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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  • PedroDaGr8 - Tuesday, June 27, 2006 - link

    Looks good to me now. Reply
  • DigitalFreak - Tuesday, June 27, 2006 - link

    Came across this article on The Inquirer - http://www.theinquirer.net/?article=32592">link, that states that the 590 SLI Intel chipset is still using the old C19 northbridge from the NF4 Intel boards, and not the C51XE. Unless I'm missing something, the CPU-Z mainboard shot on page 4 confirms this (C19MCP55). Reply
  • eastvillager - Tuesday, June 27, 2006 - link

    I'm not buying another motherboard with active cooling on the chipset, much less TWO active cooling systems(MCP and SPP). I'm sick of fans that die within a year, sound like banshees, and are a pain in the ass to replace. Reply
  • Frumious1 - Tuesday, June 27, 2006 - link

    NVIDIA's nf% NB runs pretty hot, and I'd rather have a small fan making sure it doesn't overheat. It's amazing what a moderate fan can do for temperatures. Passive cooling sounds great until you live in a house without AC that hits over 100 F in the summer. I've got a passively cooled mobo that I had to juryrig a fan only in order to keep it running in the summer. As for the SB, you can't have just a tiny heatsink ehen you're likely to have two big 7900 cards sitting above it.

    Now, give us the ASUS version with heatpipes and a nice fan on the final VRM radiator, and we'll be fine. This is a reference board, you know? As in, you can't even buy it and few manufacturers will use the exact cooling setup that NVIDIA chose here. My question is: if this is a reference board 1 month before Conroe, when will retail boards show up? Probably still before ATI AM2 boards, but hopefully before Conroe even ships.
    Reply
  • psychobriggsy - Tuesday, June 27, 2006 - link

    The nForce chipsets for the K8 use a lot more power than ATI's chipsets.

    How do they compare on the Intel platform, vs. ATI and Intel chipsets?
    Reply
  • Gary Key - Tuesday, June 27, 2006 - link

    quote:

    How do they compare on the Intel platform, vs. ATI and Intel chipsets?


    We will have power consumption numbers in our next article for Intel and NVIDIA. We need to receive the revised board before publishing the numbers. We do not have the ATI RD600 for Intel yet so those numbers will not be available for a few more weeks.
    Reply
  • phusg - Tuesday, June 27, 2006 - link

    Here here, I'd like to see this looked into too! Cheers, Pete Reply
  • Anemone - Tuesday, June 27, 2006 - link

    The Nvidia board does not have better memory performance than the 975x. All of the tests where the Nvidia board lost were memory related. And moreover, it is already known that the same memory controller from the NF4 is being used on the NF5. Run a couple of memory bandwidth tests and you'll see that the NF5 only has about 2/3-3/4 of the memory bandwidth of the 975x. What the NF5 does have is SLI and a very good disk subsystem. But the disk subsystem has its ups and downs as you started to see. Give that a more thorough workout and you'll see it's not all roses either.

    There are a handful of tests ongoing on the NF5 boards around the web and they aren't favorable vs the 975x. The overall conclusing about the NF4 was that you buy an Intel chipset for an Intel chip if you wanted the most stable environment. Maybe, and only maybe, they manage to dress this horse up to run a bit, but after the disk corruption issues of the NF4, the memory stability issues while overclocking on the Intel version, and the heavy possibility that all those things are still around for us in this new version, I'm doubtful a lot of folks are going to spend a few hundred dollars to find out things we already knew about the NF4.

    And if Nvidia wants to continue to fool itself and its shareholders that they "can't run SLI on Intel" and cut off that sales avenue, well that's going to make ATI very well off indeed over the next year. Because the reviews of the 975x are fantastic, and Conroe flies, and sooner or later a lot of folks are going to say what kind of dual DX10 gpu can I put in this board and if it's not possible to be Nvidia, that will leave one answer come Vista time when everyone thinks about graphics horsepower.

    Don't think the NF5 is going to be the runner some hoped it would be. And I don't think after a few more weeks quite a few folks are going to "take a chance" after the fiasco that was the NF4, and try the NF5.
    Reply
  • Frumious1 - Tuesday, June 27, 2006 - link

    Tried? What do you mean "nice try"!? Seems to me you're basing all of your criticisms off of past experience on nF4. The AT crew reported that drive corruption issues were never experienced in their nF5 testing. (Personally, I've never seen it anyway, but I guess I just don't do as much weird stuff as some people. I'm quite happy without the NVIDIA firewall and RAID.)

