very likely your motherboard as well) will be obsolete. Such is the way of things.

    Now, one of you DID touch on a good reason to get a duallie system, namely if you're doing compute-intensive stuff like 3D rendering. I happen to do that for a living, and I've got 8 dual Athlon systems in a render farm. Much more cost effective than single CPU systems, but none of them will ever win any points in a gaming match.
    Reply
  • agent2099 - Tuesday, March 23, 2004 - link

    AC97 Audio? This is a step backwards from Nforce2. Where is the MCP-T?
    Reply
  • JADS - Tuesday, March 23, 2004 - link

    #22 I didn't say specifically for games, I said enthusiast. A dual CPU system is inherently more flexible, be it compiling code faster, to rendering pictures quicker to multi-tasking using many apps. How many enthsiasts simply run one program at a time? I know I don't and could make use of a powerful dual CPU system.

    Dual CPU systems do not need to run with ECC/Registered memory although typically due to the target market this is a feature. Running a dual processor FX system with standard DDR memory could be a very fast and cost effective machine.
    Reply
  • Reflex - Tuesday, March 23, 2004 - link

    #22: I agree with you until you get to the part about 'never will'. HyperThreading is making developers consider making thier apps multi-threaded, and starting sometime next year multi-core CPU's will be introduced most likely. When most machines sold have the ability to process more than one thread at a time, it would be pretty stupid to ignore that factor.

    So for now, multiple CPU's is not that helpful for *gaming*, although it is for many other applications. In the future, however, I expect it to be very helpful for everything, including gaming.
    Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Tuesday, March 23, 2004 - link

    #4 -
    Ass-kissing has never been my forte. I consider myself an equal-opportunity offender. After finding none of the AGP locks worked on Round 1 chipsets, you better believe I would test for myself whatever I am told about the new boards.

    Frankly I really like nF3-250GB, but I also hear good things about SiS 755FX for 939 (1200HT) and VIA's update for 939. After some of the crap we've had to endure with Round 1 chipsets, it will be nice to have some good Athlon 64 choices in Round 2.
    Reply
  • prisoner881 - Tuesday, March 23, 2004 - link

    #20, gamers that buy dual-CPU systems are just being stupid. Practically no game out there makes good use of more than one CPU, and none are planned. Add to that the overhead of having additional CPU's in the system, the cost of a dual system versus a single, and the slower memory (Reg'd ECC), and you've got a tremendous waste of money. I have *never* seen a dual-CPU game box outrun a single-CPU game box, and I doubt we ever will. Reply

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