NVIDIA and P55

Yesterday NVIDIA held its Power of 3 platform briefing. The intention was to align NVIDIA’s GPUs, SLI and PhysX with the Intel Lynnfield/P55 launch. NVIDIA has no Lynnfield chipsets out (but is expected to sometime next year), instead it is providing SLI licenses to those motherboard makers that are interested in supporting multi-GPU on their boards.

The license terms are thankfully a lot more palatable than they were with the initial X58 launch. To support SLI a motherboard manufacturer simply has to pay NVIDIA $30,000 up front plus $3 per SLI enabled motherboard sold. In turn NVIDIA gives the motherboard manufacturer a key to put in its BIOS that tells the NVIDIA display drivers that it’s ok to enable SLI on that platform.

As I’ve mentioned in the past, Lynnfield includes an on-die PCIe controller provided 16 PCIe 2.0 lanes. Using an external switch those 16 lanes can be split off into two x8 slots, enabling CF and SLI (CF is enabled free of charge, SLI requires participation in the licensing program).

Although unnecessary, if you want the bandwidth of two x16 PCIe 2.0 slots the motherboard manufacturer will need to use an nForce 200 chip. This chip houses 32 PCIe 2.0 lanes but connects to the Lynnfield chip via 16 lanes, so you get better bandwidth between cards but no increase in bandwidth between the GPUs and the CPU. Expect boards that use an nForce 200 chip to be limited at best.

Without the PCIe switch logic to split the x16 connection off of Lynnfield into two x8 connections, SLI can’t be enabled; NVIDIA won’t allow it over mismatched PCIe slots (e.g. x16 + x4).

In an unexpected alignment, NVIDIA is actually calling out AMD’s Dragon platform by name (Phenom II + AMD 700 Series Chipset + AMD 4800 Series GPU). NVIDIA calls its “platform” the Power of 3, of course referring to Intel’s P55, Intel’s Lynnfield and a NVIDIA GPU. Intel gets it for free here; NVIDIA does all of the branding and promotion for Power of 3, yet Intel makes the vast majority of the silicon. Perhaps someone is bitter over not being included in AMD’s platform launch plans anymore?

All kidding aside, at least this means we will see mature driver and SLI support for Lynnfield at launch. While NVIDIA was in good shape when X58 debuted last year, AMD’s driver support left much to be desired. It’s clear that even NVIDIA with its anti-Intel blood sees the importance of Lynnfield; it’s nice to see egos checked at the door.

There’s one more logo program that’s being introduced with Lynnfield SLI certification: PhysX Ready. Yep, you read that right. NVIDIA is now allowing motherboard makers who are SLI partners to put a PhysX Ready logo on their boxes if they have enough PCIe slots to support a second GPU as a PhysX card.

You may remember that we weren’t overly impressed with PhysX the last time we looked at it, but NVIDIA promises that the use of PhysX in Batman: Arkham Asylum is beyond anything we’ve ever seen. We’ll find out next month when Batman ships.



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  • TA152H - Thursday, August 20, 2009 - link

    What are you basing this on? A dream you had last night?

    The processors are slower, and the prices are kind of high. I don't know where this quality shows for the motherboards, since you've probably never seen one, and probably wouldn't know how to judge the quality anyway (I wouldn't either, so don't take it the wrong way).

  • Interitus - Friday, August 21, 2009 - link

    For crying out loud, stop the 1156 bashing. Sure the naming scheme is stupid, but beyond that there's nothing wrong with 1156.

    #1: Not everyone wants a space heater for a PC. Just because you want triple SLI and a high TDP processor, don't assume everyone does. Some people value efficiency, eco-friendliness, and cost of ownership. A 95w TDP quad core fits nicely here. A system running cool and quiet is a realistic demand for many people.

    #2: The $350 board they're speaking about is more than likely the EVGA FTW board. The "Classified" of P55. It's absurdly expensive and not aimed at anyone but the extremists, yet still $100 cheaper than its 1366 counterpart. So your argument for the $350 board being ridiculous is pointless in terms of 1366 vs. 1156 reference. P55 will still be cheaper than X58, and I'm sure the "budget" versions of both chipsets will see a difference margin of around $100. For a single component, that's significant.

    #3: All new parts are inflated in price when they hit the shelves for the first time. 1366 was absolutely stupid expensive when it came out. Look at the current prices for 1366 CPU's. There's one for ~$200 and then it goes through the roof after that. And it's been a long time since release. Of course p55 is going to be overpriced at launch, and all the manufacturers know people hate waiting and will throw down extra cash because of it. That aside there's always people that want to play with new products.

