One of the nice things about a two-part review is that you get to address things you may have overlooked in Part 1. Since there has been so much discussion about Sound Storm in the comments for Part 1, a little more information about the sound capabilities of nForce3-250Gb is needed.

It was a bit surprising to see so much commentary about Sound Storm being absent from nF3-250Gb, since it was first removed from the previous generation nF3-150. There are several reasons Sound Storm is not a part of nForce3-250Gb:
  • Customer surveys by nVidia found that most buyers did not use Sound Storm, and that Sound Storm did not enter heavily into the decision to buy nForce. So, the decision was made to choose the on-chip LAN, firewall, and much-expanded RAID capabilities, which benefit greatly from being moved off the bus.
  • nVidia is committed to the one-chip chipset solution for Athlon 64. They are firmly convinced that the one-chip eliminates the potential bottlenecks of a north-south bridge communications bus. Even with the memory controller on the CPU, there is only so much real estate practically available on a single-chip chipset.
  • There are new sound solutions in the works for nVidia. You may see them in a future chipset or on a sound card. Final decisions have not been made.
nVidia includes the hooks for AC '97 6-channel audio in nForce3-250, much like competing Athlon 64 chipsets. This also means premium audio can be provided with the right Codec.

The other area that was questioned was nVidia's competence to deliver a decent RAID solution, given the past problems with IDE performance on earlier MCP platforms. We will provide a few disk benchmarks in the Performance tests. However, from a user's point of view, the memory testbed uses the same model SATA 10,000 rpm drives in an Intel RAID array that are being used in the nForce3-250Gb Reference Board RAID. We have not been a fan of past nVidia Disk solutions and normally skipped their IDE drivers, but this time around, the performance has been extremely stable and far less finicky than the Intel setup we use for testing. Keep in mind that this is a Reference Board; we will feel much more comfortable in reaching a conclusion about IDE/RAID stability and performance after testing production motherboards. One other point is that nF3-250Gb was shipped with prototype version 4.04 nForce Platform drivers, which have not yet been released.

There were also emails with questions about software that is part of the nForce3-250 package. This is also related to the Platform Drivers 4.04 and the BIOS of shipping motherboards, but the Reference Board has a very useful System Utility that allows basic overclocking (but no CPU multiplier option). The nVidia System Utility has been available since last fall, but only works if the board manufacturer enables it in BIOS. Also included is a working nVidia DVD Player à la ATI, a very flexible nVRAID Manager, and the usual nVidia Mixer for audio. Version 4.04 Platform drivers for Win2K/XP include:
  • Audio driver version 4.09
  • Audio utility version 4.09
  • Win2K Ethernet driver version 4.16
  • Win2K Ethernet NRM driver version 4.16
  • Network management tools version 4.16
  • GART driver version 3.77 (WHQL) with updated uninstaller files
  • Memory controller driver version 3.38 (WHQL) with updated uninstaller files
  • SMBus driver version 4.04 (WHQL) with updated uninstaller files
  • Installer version 4.16
  • Win2K IDE 2.5 driver version 4.15
Other questions regarded Linux support on nForce3-250Gb. nVidia emphasizes full support for Linux in their literature for nF3-250. We were assured that nF3-250 features will have drivers available for Linux if they are needed, and that all features will work in Linux. Linux users should be reassured to know that Linux was a significant part of the nVidia presentation - not a thrown-in afterthought as we often see when it comes to Linux.

nForce3-250Gb: IDE and RAID Benchmarks


View All Comments

  • PrinceGaz - Friday, April 2, 2004 - link

    I was also staggered by how bothered some people were with SoundStorm -- it was never state-of-the art sound, just like how the onboard GeForce4 MX-like graphics the nForce2 had was something no serious gamer would be happy with. If you want top good quality sound you buy something specifically designed for it as you'll never get it on a motherboard (unless you live in an AOpen fantasy world and think putting valves on a motherboard counts).

    The CPU utilisation while using RAID on the nVidia chipset, and also on a straight IDE drive as well, did come as a bit of a surprise to me. I'm into capturing and encoding high-quality video so excessive CPU load from disk-access while doing so would be a real issue to me as it demands both CPU power as well as disk-throughput.
  • vlor - Friday, April 2, 2004 - link

    I only saw a few things that bugged me but what amazes me is out of all the people who posted, hafc why sound storm wasn't on the 250... do a little research and you will find that the codec's cause interference, and we as take up significantly more signal processing than most people care to think about. I'd love to see what Nvidia could do with a riser card once the PCI buss isn't so saturated. Oh and the is a board with an realtek850 linked to an nforce2, and DFI doesn't even mention sound storm but the setup is one of the better soundstorms out there including my asus deluxe.
  • Reflex - Wednesday, March 31, 2004 - link

    Wow, the hate level here is extreme, especially since it was a pretty good review overall...

    Phiro: Go elsewhere. Your not being helpful at all, and your complaints are simply rediculous in many situations. If you really want the level of technical detail you seem to be demanding(but do not appear to have the background to comprehend), go to Ace's Hardware. More knowledge than you'll ever need to know.

    As for the nit-pickers: A bit of terminology was off, however overall they were accurate and I think some of these complaints are not concerning any mistake Anandtech made, but simply that they did not include information that you personally felt should be in there(never mind the fact that since you noticed it missing, it apparantly is information you already knew). I also will point out that much of what you are complaining about is already covered in previous articles on the various technologies, and are available for anyone who wants to know exactly what HyperTransport means, etc. Nothing wrong with clicking a few links to find it. I would not mind seeing AT add a 'related articles' link somewhere obvious with all related technologies listed(and possibly even some off site links, Ace's and Ars Technica often have great technology writeups). But its not that big a deal overall...

