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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  • prisoner881 - Tuesday, March 23, 2004 - link

    #18, I know it's full duplex, but even then you will have a hard time getting full utlization under normal working conditions. Benchmarks are designed to run things at unrealistic rates. The point is, although I don't encourage it, you can certainly put Gigabit on the PCI bus and get very usable performance out of it. In most cases, the limiting factor is going to be CPU utilization anyway. Reply
  • JADS - Tuesday, March 23, 2004 - link

    External HDDs could make good use of a Firewire connection, especially now it is whizzing along at 800MBit/s.

    The multi CPU implementation sounds interesting, of course AMD will completely fail to capitalise on it by not making the FX dual processor capable. How many enthusiasts (AMD wise) could resist the chance of dual FX-53s, especially with the possibility of overclocking them? You have the distinction between the 2xx series and the FX due the removal of ECC/Registered memory in the FX 939 series, so they essentially serve two different markets.
    Reply
  • sprockkets - Tuesday, March 23, 2004 - link

    Why would you need firewire with USB2? OK, ipod and camcorders.

    I have one question. Since you use a browser to configure the firewall, does this mean it is OS independant, i.e., I can use it in Linux without needing drivers to run it?
    Soundstorm not present on here, oh well, almost all uATX boards had the MCP and not MCP-T so it didn't matter anyhow, and it doesn't work in Linux anyhow. VIA sound is troublesome in Linux too. I rather use my own sound card. Just hope there is a driver for the cool LAN adapter.
    Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Tuesday, March 23, 2004 - link

    #10 -
    LAN is Duplex. Gigabit on PCI with overhead can do about 820mb/sec in industry standard tests. nVidia's on-chip LAN could output about 1840 mb/sec in the benchmarks we have seen. This is more than twice as fast IF you have a source that can actually output 1GB in both directions.

    #11 -
    PCI Express will be seen on Intel boards very soon. AMD boards will not move as rapidly to the Intel PCI Express standard.

    #12 -
    Firewire is not on-chip. Undoubtedly many mfgs will add firewire with an additional chip on-board nF3-250.
    Reply
  • fla56 - Tuesday, March 23, 2004 - link

    ''No one can possibly complain about the feature-set of nForce3-250''

    to add my vote to what's already been said, no firewire for my iPod and no SoundStorm/DolbyDigital for that lovely Yamaha amp I just bought mean i think someone needs to calm down a little about all that excitement (and learn a little about the difference between megabits and bytes by the sound of things)

    i wonder if they'll release Soundstorm as a PCI eXpress card....
    Reply
  • Reflex - Tuesday, March 23, 2004 - link

    #8: 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.

    As for this chipset, it looks nice, but honestly I'll wait until there is a PCI Express solution out there, I was just forced due to power problems destroying my equipment to upgrade my motherboard prematurely, and I don't intend to buy another until the next wave of features is available...
    Reply
  • DAPUNISHER - Tuesday, March 23, 2004 - link

    Keep your eyes open for my AN50R listing for sale at rock bottom pricing in the FS/FT forum when the 250 is on shelves :D Reply
  • fla56 - Tuesday, March 23, 2004 - link

    Reply
  • prisoner881 - Tuesday, March 23, 2004 - link

    Looks like another error on the "Conclusion" page. Last sentence, second paragraph says "We expect that some enterprising companies, which specializes in catering to the computer enthusiast, will slip in some Socket 954 boards based on the Ultra chipset with a Gigahertz HyperTransport."

    Socket 954? Methinks that ought to be Socket 754.
    Reply
  • arswihart - Tuesday, March 23, 2004 - link

    What about firewire connectors, do you guys think they'll be added to production boards? Reply

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