    #4: The mainstream user doesn't care if there's another CPU out there that offers a tad better performance for the same price if it means they have to double their board cost. The performance of the 1156 platform is close enough to 1366 (sans SLI) that it's negligible in real-world situations. Really, the only reason I could see going to 1366 other than SLI is for future i9 support, but as always there's no guarantees there either. Triple channel RAM for most people isn't worth it right now.

    #5: The quality he's referring to in the boards is plainly visible in the pictorial reviews here on AT. Look at them yourself. Sounds to me like you're the one who hasn't ever seen them. I can tell you right now I paid $200 for my P35 board, and it doesn't have half the luxuries that some of these P55 boards do. It's not a hardware generation gap causing the difference either. For $125 you're probably going to get a very full featured board with good cooling and tons of peripheral options. Not rocket science here. Sure we don't know how good they perform, but quality applies to more than how a board performs. I'd take a 5% less benchmark score any day if it meant upgraded cooling, extra I/O and better layout for a similar price.

    Pretty much every 1366 mongering argument you have here can be negated by just whispering these words to yourself a few thousand times...

    "The hardware world doesn't revolve around me"
  • JustPassing - Saturday, August 22, 2009 - link

    1156 platform also supports SLI (sorry, I posted this later in the thread, whereas I should have posted here) Reply
  • ClagMaster - Friday, August 21, 2009 - link

    To Interitus

    Thank you

    I couldn't agree with you more with your excellent 5 point rebuttal.

    The Lynnfield/P55 release is going to almost as great as the Conroe/P965 release 3 years ago. I can hardly wait to see how these new products perform. Barring a major BIOS snaffu with the new P55 boards, I strongly suspect we are not going to be disappointed with this release.

    Intel wants to compete with AMD in the mainstream segment. A blind man can see Intel developed Lynnfield/P55 because truly understood the Bloomfield/X58 is ridiculously expensive for the mainstream user -- like me -- on a restricted budget.

    In addition to aquisition costs, I also care about operating expenses and the 95W TDP has great appeal to me. At 130W, the Bloomfield i7 is the same sort of spaceheater the Pentium-D was once ridiculed. I want a quiet thermal solution for my rig and I also want to use my existing 500W power supply. I can do better with Lynnfield where I get the same performance at 95W.

    Mr Shimpi's early test and assessment of Lynnfield/P55 contained in the competent article "The Lynnfield Preview: Rumblings of Revenge" has convinced me the Lynnfield/P55 is the way to go. Most of my applications are single threaded and the more aggressive turbo mode will be most useful. The $200 2.66 Ghz Quad i5 is all I really need for my computing.

    I plan on buying my Lynnfield/P55/DDR3-1600 upgrade in July/August 2010 when prices are their lowest, and Intel has likely released revised steppings to fix the errata.

    Again, thanks. I really appreciate your comments.
  • TA152H - Friday, August 21, 2009 - link

    1. Then you get a Penryn, which is more power efficient, and much smaller. Especially the S models. For the cost of the Lynnfield, you can get a very nice Penryn system.

    2. You're obviously not bright enough to realize no extremist should get a x55. What an absurd statement. The people that need real performance will get the x58. Do you really not understand that? So why the $350 x55 motherboard?

    3. Again, another really stupid remark. You pay a lot for new parts when they are BETTER than is out there. The x58 qualifies for that. The x55 doesn't. When the new part performs worse than what is out there, you run into the problem where you get the same cost in many platforms, and worse performance. That's where my problem is with this platform. It's a Celeron, but the price isn't where it should be.

    4. When this product is priced as a mainstream part, I'd agree. Mainstream users could get a i7 920, and under $200 motherboard and be better off. They have a stronger platform, and better options in the future. If the Lynnfield were significantly cheaper, I'd say it's in a different segment, but the problem is, it's really not different enough. Also, with the degraded performance, you're running into the Penryn for some gaming benchmarks. That's a lot cheaper, and with the money spent on a video card, could easily be the better platform. Again, my problem is this crippled processor is just not priced right to make a lot of sense.

    5. If you think you can tell the quality of a motherboard by looking at pictures, you're clearly an idiot. There's no way to tell how reliable they are from that. Do Supermicro pictures look so different from other manufacturers? Of all your remarks, that's clearly the dumbest, and that's saying something.