    To the guys about SoundStorm: You are really in the minority, anyone interested in quality sound uses and add-on card already, and as for basic sound the solution they are including is good enough for them. Your essentially begging for a mid-range to low end solution on an already feature rich setup, I'd say spend the $40 on something like that if you really want to, or just drop $20 more and you can have a Santa Cruz and blow it out of the water.... It is not a huge loss, its the first thing I disabled on my NF2 board.

    Anandtech: Keep up the good work. I can't wait to see the first PCI Express capable chipset review..
  • Da3dalus - Tuesday, March 30, 2004 - link

    There should be tests of the 5950U on a non-nVidia chipset as well, to see how much it gains when coupled with the nf3-250Gb. It just seems a bit lacking in that right now. Reply
  • agent2099 - Tuesday, March 30, 2004 - link

    “Apparently you COMPLETLY overlooked the fact that most (all, AFAIK) SoundStorm boards offered digital output which bypassed those codec's completly. Which just happens to be EXACTLY what I use, and was a major selling point, allowing me to send out my DD/DTS signal to my amp for DVD's as I use for regular computer use. VERY handy”

    I agree, I think the lack of soundstorm is a huge oversight. I currently use the digital (optical out) from my nforce2 board and couldn’t live without it. This is especially important for SFF PCs.

    “I do not find it surprising at all that most customers don't care about the sound storm stuff. After all, the vast majority of PC users (outside of the geek market of course) have their PC hooked up to $9.99 basic speakers -- sound storm is not going to make a difference at all, and is simply not a selling point.”

    Well of course we are talking about the “geek market.” If we are talking about the average PC user that has $9.99 speakers, they don’t need ½ of the other things on the chipset, including SATA RAID and Gigabit Ethernet.
  • Foxbat121 - Tuesday, March 30, 2004 - link

    I'm a little disappointed and alarmed by the high CPU utilization (up to 35.1%) on this nVidia chipset(or maybe all A64 platform?) compared to Intel's 3.8% CPU utilization. Which means your CPU could spend 1/3 of its time processing disk access during disk intensive operations. Reply
  • Nighteye2 - Tuesday, March 30, 2004 - link

    the single 10k benchmark is a good addition, but there still isn't any comparison of SATA RAID between 2 Athlon 64 systems - can you add the SATA RAID performance of the integrated RAID of the ASUS K8V MB? The review just isn't complete without a good comparison of RAID performance to a similar platform. (with the same processor)
  • Wesley Fink - Tuesday, March 30, 2004 - link

    #38 -
    This is not completely accurate. While there is not and will not be a specific dual-channel version of the chipset, as you point out, Ultra is not the same chipset. Ultra for nVidia represents the 1000 HyperTransport bus, while the regular designation of nForce3-250Gb represents 800 HyperTransport. The chipset in the nVidia Reference Board we tested, as we clearly spelled out in the review, is the nForce3-250Gb Ultra used in a socket 754 configuration. Since it is used in Socket 754 it is a single-channel memory configuration, but it does offer 1000 HyperTransport.

    It is true than any of the nVidia chipsets can be used in any of the Athlon 64 Socket configurations, but the available HT and features do vary, whether by design or binning. An nForce3-150 on Socket 940 boards was still 600HT.

    As you point out, the names will likely be used in confusing ways, and features can be limited by the board manufacturer's design, but nForce3-250 Ultra is 1000HT, nForce3-250 is 800HT, and nForce3-150 is 600HT. The Gb represents the versions with on-chip Gigabit LAN and Firewall.

    There are early 800HT versions of the 250 chip floating around, but like Intel's 875/865 the HT frequency will likely result from binning - those that fail 1000HT become 800HT versions.

  • Cygni - Tuesday, March 30, 2004 - link

    "", on the dual-channel nForce3-250Gb Ultra version of this chipset."
    I want to emphasis that THERE IS NO and WILL BE NO "dual channel CHIPSET version" for A64, S754, S939, S940 or whatever. If Nvidia wants to make us to believe "buy newer and more costly nf3-250 ULTRA boards for S939" this does not mean that we (and mobo makers) should believe them and not use S939 CPUs with non-Ultra nf3s."

    If you are using a Nforce3-250 chipset on a S939 board, it automatically becomes an "Ultra". Its not a different chip. AMD has announced that the A64's for Socket 939 will be dual channel, making the Nforce3-250 Ultra the member of this family that will see dual channel. In that sense, the NF3-250-U is tbe dual channel version.
  • wassup4u2 - Monday, March 29, 2004 - link

    To clear up a little A64 confusion... Hyper Transport vs. Front Side Bus. The A64, as we all know, has an integrated memory controller. The FSB always has been, and always will be, the link between the processor and the memory. In the K8, I believe, all frequencies are determined based on multipliers of the HTT frequency. Unlike in P4/AXP systems, in which the memory controller is on a separate chip and all frequencies are multipliers of the FSB. So by increasing the FSB, you can increase memory performance. In a 2U or more config, HTT is the bus connecting the CPUs and the chipset. That's why there's not much of a performance difference between NF3-150 (600MHz HTT) and K8T800 (800MHz HTT).
    And enough with all the hating! This article did have its flaws, but by the way ppl are talking, you'd think it was in Chinese originally and translated by an online translator.

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