Athlon64 Motherboards: First Look at Chaintech, FIC, and MSIby Wesley Fink on September 23, 2003 1:03 PM EST
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nVidia nForce3 ChipsetThe Chaintech ZNF3-150 uses the nVidia nForce3 chipset. We covered basic features of the nForce3 in our Athlon64 Preview. Since this will be your first look at nForce3 compared to other solutions, we will talk about basic features of the nForce3.
One of the most exciting, and also controversial, features of the Opteron/Athlon64 is AMD’s decision to include the memory controller on the CPU. There are tremendous potential speed advantages to this solution, but the complexity of manufacturing also increases significantly. This can dramatically lower yields, which are becoming increasingly important in a competitive CPU environment. For a chipset maker, the move of the memory controller to the CPU itself means the chipset design is much simplified. In fact, about half of the requirements of the supporting chipset are eliminated, which allows a much simpler design — even the possibility of a single chip solution instead of the customary North and South bridges.
nVidia’s nForce3 PRO is the only one of the Opteron/nForce3 chipsets in a single-chip package. Both VIA K8T800 and SiS755, use the more familiar Northbridge/Southbridge arrangement. Key Features for nForce3 PRO are:
The Athlon64 and Athlon64FX CPU use Hypertransport as their method for internal communications. While these and the Opteron are the first AMD processors to use Hypertransport, this architecture is something nVidia has used in their nForce series since their original nForce chipset.
- Single-Chip Solution — Revolutionary single-chip solution designed for the AMD Opteron CPU enables higher-quality, full-featured motherboards and delivers maximum performance with the lowest latency. The single-chip design also means less power consumption and less heat dissipation.
- Dual-Channel DDR400 Memory — Our reference board includes full support for Dual-Channel DDR ECC memory, and the Athlon64 version will also support non-ECC memory.
- Integrated SATA/IDE Raid — Provides support for RAID 0, RAID 1, and RAID 0+1, enabling the highest disk data transfer rates for highest system and application performance, and the highest performance fault tolerant solution for maximum data integrity. NVIDIA RAID supports both SATA and ATA-133 disk controller standards.
- Enterprise-Class Networking — Delivers the essential manageability features required by IT professions while maintaining the highest level of reliability, quality, and performance. Also delivers the highest throughput for network transfers and lower CPU utilization, resulting in lower total cost of ownership.
- 64-Bit Architecture — NVIDIA nForce3 Pro provides advanced processing capabilities and system innovations for the new 64-bit AMD processor architecture.
More information on nForce3 PRO is available at http://www.nvidia.com/page/nforce3.html.
If you are interested in learning more about the features and architecture of Opteron and Athlon 64, you can access Anand’s excellent 3-part article.