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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  • 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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