Four years ago, NVIDIA previewed their first ever desktop chipset - the nForce 420 - at Computex.  The anticipation of NVIDIA's entry into the Athlon chipset market at the time was astounding. While they didn't get it right the first time around, by the end of nForce2's reign, VIA had relinquished the throne as the most desirable supplier of AMD chipsets.  Late last year, when NVIDIA announced that they had finally signed a cross licensing agreement with Intel, we knew it meant that NVIDIA's chipsets would soon be coming to the Intel platform, but honestly, we didn't really care.  We hadn't recommended an Intel CPU since the introduction of Prescott and this time around, NVIDIA's biggest competition wasn't VIA, it was Intel - and it's rare that you beat Intel in making chipsets for their own processors.

Honestly, Intel processors and even the platform haven't been interesting since the introduction of Prescott.  They have been too hot and poor performers, not to mention that the latest Intel platforms forced a transition to technologies that basically offered no performance benefits (DDR2, PCI Express).  A bit of that changed when Intel brought forth their dual core plans - assuming that they can actually guarantee availability, Intel is planning to ship more desktop dual core processors, at lower prices, than AMD this year.  As we mentioned in our preview of Intel's dual core Pentium D, the cheapest dual core processors will weigh in at $241 for the 2.8GHz models.  While for the same price you can get a much faster single core AMD CPU, the word "faster" applies selectively depending on what sort of usage models that you're looking at - whether it's heavy multitasking, or mostly running single applications.  We've already had that discussion, and the decision is still in your hands, but needless to say, Intel's processors have all of the sudden become much more interesting given the proposed price point for their entry-level dual core CPUs.  Now all of the sudden, there's some purpose to actually looking at the latest chipsets for the Intel platform. 

We have yet to recommend any of Intel's single core Prescott CPUs, and if you are looking for a single core Pentium 4, then you should already have a good idea of what chipsets there are out there.  But for dual core, the platform support is much more limited.  None of Intel's previous chipsets will support dual core, only their most recently announced 955X and 945 chipsets offer dual core support.  On the NVIDIA side, their nForce4 SLI Intel Edition chipset does support dual core, but NVIDIA stipulates that the motherboard manufacturers must implement that support properly on the design side.  As long as the motherboard manufacturer states that their nForce4 board supports Intel's dual core, you should be sitting pretty.  Chipsets from all manufacturers, including ATI, SiS and VIA will undoubtedly offer dual core support, but the fact of the matter is that their release is further down the line. What we're looking at today are the two heavyweights that are supposed to be available in the channel by the end of this month.

The Delicate Competition

The NVIDIA/Intel relationship is a very interesting one; as with any of these types of relationships, it is not one borne out of love, but rather necessity. At the end of the day, Intel would still be happier if there was no threat from companies like NVIDIA.  Because of this fine line between a partnership and a competitor, NVIDIA has to play their role very carefully - they don't want to be viewed as more of a competitor than a partner in the eyes of Intel.  By selling a chipset that is significantly more expensive than Intel's most expensive 955X, NVIDIA secures their position as a valuable partner, and not a competitor. 

You've already heard that NVIDIA's nForce4 SLI Intel Edition chipset costs about $80, but what about Intel's 955X and 945?  For once, Intel is actually the cheaper alternative - their 955X costs motherboard manufacturers $50 ($53 with ICH7R), while the 945P costs a mere $38.  For motherboard prices, this means that you can expect at least a $30 price premium for a nForce4 SLI Intel Edition board compared to a 955X board; compared to a 945P, you can expect closer to a $40 price premium.  It's not tremendous, but given that motherboards tend to hover in the low $100s, even a $30 difference is significant. 

At this point, NVIDIA hasn't announced any plans to bring a non-SLI version of the nForce4 to the Intel platform, and the vast majority of motherboard manufacturers are waiting for just that.  A lower cost nForce4 chipset would obviously translate into more sales for the motherboard manufacturers. However, it could very well be that NVIDIA doesn't want to try and take on Intel in the same price bracket.  At the same time, NVIDIA is a very successful company, so it remains to be seen how far over the line they will tread in the name of expanding their sales.

Intel’s 955X Chipset


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  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Thursday, April 14, 2005 - link

    whoa whoa, I'm no deity here, just a normal guy like everyone else - I can make mistakes and I encourage everyone to never blindly follow something I, or anyone else, says. That being said, Questar I've got a few things that you may be interested in reading:


    That graph shows exactly how hot Prescott gets, in fact, until the release of the latter 5xxJ series and 6xx series with EIST, Prescott systems were considerably louder than Athlon 64 systems. "Too hot" may be an opinion, but it's one echoed by the vast majority of readers as well as folks in the industry - who, in turn, are the ones purchasing/recommending the CPUs so their opinion matters quite a bit.

    2) NVIDIA changed the spelling of their name from nVidia to NVIDIA a few years ago, have a look at NVIDIA's home page for confirmation -

    3) I can't go into specifics as to how the Intel/NVIDIA agreement came into play, but know that Intel doesn't just strike up broad cross licensing agreements to companies like NVIDIA so they can make money on NVIDIA's chipsets. The Intel/NVIDIA relationship is far from just a "you can make chipsets for our CPUs" relationship, it is a cross licensing agreement where Intel gets access to big hunks of NVIDIA's patent portfolio and NVIDIA gets access to Intel's. That sort of a play is not made just to increase revenues, I can't go into much further detail but I suggest reading up on patent law and how it is employed by Intel.

