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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  • SMT - Tuesday, October 19, 2004 - link

    GG putting DOOM3 on the DX9 page. Reply
  • R3MF - Tuesday, October 19, 2004 - link

    lol, i have an NF7-S too.

    somehow, despite all the good things about the NF3 250GB chipset i just wasn't compelled to go and buy an A64 rig, it may have had something to do with an adverse fear of Creative Scabs cards.
  • Araemo - Tuesday, October 19, 2004 - link

    #35, you may be right about their driver writers..

    but they still write better drivers than any other consumer-level audio I've used in quite some time. (Ensoniq had decent drivers in the day, but guess who bought them?)

    Now isn't THAT a scary thought?

    Granted, I'm currently using soundstorm on my NF7-S, but I dislike the limited hardware 3d channels. I've had usefull sounds in games(like the gun that is shooting at me) be silent, while I hear other sounds like my footsteps, and the other 30 guns around me..
  • Araemo - Tuesday, October 19, 2004 - link

    "So any chipset that supports pci-e should handle sli just fine, as long as the mobo maker puts two physical 16x slot connectors, regardless of their actual bandwidth."

    a 1x lane w/ a 16x connector would not be enough bandwidth for the second card.

    Yes, 4x is enough for most current games, just like noone currently needs AGP8x.

    However, having one video card on a 16x lane and one on a 4x lane is a very screwy setup. What if that second video card temporarily needs the lions share of the bandwidth? Using two 8x lanes w/ 16x connectors seems like a much better way to me, if only because it balances the load between the cards better.
  • Speedo - Tuesday, October 19, 2004 - link

    Here's another one, dissapointed about no updated audio sollution. Going from an nForce2 sollution, slapping in an old SB Live card or something doesn't sound that exciting... Reply
  • knitecrow - Tuesday, October 19, 2004 - link

    I am not sure how NVIDIA came to the conclusion that audio was not a factor in buying decision. But it is the stupidest thing i have heard.

    If my memory serves, didn't NVIDIA originally say somewhere that they didn't see a need for audio based on the hardware reviews?

    Anyway, the conclusion is all wrong. For those of us building media PC to hook up to an audio receiver, the original soundstorm on nforce2 was a great option.

    For gamers who did not want to pay $100 for creative cards, sound storm provided a better solution than your typical mobo audio that didn’t have any DSP.

    Many hardware enthusiasts love soundstorm. Anandtech is a hardware enthusiast site. I think it has a role to play in advocating consumer needs. Everyone made such a fuss over AGP/PCI bus locks (a feature that only interests overclockers, a minority) that NVIDIA and VIA had to put locks in.

    I have to agree with #34
    It does seem a bit draconian to make no mention of it at all. The criticism should be leveled against manufactures when required.

    To say the issue has been dealt with or that it is old news, is simply being lazy.

    The lack of soundstorm is a big problem. Its real, its relevant and it effects readers of Anandtech.

  • R3MF - Tuesday, October 19, 2004 - link

    and nor has any other preview made mention! what parts of the NDA have not expired, and when will they expire are questions i'd like the answer too.

    either nVidia has an ace up its sleeve, or it has nothing and structured the NDA in such a way that the initial wave of publicity across the web focused on the NF4's good points, and did not dwell on the lack of SS2.

    i could forgive nVidia the lack of SS2, but not limiting audio to AC97. i loath Creative Labs gear with a passion, if only cos there drivers appear to be written by a bunch of howling monkeys jumping up and down in a skip full of broken keyboards, i do not want to be forced to buy one!
  • R3MF - Tuesday, October 19, 2004 - link

    but why did your preview make [b]NO[/b] mention of audio at all? to the point whereby it seems you are being arm-twisted to avoid the subject entirely? Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Tuesday, October 19, 2004 - link

    Audio Comments -
    nVidia has not had SoundStorm on any nForce3 chipset. This means that for the past year+ SoundStorm has been "missing" on any nVidia chipset for Athlon 64.

    We raised this issue for nForce3-150, then for nForce3-250 at By now the change in nVidia audio on A64 is only news to those who are still using an nF2 motherboard.

    nVidia has hinted that an updated audio solution is possibly in the works, which may come to market as a standalone card. But don't hold your breath. The data we have seen showed SoundStorm had little impact on the buying decision, which is one of the reasons nVidia dropped it for Athlon 64.
  • R3MF - Tuesday, October 19, 2004 - link

    i swear the anand data-sheet on the CK8 chipset indicated that the sound would be some variety of high-definition audio, but on checking the link now (via nforcershq) the audio is only listed as just that, audio? Reply

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