A couple of the nicer utilities available with any motherboard chipset are NVIDIA's NV Monitor and nTune. They only work completely on NVIDIA chipsets, and not all manufacturers have implemented all the hooks necessary to support the software utility. However, when it is available and working properly it provides a lot of info about your system and a fair amount of system control. When the NVIDIA 680i was our cooling test motherboard we used NV Monitor to measure CPU temperature, in a large part because we found the utility easy to use and it provided very repeatable results.

nTune also works on any motherboard to control NVIDIA video cards, which it can do automatically or manually. However, on an NVIDIA chipset like the 680i nTune has many additional capabilities. As we saw in the 680i launch, nTune 5.05 had ambitions to become the control center for overclocking your motherboard and video card. Of course, this only worked at launch if your motherboard had an NVIDIA 680i chipset, you used an NVIDIA 8800 video card, and the manufacturer fully implemented the nTune hooks. NVIDIA has expanded nTune with new hardware introductions, but many computer enthusiasts - the primary target of the utility - still seem to either ignore or at best feel ambivalent towards the tool.

One thing was very clear in that introduction, however. NVIDIA had a great interest in providing enthusiasts with all the overclocking tools they could to set NVIDIA apart as being the company for enthusiasts. With each new chipset, the enthusiast tools seem to get a bit more ambitious.

Today, with the coming introduction of the NVIDIA 780i chipset, NVIDIA is looking to make serious changes to what is possible with enthusiast systems by launching a new technology platform. The name of the new standard is ESA - Enthusiast System Architecture. Its goal is to provide information and control to enthusiasts not just for NVIDIA motherboards and video cards, but to provide that information and control for many other components in an ESA-enabled system.

ESA monitoring and control will extend to processors, motherboards, video cards, cooling hardware, and power supplies. This is not necessarily everything ESA can monitor and control, but it is a starting point. In theory, any component could implement ESA and potentially be controlled by ESA.

ESA hardware and the software to monitor/manage it will not be available for a few weeks, but NVIDIA has chosen today to allow editors to start talking about the ESA specification. This means a closer look at what ESA really is, how it works, who has signed on to provide ESA components, and how this will all work in providing the enthusiast unprecedented control of their computer system.
What is ESA?


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  • Spuke - Monday, November 05, 2007 - link

    I'm not getting this until I see some friggin benchmarks. And, to the person that stole my UT3 username, may you rot in hell. Reply
  • johnsonx - Monday, November 05, 2007 - link

    I don't know why, but as I read all this the first thing that popped into my head is that a virus could interface to the ESA controls and shut down your fans, fiddle with the voltages, reset all the warning thresholds, and generally screw up your system at a hardware level. This is something that has generally been impossible thus far (despite the various hoaxes about some virus that will destroy your monitor, fry your mainboard, and kill your cat). Hopefully nVidia and friends are considering this possibility as they go forward with this excellent concept.
  • Shortass - Monday, November 05, 2007 - link

    Agreed, that would be utterly terrifying if a new Trojan came out that not only screwed up your files and locked you out of your system, but also overvolted all of your components and turned your fans down to 0%. Eeeek. Reply
  • Plasmoid - Monday, November 05, 2007 - link

    Sounds nice.

    Sounds a lot like what Abit have been doing with uGuru for the past 5 years.

    Give me the ability to control my fan speed and clock speed by profiles, and change them with a hotkey, and im sold. The rest of the stuff sounds pretty handy too.
  • xsilver - Tuesday, November 06, 2007 - link

    Yes I think abit is the master of this kind of stuff.
    uguru is the only thing I miss on my old system.

    Even new asus boards dont support for advanced monitoring/tweaking abilities.

    My main miss is the ability to overclock/underclock on the fly in windows. Ati tool already has a profile scheme where if it detects if a game is being launched it will switch to 3d profile; why does this not exist for CPU's and other components?
  • yacoub - Monday, November 05, 2007 - link

    There are two things that matter a lot when it comes to system monitoring/controlling software:

    Bloat - How much does it impact system response/performance? How much system resources are taken up running the software?

    Interface - Is it small and configurable, or ugly and large like most of this crap when it comes from the OEM instead of a 3rd party user? One thing you'll notice with tools like ATiTool and SpeedFan is that they are designed to be unobtrusive, configurable, and light (from a resources perspective).

    Most OEM tools are giant GUIs with a few buttons surrounded by tons of whitespace or ugly, space-wasting colored graphics and pointless clutter that would appeal more to an eight-year-old than an adult. They also tend to be bloated, taking a long time to load and using a lot of system resources just to monitor the system, which is counterproductive.

    So until we see how this system rates in those two areas, we don't really have the info we need to make a judgment call as to whether this move by NVidia is progress or regression.
  • Ryanman - Thursday, November 08, 2007 - link

    Given, Im no programmer, but couldn't the "bloat" issue be fixed with a couple different modes or something?

    You have the full on mode that can render the 3d temperature, monitor all systems, etc. etc. And then when you get in game (surely you could configure the program to automatically notice once your system is being monopolized by an application that needs it and "tone down" to where it's only monitoring CPU/RAM use and a couple temperatures (CPU, GPU, HDD) like Logitech's G15 Programs. Hopefully you won't be overclocking or optimizing while playing crisis.

    And a sleek UI isn't that hard to make. Get a graphic designer and a couple UI experts to do it, can't be too expensive. Make the buttons big and some color options and I'll have it running all the time.

    I'm personally VERY excited about this. I'm an ATI fanboy but ideas like ESA, trying to unify PC enthusiast use (like, say game consoles) is always a good thing. And people may not care about high-end systems and say this is useless, but one of the fun things about this platform is squeezing as much as possible out of it. Let the games begin.
  • pugster - Monday, November 05, 2007 - link

    I think it would be the first good move by the manufacturers. We can probably get rid of the excessive software bloat by the hardware manufacturers including software included by sound cards, video cards, and motherboards. I don't know about the hardware manufacturers giving up control of their hardware to software tweaks. Reply
  • goinginstyle - Monday, November 05, 2007 - link

    I am sorry but this article read like the press release from nvidia this morning. If ESA is all that then why not show us the hardware and software working together today? It just appears to be one more way for nvidia to try to control the desktop. Before you start yelling about open platforms, no company goes through this trouble without expecting something in return. That is why it would be interesting to see how well it works on a nvidia designed board compared to one from asus or msi. If something looks like a fish, smells like a fish, then it usually is a fish and this one might also be full of mercury. We go from the great 8800GT release to this in one week. :( Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Monday, November 05, 2007 - link

    As I said in the review Final Words:

    "One of the frustrations of technology launches, as opposed to actual hardware and software launches, is that no matter what you write it ends up sounding something like a commercial for the product. That is why all the writers at AnandTech much prefer the hard reality of testing a product at launch, where we can make comparisons."

    However, ESA is a proposed new standard for communication and control more than a real product. We plann to evaluate an ESA enabled system with as many ESA components as possible as soon it is available. At this point the new ESA chipset itself is not even launched.

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