In round 2 of the chipset wars, nVidia performed a massive transformation of the nForce3 chipset, moving from the pedestrian nForce3-150 to the leading-edge nForce3-250 family in April. As good as nForce3-250 is, however, users knew that more was on the way from VIA, SiS, and nVidia themselves. The CK8 chipset was first displayed at Computex in June. With the successful launch of the nForce3-250 family, it was clear that nVidia had every intention of upping the ante in the Athlon 64 market with both PCI Express and Dual Video cards on the single-chip CK8.

In the four months since we first saw CK8, a lot has happened in the computer industry. Intel launched their new Socket 775 processor and 925X/915 chipset and received a less than enthusiastic reception from enthusiasts. The yawns from the computer community have translated into very poor retail sales for the new Intel platform. Promised performance updates to the new Intel architecture, which were supposed to drive sales of the new 775 platform, have been scaled back, with rumors that mainstream 1066 parts now are not expected until the middle of 2005.

AMD has continued their performance push, with the introduction of the dual-channel 939 on June 1, and today, AMD extends their CPU line at the top with the FX55 and 4000+ processors. Meanwhile, Intel's top 3.6Ghz CPU is finally appearing in the retail channel more than 3 months after introduction. While Intel pioneered the move to 90nm, the transition to 90nm has been anything but smooth for Intel, with concerns about heat and the difficulty of moving the 90nm process to the top performance end of the Intel line. AMD has just introduced their first 90nm Athlon 64, which generally appears to avoid the problems that Intel encountered. However, we will not really know whether or not the shrink is a complete success for AMD until we see the top Athlon 64 processors in 90nm.

All of these developments have quickly changed the landscape of the computer market. In the retail market, AMD has moved from a small percentage of the total retail market to even with Intel in the last couple of months. Computer users who scoffed at the idea of buying an Athlon 64 computer a few months ago are now shopping for Athlon 64 computers. Also VIA, which had problems with the PCI/AGP lock in the initial launch of the K8T800 PRO, has fixed these issues with shipping chipsets. VIA also demonstrated a working K8T890 chipset a few weeks ago that features PCI Express and the promise of Dual Video cards in a future K8T890 Pro chipset. Thus far, there are no retail boards based on the K8T890 that have appeared in the market, but VIA promises that they will be here "soon".

All of these developments have changed the landscape for nVidia. In other words, the stakes for CK8 have changed since June. A winner with CK8 would change nVidia from an AMD chipset maker to one of the major players in the chipset market. nVidia seems keenly aware of what is involved and they have pulled out a whole slew of features to win you over if you're looking for an Athlon 64 motherboard.

The nForce4 Family


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  • geogecko - Tuesday, October 19, 2004 - link


    Hmm...that search result at pulls up 12595 results. Far to many for me to look through...

    Did you copy the link correctly?

    Thanks for the information. If the link won't work, an official part number from newegg (or vendor part number) will work for me.

  • thebluesgnr - Tuesday, October 19, 2004 - link

    I'm a little disapointed that the original article didn't say anything about sound, and that it still doesn't in the "Final words..." page. No, I don't meand SoundStorm.

    From AT's previous article on CK8-04: "Vanilla flavored CK8-04 is very much the same as nForce3 250Gb, with the addition of 7.1 high definition audio and PCI Express".

    So, they dropped the high def audio?
    If that's the case both Intel and VIA (if the information on the VT8251 is confirmed) are ahead in this area, which is, for many, much more important than some silly hardware firewall.

    In closing, I'm disapointed at AnandTech for:

    1) being excessively positive about nForce4 (no mention of lack of high def audio, no mention of any disadvantages of SLI, like higher price of the motherboard and power consumption of two cards, or lack of PCI-E x1 in that MSI mobo);

    2) completely ignoring the release of VIA K8T890 and KT880 chipsets.