    4) Also remember that Intel not manufacturing silicon isn't necessarily a cost saver for them; a modern day fab costs around $2.5B, and you make that money back by keeping the fab running at as close to capacity as possible.

    I think that's it, let me know if I missed something. I apologize for not replying earlier, I've been extremely strapped for time given next week's impending launch.


    I haven't played around with all of the multitasking tests, but I'd say that the lighter ones (I/O wise) have around 8 - 10 outstanding IOs. I believe NVIDIA disables NCQ at queue depths below 32, but I don't think Intel does (which is why Intel shows a slight performance advantage in the first set of tests).

    Interestingly enough, in the first gaming multitasking scenario, Intel actually ends up being faster than NVIDIA by a couple of percent - I'm guessing because NVIDIA is running with NCQ disabled there.

    Take care,
  • Questar - Thursday, April 14, 2005 - link

    "I can only hope that you are not working for an IT company."

    Missed that.

    I do not work for an IT company, but I do work in the IT industry.

    In 2005 I will purchase 11,500 desktop/notebook systems, and 900-975 servers.
  • Questar - Thursday, April 14, 2005 - link

    "It's pretty clear - Intel's last few products have been worthless in many cases."

    Once again you show your onw ignorance. Worthless means having no value. If the products were worthless then Intel wouldn't have such a large share of the market.

    You will someday learn about business grasshopper :).

    Time for me to go home for the night boys, have a good night!
  • overclockingoodness - Thursday, April 14, 2005 - link

    #31: I agree with you 100 percent.. Reply
  • overclockingoodness - Thursday, April 14, 2005 - link

    #29 segagenesis: He isn't going to believe the popular sites because he thinks they are bought out and their editors have no knowledge of the industry. And if you find a smaller site, he still won't believe you because smaller sites know nothing either.

    Questar: Do you think you are the only with industry knowledge? I can only hope that you are not working for an IT company.
  • segagenesis - Thursday, April 14, 2005 - link

    #28 - Just to keep things balanced here, Intel has a large portion of the OEM market because it can produce products in volume compared to AMD and most people dont really care whats "Intel Inside" thier computer. Just beacuse AMD may have a technologically superior processor doesnt mean its going to do wonders overnight when you just have to cite Betamax vs. VHS. On the other hand, Intel has the Pentium-M which is a good piece of hardware yet is limiting its market penetration with high prices/low production. Reply
  • overclockingoodness - Thursday, April 14, 2005 - link

    #26 QUESTAR: I see you can't handle the proof, eh. After you couldn't come up with a counter-argument you decided to bash Toms. Sure, Toms may not be as in-depth as Anand and they could be biased, but they aren't that blatant about it.

    At least Toms is better than you.

    Like I said, why don't you just get lost?
  • segagenesis - Thursday, April 14, 2005 - link

    #26 - What I cant provide links outside this site because they dont count? Oh wait this site doesnt "count" either does it?

    Regarding the infamous AMD video that was a long time ago, not to mention Tom's doing such a video actually made something HAPPEN in the industry. AMD responded and added thermal protection in the newer CPUs. The P4 heat problem is *now*!
  • overclockingoodness - Thursday, April 14, 2005 - link

    #25 QUESTAR: "Let me explain it to you:
    Intel get's a cut of the money from every chipset nVidia sells. What part of that don't you get?"

    Is it better for Intel to get a cut out of NVIDIA's profits or hog the entire market with their own chipsets and take all the profits to themselves? What I don't get is how stupid you are.

    "Ummm...yeah right, go right on thinking that."

    Yet again, we have a mornoic statement from our AnandTech's very own dumbass. Maybe Anand should hire you to post stupid comments throughout the site to generate more discussions. Then again, even he will get tired seeing your stupid comments.

    Intel surely doesn't have a chance against AMD with their Prescott CPUs. The only reason Intel is still the number one chipmaker is because it has signed exclusive contracts with Dell and Sony and there are quite a few people out there who could care less if they have an Intel or AMD CPUs.

    Once again, it's your own ignorance that's blocking your thinking passages. Neither AMD nor Intel are strong enough take each other out of the business, but AMD CPUs do perform better in many scenarios against Intel CPUs. This include both desktop as well as server level CPUs. If you remember the article on AnandTech, Opteron kicked Intel's ass. And with the new Opterons coming soon, you will get a confirmation yourself.

    It's pretty clear - Intel's last few products have been worthless in many cases.
  • segagenesis - Thursday, April 14, 2005 - link

    #24 - I dont mind because I deal with people like him every day. I have used AMD myself for the past 5 years but I will admit that Intel has the performance crown lately when it comes to content encoding... however at a price. I have also preferred AMD due to pricing and gaming performance where it continues to do fairly well at.

    Working in labs maintaing them as is desktops (I am responsible for about 500+ computers) I have noticed that with newer P4's the heat output is actually noticeable. As I said a whole room full of them really raise the themperature, and thats just sitting there idle. A friend of mine has a 3.8ghz P4 and that thing is at its thermal limit with a X850 XT PE in the same case. Ouch!

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