    Your pro x55 arguments could be negated by just whispering the words "I'm really stupid, and don't understand a lot besides I want something new", to yourself.

    Also, I have said I think the platform will settle down to make sense, but the initial costs are crazy, and the market segment it is trying to get are disconnected from the price.

    Especially for gamers, I think it makes no sense at the current costs. A Penryn with a better video card should be better for most games, for the mainstream buyer, and the real i7 is for the people that have too much money to know what to do with it. When the costs come down, the argument favoring the Penryn will go away, but, the costs do have to come down.
  • Interitus - Friday, August 21, 2009 - link


    1. How bout I get an i5 which in some cases beats your beloved 1366 i7 at less power draw and TDP instead?

    2. You're obviously not bright enough to realize that the FTW boards are made for sub-zero temperatures. Or you're not bright enough to realize that even enthusiasts overclock Celerons to the extreme just for giggles or to see what they can do. By your logic, nobody should bother to OC an AMD because it's slower than an i7.

    3. You are the reason motherboard manufacturers laugh all day. Again, try to squeeze into your little head the simple fact that i5 can keep up with an i7 920. Just try to imagine what an 1156 i7 would do? Mind boggling. I know.

    4. Again, it's high right now because it just came out. It will drop just like the 920 did, just like the 950 eventually will, and just like every 1366 board has to some extent.

    5. Quality isn't just about performance. Sure it's a big part, but it's not all of it. Features, board layout, cooling: all components that determine quality in a board that you can see without ever firing it up. I never said that the pictures were the end-all determinant of a board's quality. But it's not hard to tell when time, innovation, and effort have been put into a design when you're staring at it.

    I'm not saying X58 sucks. That's more what you're doing. Saying how bad P55 sucks, and you're just flat out wrong. It doesn't suck, it isn't a waste of money, and it's damn close if not edging over your X58 in performance without SLI for a hell of a lot cheaper even with inflated prices.

    You can sit here and argue all day that I'm some idiot, it won't bother me. I'm sure 90% of the people here know what I'm saying. Maybe I am kinda dumb for even bothering to type this. Obviously you've made up your mind already, and I don't care if you hate P55. Just don't make it out to be garbage for people who come to this site for information when it's clearly not.

    By the way, check Newegg. The E8600 is still $269. Just short of an i7. Will people still buy them knowing this? Yes. Why? Because $269 is less than the $280+$280 it would cost just for an i7 and a compatible board. That's not even including RAM. Same goes for i5 only it's even more attractive because an i5 is just as fast as that $280 i7 920. You've got around $350 for a board and i5 CPU, or $450 for a board and i7 920 CPU. That's $100 difference. Both perform about the same. If you don't plan to SLI, why bother with 1366 in that situation?
  • JustPassing - Saturday, August 22, 2009 - link

    1156 platform also supports SLI. Reply
  • Interitus - Saturday, August 22, 2009 - link

    Meant Tri-SLI, sorry. Reply
  • Natfly - Friday, August 21, 2009 - link

    1. Sure you could buy a penryn if you cared about power draw and nothing else. But nehalem has higher performance per watt and better upgrade possibilities. Why go with a dead architecture.

    2. The P55 chipset straight from Intel costs less than the X58, P55 boards will be cheaper than x58 boards on average. Nobody is forcing you to buy a $350 P55 board just like no one is forcing you to buy a $450 x58 board.

    3-4. The 920 is ~$280, a similarly clocked i5 will retail for ~200. You can get a decent x58 board for $200 or a P55 board for $140. $480 vs $340, seems pretty substantial to me, especially for similar performance.

    You can keep thinking that the 1156 procs are celerons and keep posting it whenever you see a blurb on Anandtech that mentions anything related to Intel, but that won't make you right.

    Bottom line, 1156: processors are cheaper, chipsets are cheaper, on average the boards are cheaper, performance is slightly worse. It fits.
  • TA152H - Friday, August 21, 2009 - link

    You're typical of moving the numbers slightly, and thereby losing the value.

    The low end p55 ATX motherboards are around $130. Low end ATX x58 motherboards are $170. $40 isn't worth it. Do we really know the price of the processors yet? Speculation isn't fact.

    Really, this is a perfect example of a Celeron, in a classic sense. Damaged cache, and/or memory speeds are how Intel would marginalize them. What's different with this?

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