    Anyway, this is a preview of a chipset that supports - actually, truly SUPPORTS! - Core 2 Duo. No guessing this time. Yay! It also supports SLI, and while 975X support CF, don't even get me started about the BS driver wars between ATI and NVIDIA. The reason ATI supports CF on 975X is because they don't have a freaking Intel chipset that works worth shit! Hmm... those ATI AM2 chipsets sound nice in theory, but they're still not on the market. If ATI were smart, they's support the superior NVIDIA chipsets with CrossFire - not superior in temperatures, perhaps, but at least the damn things are available!

    Anyway, I don't know what "fiasco" you're talking about with nF4. If by "fiasco" you mean "clearly the best AMD 939 chipset on the market, with stellar sales, great performance, and nice features - with a few odd exceptions experienced by people that probably wanted to use extreme overclocks, run RAID 0, run the Firewall, and do all this with a questionable power supply" then I suppose it was a fiasco. For 99.9% of the market, nF4 worked and continues to work great. Nforce3 was perhaps a "fiasco", as was GeForce 5xxx; nForce4 has a few minor flaws that fucking nitpicks can't get over.

    Meanwhile, let's not even talk about the bullshit 915/925 to 945/955 to 975 upgrade path that Intel chipsets have taken. You want a real fiasco? Let's talk about the fact that some 975X motherboards won't support Conroe. Let's talk about the lack of shipping 965 motherboards. Let's talk about the forced upgrades to "dual core capable" chipsets that appear to be as marketing driven as NetBurst. Or let's talk about ATI's complete lack of compelling Intel chipsets, their frequently delayed AMD chipsets, and their lame-duck DVI dongle cable for CrossFire.

    Personally, I found this to be a nice article looking at an interesting CPU. How AnandTech managed to get a 3940 MHz overclock out of the 305, I'd like to know. Mine craps out at about 3.6 GHz. Still damn nice for a CPU that can be purchased with a motherboard for about $125 (Frye's sale). I just wish there were some OC performance results posted, and perhaps COD2 numbers. (COD2 with the "SLI Optimization" enabled, as that's really what enables SMP support. Stupid Activision/Grey Matter - and the damn setting isn't even saved between game runs. You have to manually reenable every time!)

    Anyway, pay no heed to this whiner, AnadnTech - I thought this was a cool article.
    Reply
  • Anemone - Tuesday, June 27, 2006 - link

    Ok if you read the comment below you'll note they used the NF4 memory controller. Since that was subject to a lot of problems on the NF4 for Intel (not the AMD version) it's a more than decent bet there are still going to be issues. You want to run at stock then by all means the NF5 should be fine. I don't know too many folks running SLI who insist on running at stock however, so I'll take a decent bet that many purchasers of the NF5 are not running stock.

    Article 1: http://www.neoseeker.com/Articles/Hardware/Preview...">http://www.neoseeker.com/Articles/Hardware/Preview...
    "corrupted the registry twice while fiddling with the FSB"

    Hmm, I've managed to corrupt the registry once on an Intel board and that was an old one from years ago. I'm thinking an experienced tester stumbling on that twice might be pushing the envelope or might have a crummy board. Read the conclusions for more fun.

    Article 2: http://www.hothardware.com/viewarticle.aspx?articl...">http://www.hothardware.com/viewarticle.aspx?articl...
    This is a newer article seemingly after the board has had a chance to get a bit more up to speed. Read the conclusing and you'll find they think you probably want to let the board mature a bit.

    Article 3: http://www.bit-tech.net/hardware/2005/07/29/p4n_ga...">http://www.bit-tech.net/hardware/2005/07/29/p4n_ga...
    "Unfortunately we found the NVIDIA chipset didn’t enjoy overclocking as much as we’d have hoped"

    Article 4: http://www.hardocp.com/article.html?art=MTAyOSw3LC...">http://www.hardocp.com/article.html?art=MTAyOSw3LC...
    "yet to see a real reason to purchase an Intel processor based motherboard without an Intel chipset at the heart of the machine"

    Perhaps there might be an issue or two with the Intel variety of the NF4 and then realize that the very same memory controller, which is at the heart of most of the issues with the NF4, is also on the NF5.

    Go to Xtremesystems forums or the H forums if you like and read up. Many folks have had issues, much like the reviewers. Why those and then Anand gets a wonderful review? I've no idea. But another tester of an early board never got above 227mhz fsb. So it's pretty certain the same issues that plagued the NF4 are here in a new wrapper to plague us again.
    Reply

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