NVIDIA has certainly had its share of success in the AMD world and started making inroads in the Intel market space late last year with their first nForce4 for Intel chipsets. A few months ago NVIDIA updated their Intel platform with a revised stepping of their nForce4 Intel chipset along with a slightly different marketing strategy by going after the hearts and wallets of potential Intel customers with mainstream products. The nForce4 Intel SLI XE and Ultra chipsets were very good performers at excellent prices and found their way into several manufacturers' boards this last quarter. However, the continued reliance upon the NetBurst architecture and Intel's entrenchment in the corporate market has resulted in a situation where the nForce4 Intel product is constantly on the outside looking in for market acceptance in both the performance and business sectors.

We believe this situation will change shortly as NVIDIA and its partners are in the process of readying nForce 590 SLI and nForce 570 SLI Intel based motherboards for the upcoming Core 2 Duo product launch. Several of the existing nForce4 Intel SLI XE and Ultra motherboards will also be upgraded for Core 2 Duo compatibility resulting in a product lineup that will stretch from the mainstream market where the Intel 945/965 chipsets compete to the very upper end market where Intel positions the 975X product. Based upon our very preliminary testing, it appears that NVIDIA is positioning itself well for both the enthusiast and general user markets once Intel releases the Core 2 Duo CPUs along with substantial price reductions on the current NetBurst processors.



We spent an enormous amount of time at Computex looking for NVIDIA based motherboards that fully supported the Intel Core 2 Duo products. While the manufacturers discussed their plans openly about NVIDIA based products in their Intel lineups, we did not see any nForce 500 based products other than reference boards supplied by NVIDIA. This was in stark contrast to the multitude of Intel/VIA/SIS production ready boards with full Core 2 Duo compatibility that every manufacturer was showing. This situation intrigued us and upon contacting NVIDIA we discovered they were getting ready to ship out nForce 590 SLI reference boards for preliminary testing. Obviously we jumped at the chance to have a board delivered to us as the thought of running SLI with our Core 2 Duo processors was too good to pass up, not too mention we wanted to see how well a non-Intel chipset could perform with these CPUs.

In a matter of hours after our return from Computex we received our reference NVIDIA nForce 590 SLI Intel Edition board. We quickly started our benchmark test routine with our Smithfield and Pressler CPUs. We were excited to find that the performance of the board was already up to par with several of the mature Intel chipset boards. While our board is a very early sample and we have already received three different BIOS releases in the last ten days, we can honestly say that so far we are impressed with this chipset and its performance at such an early stage in development. In fact, we will be receiving a revised board shortly that fully supports all current socket 775 processors along with being overclocking friendly. Not that this board did not overclock well; it is just that NVIDIA is still performance fine tuning the BIOS for overclocking along with creating a suggested hardware component list for the board manufacturers. As with the nForce 500 AM2 rollout, we are sure to see a vast majority of motherboard suppliers following the reference board and BIOS design.

After our Core 2 Duo processors arrived we immediately stopped all activities in the lab, grabbed a night's worth of food, locked the doors, fired up the system, and were treated to some truly excellent results. However, we are under NDA restrictions until the official Intel launch so our only comments will be that the nForce 590 SLI Intel Edition chipset fully supports the entire Core 2 Duo processor lineup at this time. Our testing today begins with our little retail chip that could, the Pentium D 805. This will soon become a $93 or less wonder CPU in July. We will follow up today's test results by providing additional benchmark scores with the Pentium D 950 and 955XE processors in the very near future. This leads us to the focal point of today's discussion, the NVIDIA nForce 590 SLI for Intel chipset, so let's take a closer look at its features and a brief performance overview.

Basic Features: NVIDIA nForce 590 SLI
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  • Frumious1 - Wednesday, June 28, 2006 - link

    The problem is determining whether theres really a problem or the reviewers just need to learn how to use the motherboard and BIOS options properly. Wes, Gary, and most of the rest of the AnandTech crew seem to know how to really get results out of motherboards. I saw an article a few days ago that was an absolute joke when it comes to OCing. They took a 4200+ and were crowing about a 240 MHz HTT bus overclock or something. I don't think they ever even tried the other memory ratios.

    Anyway, registry corruption? Yeah, I've lost the registry a few times on Intel and AMD systems when pushing the OC a bit too far in the wrong way. Bad memory timings for an OC can be just as harmful as a bad CPU or chipset OC - probably even worse. OC'ing is not really that easy if you don't know what you're doing. Too many people want to just increase everything 25% and then tehy wonder why the system won't POST.

    Someone on AT did some OCing articles last year about the topic that really provided some good details, showing 2.6 GHz or so with an X2 3800+ using everything from POS value RAM up through top quality TCCD and CH5 modules. Probably took a hell of a long time to complete all the testing as well! If you want to do a motherboard review right and you want to look at overclocking, you simply can't do that without spending a good month or more with the board. Sometimes a seemingly small change will stabilize what appeared to be a hopeless OC.

