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
POST A COMMENT

37 Comments

View All Comments

  • 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

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now