One of the nice things about a two-part review is that you get to address things you may have overlooked in Part 1. Since there has been so much discussion about Sound Storm in the comments for Part 1, a little more information about the sound capabilities of nForce3-250Gb is needed.

It was a bit surprising to see so much commentary about Sound Storm being absent from nF3-250Gb, since it was first removed from the previous generation nF3-150. There are several reasons Sound Storm is not a part of nForce3-250Gb:
  • Customer surveys by nVidia found that most buyers did not use Sound Storm, and that Sound Storm did not enter heavily into the decision to buy nForce. So, the decision was made to choose the on-chip LAN, firewall, and much-expanded RAID capabilities, which benefit greatly from being moved off the bus.
  • nVidia is committed to the one-chip chipset solution for Athlon 64. They are firmly convinced that the one-chip eliminates the potential bottlenecks of a north-south bridge communications bus. Even with the memory controller on the CPU, there is only so much real estate practically available on a single-chip chipset.
  • There are new sound solutions in the works for nVidia. You may see them in a future chipset or on a sound card. Final decisions have not been made.
nVidia includes the hooks for AC '97 6-channel audio in nForce3-250, much like competing Athlon 64 chipsets. This also means premium audio can be provided with the right Codec.

The other area that was questioned was nVidia's competence to deliver a decent RAID solution, given the past problems with IDE performance on earlier MCP platforms. We will provide a few disk benchmarks in the Performance tests. However, from a user's point of view, the memory testbed uses the same model SATA 10,000 rpm drives in an Intel RAID array that are being used in the nForce3-250Gb Reference Board RAID. We have not been a fan of past nVidia Disk solutions and normally skipped their IDE drivers, but this time around, the performance has been extremely stable and far less finicky than the Intel setup we use for testing. Keep in mind that this is a Reference Board; we will feel much more comfortable in reaching a conclusion about IDE/RAID stability and performance after testing production motherboards. One other point is that nF3-250Gb was shipped with prototype version 4.04 nForce Platform drivers, which have not yet been released.

There were also emails with questions about software that is part of the nForce3-250 package. This is also related to the Platform Drivers 4.04 and the BIOS of shipping motherboards, but the Reference Board has a very useful System Utility that allows basic overclocking (but no CPU multiplier option). The nVidia System Utility has been available since last fall, but only works if the board manufacturer enables it in BIOS. Also included is a working nVidia DVD Player à la ATI, a very flexible nVRAID Manager, and the usual nVidia Mixer for audio. Version 4.04 Platform drivers for Win2K/XP include:
  • Audio driver version 4.09
  • Audio utility version 4.09
  • Win2K Ethernet driver version 4.16
  • Win2K Ethernet NRM driver version 4.16
  • Network management tools version 4.16
  • GART driver version 3.77 (WHQL) with updated uninstaller files
  • Memory controller driver version 3.38 (WHQL) with updated uninstaller files
  • SMBus driver version 4.04 (WHQL) with updated uninstaller files
  • Installer version 4.16
  • Win2K IDE 2.5 driver version 4.15
Other questions regarded Linux support on nForce3-250Gb. nVidia emphasizes full support for Linux in their literature for nF3-250. We were assured that nF3-250 features will have drivers available for Linux if they are needed, and that all features will work in Linux. Linux users should be reassured to know that Linux was a significant part of the nVidia presentation - not a thrown-in afterthought as we often see when it comes to Linux.

nForce3-250Gb: IDE and RAID Benchmarks


View All Comments

  • Odeen - Monday, March 29, 2004 - link

    "the best audio Intel offered (on-board) at the time was the crappy Realtek Codec"


    Intel offered a software audio solution. I.E. the chipset basically offloaded audio calculations to the CPU. Thus, the 3d audio rendering was crappy, true.

    However, Realtek is not the only manufacturer of codec chips, just the cheapest. Boards from Intel and Asus have very nice ADI Soundmax chips with pretty good audio output quality.

    On the other hand, Soundstorm offers high quality 3d audio rendering, but it is _ALWAYS_ paired with that SAME crappy Realtek ALC650 chip, which offers lousy analog output quality. I'd personally love to see Soundstorm coupled with a higher-end analog stage, such as a Sigmatel codec chip on an outboard card (ACR form factor, for instance).

    And RAID-5 will be in-chipset when chipsets become as powerful as CPU's and average consumers will be taught to buy three or more drives. That is, never - RAID-5 is not for benchmarkers, and anyone with a "Type R" sticker, it's slower than RAID-0, but is obviouly far more secure, and wastes less disk than RAID1. It's a specialized feature for people who realize its value and want to spend the money to implement it.. it'd raise the chipset price by quite a bit, and is thus better off to left to an add-on card.

    The other thing is, due to sensitive nature of RAID-5 (i.e. it's harder to implement than a software RAID-0 or RAID-1 that cheap PCI add-on cards and southbridges now offer) people who have the money to spend on RAID-5 will want a solution from people they trust, i.e. Adaptec or the likes.. They wouldn't accept trusting their precious data to a company that makes their son's gee-whiz video card :)
  • mkruer - Monday, March 29, 2004 - link

    I want to know when we are going to see RAID-5 in a chipset, for average consumers. Reply
  • Sahrin - Monday, March 29, 2004 - link

    <i>Customer surveys by nVidia found that most buyers did not use Sound Storm</i>

    I just can't believe that. I remember Soundstorm being a *huge* selling point for all kinds of people. When it came down to Intel v. AMD (especially when there were only "b" rev chips) Soundstorm was often the deciding factor; the best audio Intel offered (on-board) at the time was the crappy Realtek Codec. A lot of people made decisions to go with AXP-nForce 2 MCP-T boards over a comparable Intel package because of Soundstorm. (I know the Enthusiast market is still just a tiny sliver of sales, even for a chipset company like nVidia but I can't be convinced that this wasn't because Soundstorm is as good or better than products from Creative and/or M-Audio).
  • Cygni - Monday, March 29, 2004 - link

    ^^ btw, there are only 3 boards offered with the 755 on newegg... ECS 755 A1 and A2, and the ASrock k8s8x. Reply
  • Cygni - Monday, March 29, 2004 - link

    Looks better than the 150... but SiS is really kickin a$$. I wish the market would embrace the 755 more so we could see a better range of solutions based on it. Reply
  • wicktron - Monday, March 29, 2004 - link

    any clue as to when production boards will hit the market? Reply

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