    Bottom line: if you want SLI (and honestly, for dual GPUs it's far better than CrossFire right now - maybe not in performance, but the ATI CF drivers are still crap!) for Conroe, you'll need an nVidia chipset. Unless they suddenly get with the program and start supporting SLI on any dual X16 slot board? God, wouldn't that be nice? Stupid political bullshit... from nVidia and ATI!
    Reply
  • Frumious1 - Wednesday, June 28, 2006 - link

    Dammit... I did it again and used an H in brackets... which turns on white text for reasons unknown. Repost so people can read the text without highlighing:
    --------------
    The problem is determining whether theres really a problem or the reviewers just need to learn how to use the motherboard and BIOS options properly. Wes, Gary, and most of the rest of the AnandTech crew seem to know how to really get results out of motherboards. I saw a HardOCP article a few days ago that was an absolute joke when it comes to OCing. They took a 4200+ and were crowing about a 240 MHz HTT bus overclock or something. I don't think they ever even tried the other memory ratios.

    Anyway, registry corruption? Yeah, I've lost the registry a few times on Intel and AMD systems when pushing the OC a bit too far in the wrong way. Bad memory timings for an OC can be just as harmful as a bad CPU or chipset OC - probably even worse. OC'ing is not really that easy if you don't know what you're doing. Too many people want to just increase everything 25% and then tehy wonder why the system won't POST.

    Someone on AT did some OCing articles last year about the topic that really provided some good details, showing 2.6 GHz or so with an X2 3800+ using everything from POS value RAM up through top quality TCCD and CH5 modules. Probably took a hell of a long time to complete all the testing as well! If you want to do a motherboard review right and you want to look at overclocking, you simply can't do that without spending a good month or more with the board. Sometimes a seemingly small change will stabilize what appeared to be a hopeless OC.

    Bottom line: if you want SLI (and honestly, for dual GPUs it's far better than CrossFire right now - maybe not in performance, but the ATI CF drivers are still crap!) for Conroe, you'll need an nVidia chipset. Unless they suddenly get with the program and start supporting SLI on any dual X16 slot board? God, wouldn't that be nice? Stupid political bullshit... from nVidia and ATI! Reply
  • Anemone - Wednesday, June 28, 2006 - link

    You certainly make good points. However one review of "good" and many, many of "bad" doesn't lead me to think the "good" just knew what they were doing. In fact it's quite the opposite. It leads me to think they didn't dig deep enough. Reply
  • Gary Key - Friday, June 30, 2006 - link

    quote:

    You certainly make good points. However one review of "good" and many, many of "bad" doesn't lead me to think the "good" just knew what they were doing. In fact it's quite the opposite. It leads me to think they didn't dig deep enough.


    I will take a different path on this one. We were allowed a first look at the board with Conroe back in early May, in fact if we could have stayed an extra day we would have had significant hands-on time with the setup. We were also one of the first sites to receive a board from NVIDIA for the specific purpose of testing the board to provide specific feedback regarding Conroe compatibility and performance. I easily have over 200 hours of test time on this board along with a couple of pages of issues/improvements/suggestions we would like to see before the design goes into production. As far as not digging deep enough, I doubt we would have had this early of an opportunity if it were not for our work (and that of several AT readers) with NVIDIA over the past several months in assisting them and the board suppliers to get their Intel performance up to speed. We are still very disappointed with the FSB overclocking results with the NVIDIA Intel designs but our initial board had no issue running up to 304FSB with an early Conroe sample. I am personally disappointed with the entire FSB issue since last fall as I had a couple of boards that easily did over 320FSB only to see this capability whacked when the product was released.

    Yes, the board will use the nF4 SLI SPP for the "Northbridge" but it is now at a C1 stepping after several months of tuning due to the issues found last fall in the first release. Are we disappointed that we will not get the newer C51XE SPP, yes, but the time to develop it along with the switch to a single dual x16 chipset this winter made it impractical for NVIDIA at this time. The good news is the NV590SLI boards should cost around $150 at launch with a feature set that will not be matched by Intel or ATI along with using the new MCP55PXE so drive and network performance is greatly improved from a stability viewpoint.

    We did not post the actual memory scores as we are waiting on a new board revision and production level bios before making any final statements on this subject and FSB overclocking. However, even with the 805D the base unbuffered Sandra scores were about 2% better than the i975x. When overclocked, this margin flipped in favor of the Intel board. The margin was even greater during our Conroe testing. I am still concerned with the FSB overclocking capability. I stated this at the end of the article, it is a concern and will remain a concern until we see production level boards. I think it will improve compared to today's products but I doubt we will see anything near what the i975x and now P965 chipsets will be capable of in the high end boards from Asus, DFI, Abit, MSI, and Gigabyte. However, getting over 300FSB is a requirement we have placed on NVIDIA at this time. It will be interesting to see if they can get there now.

    We appreciate the comments and please keep them coming. Our final review on the reference board will be available shortly and we should have boards from DFI and Asus around Core 2 Duo launch time. However, we do not expect ATI review samples until sometime in August along with some interesting information about their design choice that will be discussed at that time.
    Reply
  • mino - Tuesday, June 27, 2006 - link

    Almost every p$ chipset capable of 10066 FSB since i865 tiems DOES support Conroes. Just crippled Intel 915/925 series do NOT bute even this is caused by intel marketing decision not the capability of chipset design on itself.
    What is most important is the board/VRM support. Otherwise every not-crippled chipset should work.
    Reply
  • mino - Tuesday, June 27, 2006 - link

    P4 meant :) Reply
  • mino - Tuesday, June 27, 2006 - link

    hell, I should get some sleep apparently ;-\ Reply

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