Basic Features: NVIDIA nForce 590 SLI

This board is designed around NVIDIA's flagship nForce 590 SLI chipset with one purpose in mind: the ability to let your Core 2 Duo processor reach its maximum potential while still maintaining the low noise and power consumption benefits of this impressive processor series. An excellent overview of the Core architecture and a comparison to the current AMD architecture can be found in our Intel Core versus AMD K8 article.


At the top of the product offering, the nForce 590 SLI consists of two chips, the 590SLI SPP and the 590SLI MCP. This solution offers dual X16 PCI-E lanes for multiple graphics card configurations. While other features have changed, the overall design is very similar to the nForce4 Intel SLI X16. The total number of PCI-E lanes is now 48, with 18 lanes coming from the SPP. Of those 18, two go unused at present and the remaining 16 are for the secondary PEG slot. NVIDIA will have the only chipsets in the Intel processor range that fully support SLI technology.

NVIDIA nForce 500 Series MCPs for Intel
Chipset: NVIDIA nForce 590 SLI NVIDIA nForce 570 SLI
Segment: Enthusiast Performance SLI
CPU: Intel Socket 775:
Core 2 Extreme,
Core 2 Duo,
Pentium D 9XX,
Pentium D 8XX,
Pentium 4
Intel Socket 775:
Core 2 Extreme,
Core 2 Duo,
Pentium D 9XX,
Pentium D 8XX,
Pentium 4
Celeron D
NVIDIA SLI Technology: Yes - 2 x16 Yes - 1 x16, 2 x 8
FSB (MHz): 1066, 800, 533 MHz 1066, 800, 533 MHz
DDR2 Memory (MHz): 667 MHz + 667 MHz +
PCI-E - # Lanes 48 lanes 20 lanes
PCI-E - # Links 9 links 5 links
Configuration 16, 16, 8/4/2/1, 4/2/1, etc. 16/8, 8, 4/2/1, etc.
SATA/PATA drives 6, 2 4 , 4
SATA speed 3Gb/s 3Gb/s
RAID 0,1,0+1,5 0,1,0+1,5
NVIDIA MediaShield
Storage Technology
Yes Yes
Native Gigabit
Ethernet Connections
2 1
NVIDIA FirstPacket
Technology
Yes Yes
NVIDIA DualNet
Technology
Yes No
Teaming Yes No
TCP/IP Acceleration Yes No
NVIDIA nTune Utility Yes Yes
USB ports 10 8
PCI Slots 5 5
Audio HDA (Azalia) HDA (Azalia)

The star of the show is obviously the nForce 590 SLI chipset, although we expect to see exceptional price to performance ratios with the single chip nForce 570 SLI solution. Motherboards based on both chipsets should be available around the launch date of the Core 2 Duo. As we receive more information from the motherboard manufacturers we will pass it along in upcoming preview articles. There are a few points we'd like to highlight.

First, while the nForce 590 SLI doesn't list Celeron D support, at least unofficially it should work. Intel didn't officially want their 975X chipset to support 533FSB processors, but a few motherboard manufacturers disagreed on this point, and the end result is that 975X motherboards are able to run Celeron D chips. We expect a similar situation to exist with nForce 590 SLI. Not that we would recommend putting a budget processor in a high-end motherboard, but at least you can if you so desire.

The second point is on lane configurations. It's difficult to properly convey all of the options available with a simple features table, so here's a lengthier explanation. The combination of PCI Express lanes and slots can be tweaked according to individual manufacturer desires. In SLI mode, the 590 will always provide two X16 slots with X16 bandwidth and the 570 will provide two X16 slots with X8 bandwidth. Beyond that, many potential configurations exist. 590 SLI motherboards could offer two more X16 slots, but due to the lane configuration (30 lanes from the Northbridge and 18 from the Southbridge) the slots will be limited to a maximum of one X8 data connection and one X4 data connection. That would give motherboards a total of four X16 slots with varying bandwidth offered to each slot (2 X16, 1 X8, 1 X4). Considering the layout of expansion slots on ATX/BTX motherboards, this would be our ideal configuration, and the remaining expansion slots can be filled out with either X1/X2 PCI-E or regular PCI connectors.

There really does not seem to be much point in including X1 physical slots, particularly on enthusiast level hardware, and ATI at least has already recommended that motherboard manufacturers begin including more X16 physical connectors. We've focused on nForce 590 SLI options so far, but the situation is similar with nForce 570 SLI, only with a lower number of total available lanes and links. The ideal configuration for 570 SLI motherboards seems to be three X16 connections, two with X8 links and the third with an X4 link; another option would be to provide two X2 links. Naturally, it is important to provide spacing between the X16 slots so that dual slot GPUs can be used without blocking access to the other slots.