    The KT880 has been out for months, there are motherboards in retail (the K7V88 in particular seems to be doing very well, given the number of user reviews and their ratings on newegg).
    Also, you reviewed the [b]nVidia[/b] nForce2 Ultra 400Gb chipset, so "socket A is dead" is not really an answer I'd understand.

  • haris - Tuesday, October 19, 2004 - link

    What's the big deal about SLI? The average increase in performance will probably be around 50-60%. That's nothing to be ashamed about, but at what cost do you get it? Two 6600's still cost almost as much as one high end card, so there is little/no cost savings. What about the power requirements and noise level. That machine has got to be a freaking monster to work/play on. Reply
  • KristopherKubicki - Tuesday, October 19, 2004 - link


  • mrdudesir - Tuesday, October 19, 2004 - link

    First off, each slot is an x16 slot physically but only 8x of actual bandwith. However that still means that each slot has 4GB/s of bandwith, way more than any modern cards used. There will not be any performance hit, simply because the slots have plenty of excess bandwith.
  • geogecko - Tuesday, October 19, 2004 - link

    Can I get an exact part number of the Corsair 3200XL memory you are talking about on the test platform? I've been looking for it, but I've not seeing this 3208v1.1 number anywere...

    Thanks. By the way, which memory is better, the OCZ or the Corsair?
  • knitecrow - Tuesday, October 19, 2004 - link

    All you guys about doom3 don't need hardware, should read:

    Basically creative said it invented a particular 3d positioning method, Id was forced to license and support EAX HD.

    #62, Not unlike a CPU, a GPU is programmable to a certain degree. I am sure you can make it do almost anything.... but a dedicated solution will always be more efficient.

    #63 -- "A card based around the VIA Envy 24HT is all anyone needs."


    Envy24 cards do jack for 3d positional audio. If you compare a software based vs hardware based solution, the hardware based stuff (soundstorm, creative noiseblaster stuff) always win out. They are more accurate in their positioning and reproduction.
  • quanta - Tuesday, October 19, 2004 - link

    Actually, id licensed EAX HD for use with Doom 3. Even without EAX HD support, Doom 3 will just send the audio streams to DirectSound 3D engine for mixing purposes, which will take advantage of 3d audio accelerations if any. Reply
  • PrinceGaz - Tuesday, October 19, 2004 - link

    Doom 3 doesn't use hardware accelerated sound, so SoundStorm has no benefit. If you are having problems with the sound, you might want to adjust hardware acceleration or something.

    Sound only takes a tiny amount of CPU power when you've got a processor like a 3800+ so it doesn't really matter whether or not its hardware accelerated. Its even less important when you consider that games are increasingly GPU bound, and that theres plenty of CPU power spare for processing sound. A card based around the VIA Envy 24HT is all anyone needs.
  • quanta - Tuesday, October 19, 2004 - link

    #54/57, the decision to dump dedicated SoundStorm hardware actually made a lot of sense, because NVIDIA already has a powerful VPU that can be used as an APU if the company wanted. In fact, NVIDIA can just license AVEX[1], which currently only works on NVIDIA processors, and if NVIDIA play the cards right, it can just bought the BionicFX company now/soon and keep an edge over the competitions all to itself.

    As for the SLI, I think it will be too confusing for end users, and the dual slot design will likely be short-lived. Think about it, there are only 20 PCIE lanes on nForce 4, and each video card uses 16, so at least one card only runs a fraction of the speed, crippling performance. It may be technically correct that current apps don't need all 32 lanes, but it will be tech support nightmare for video card manufacturers from users who expected full blown performance. It will be much easier to just build a 16/20/32/etc-lane PCIE video card with two VPUs in it. That way users don't have to worry about the upgrade restrictions and performance issues, and easier for video card makers to sell dual VPU products. Sure, you lose the upgradability, but without tech support problems, card makers don't have to worry about people buying fewer cards because they want to wait for cheaper, more user friendly SLI solutions.


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