Click to enlarge

This is the basic overview of the individual features offered on the nForce 500 based Intel chipsets. The feature offerings basically mirror the AM2 release of the nForce 500 product family. Additional information about these features can be located in our nForce 500 series chipset article for AMD AM2 platforms.

Index NVIDIA nForce 590 SLI: Reference Board Layout
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  • rallyhard - Friday, June 30, 2006 - link

    I, too, would like to see some RAID benchmarks for the motherboards when they're reviewed. Maybe even just reviewing the performance of a particular HD/RAID controller once, when it is tested on the first motherboard that you come across with that controller, would suffice.
    (I don't know how much HD/RAID performance varies from mobo to mobo with the same controller)
    I certainly wouldn't have bought my Gigabyte 7n400 Pro2 socket A board if I had known the performance penalty of running RAID on the ITE 8212 chip as opposed to running a single drive on the nForce2 controller. The IDE raid functionality was the only reason I chose that board over the Abit NF7. The only way I found out that my horrible performance was truly and solely due to that 8212 chip is by doing a search on that chip and reading forums.
    Incredibly, some manufacturers are still using that same chip for their IDE.
    Anyway, I'm sure IDE performace is now a moot point for most, but yeah, RAID performance testing on future mobo (or controller) testing would, to me, be a useful addition to your excellent reviews.

    Keep up the good work!
    Reply
  • Crassus - Tuesday, June 27, 2006 - link

    Perhaps someone can enlighten me on this: How much of an real-world impact in contemporary games does SLI 8/8 lanes compared to 16/16 lanes have? I remember reading an article about this issue back in the days when PCI-E was introduced, but I haven't really heared anything about it since. So, did anyone do a test on this? Reply
  • DigitalFreak - Tuesday, June 27, 2006 - link

    I think X-Bit did a test not so long ago, and concluded there is still no advantage of 16x16 over 8x8. Reply
  • Avalon - Tuesday, June 27, 2006 - link

    Sheesh, this is a pre-production board. Reply
  • CrystalBay - Tuesday, June 27, 2006 - link

    Sheesh, look at the size NB fan. Reply
  • nullpointerus - Tuesday, June 27, 2006 - link

    Just below the big features table on the basic features page, there's a sentence which should read:

    "Intel didn't officially want their 975X chipset to support 533FSB processors, but [a few] motherboard manufacturers disagreed on this point[, and] the end result is that 975X motherboards are able to run Celeron D chips."

    At least I think that's how it's supposed to read.
    Reply
  • nullpointerus - Tuesday, June 27, 2006 - link

    Further down:

    "Considering the layout of expansion slots on ATX/BTX motherboards, [this] would be our ideal configuration, and the remaining expansion slots can be filled out with either X1/X2 PCI-E or regular PCI connectors."

    ...and also:

    "There really doesn't see[m to be] much point in including X1 physical slots, particularly on enthusiast level hardware, and ATI at least has already recommended that motherboard manufacturers begin including more X16 physical connectors."
    Reply
  • Gary Key - Tuesday, June 27, 2006 - link

    Jarred and I got our wires crossed during the edit process this morning, it was easy to do at 5:30am after being up for about 26 hours with this board and another "new" chipset preview that should be finished shortly. ;-> However, no excuse on my part for not noticing the missing/incorrect text. I have corrected our mistakes and sincerely hope the changes are acceptable. Thank you for the comments and taking time to write. :) Reply
  • PedroDaGr8 - Tuesday, June 27, 2006 - link

    I noticed on the compression/decompression page, page 7 I think. Both of the graphs are labeled File compresision - WinRAR 3.60b5 602MB Test Folder - Time In Minutes - Lower Is Better. Shouldn't one of them (the bottom one I guess) be labeled File Decompression, or atleast since you mention it first in the article shouldn't it be on top. That led to a quick bout of confusion for me, hey maybe it is just the painpills (I blew out my knee last week, tore my ACL and LCL (Lateral Colateral Ligament) with possible damage to my PCL and MCL as well. Nothing like playing cricket for the first time and injuring yourself. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, June 27, 2006 - link

    I added a word to the subtitle now. Basically, File Compression is the benchmark category, followed by the benchmark application. The subtitle is for extra information about the particular test. Hopefully that makes sense - I can't say my brain is entirely functional at this hour of the morning. :) Reply

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