In the last year, NVIDIA has risen to the top of the AMD Athlon 64 chipset market with their nForce series of single-chip solutions. As Socket 939 has matured, nForce4 has gained the dominant position in the AMD motherboard market. VIA, who has never been able to ship a competitive solution to NVIDIA's SLI, has moved down the pecking order somewhat, and is now more regarded as a value chipset, along with SiS, in the Athlon 64 market.

Recently, ATI has demonstrated some very interesting chipsets for the Athlon 64, and a Crossfire multi-GPU video solution to compete with NVIDIA's industry leading SLI. But the ATI chipsets and Crossfire boards have yet to ship, so they still remain a potential competitor for the future. At the low-end ULI, which is what remains of the former ALi chipset maker, has also been showing some very interesting chipsets for Athlon 64. There are new players emerging in the AMD market, but for now, the nForce4 chipset is King of the Athlon 64 hill. For that reason, people care quite a bit about how the various nForce4 motherboards compare in performance and features.

Several months ago, we took our first look at nForce4 production boards in nForce4 SLI Roundup: Painful and Rewarding. That look was very early in the nForce4 cycle, and we had our own share of problems getting all the features to work on those early nF4 boards. We persevered and did complete the roundup, finding a couple of boards that stood out from the crowd as Editor's Choices. This time around, we are looking at boards based on the single GPU nForce4 Ultra chipset. Keep in mind that nForce4 Ultra and nForce4 SLI are the exact same chipset, with the only difference being that the SLI function is enabled on the SLI version. There are no performance differences in the SLI and Ultra chipsets, or even the base nForce4 for that matter. These chipsets differ only in which features are available to the buyer - but they beat with the same heart.

The fact that the nForce4, nForce4 Ultra, and nForce4 SLI are identical core chips is important to anyone comparing board performance. SLI can be an expensive option, and if you don't require it, the nForce4 Ultra provides a single video solution with a chipset that performs exactly the same as the SLI chipset in single video. If you can give up a few more features, then the base nForce4 is an even cheaper solution that can give the same level of single video performance. This means that you can look at the performance of one member of the nForce4 family - an nForce4 SLI motherboard tested with single video, for example - and be fairly confident that the lower members of that family have a chipset that performs exactly the same. The different motherboard designs and chips selected for features might have some small impact on final performance for different nForce4 boards from the same manufacturer, but the differences will mainly be the available features on the various boards.

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  • tribbleva - Tuesday, December 20, 2005 - link

    Every single one of these MBs has a fan on the NB... where are the passively cooled mobos? The last thing I want is one or TWO more tiny fans just on the mobo to worry about failing...
  • Zebo - Friday, July 22, 2005 - link

    "someof you take Anandtech's word as the word of GOD"

    It's as close as you can get without dying.:)
  • Zebo - Friday, July 22, 2005 - link

    Viper - You should come inside the forums for specfic help..
  • dg3274 - Saturday, July 16, 2005 - link

    The article states that the Abit board has a problem with 1:1 overclocking. I disagree. I think the problem is that it does not provide enough ram voltage to run the RAM at high 1:1 FSB. 2.8 volts is not enough to run ANY ram much higher than 280 or so FSB.
  • Viper4185 - Thursday, July 14, 2005 - link

    No one wants to help me with my n00b questions :(
  • Marcel - Tuesday, July 12, 2005 - link

    #67 I must be a little a slow …

    In the test “Maximun CPU Clock ( Lower Multiplier )”

    For Chaintec, Abit, etc you use the multiplier in “11”, and only for Epox and DFI you use the multiplier in “9”, then you show a diagram with nothing more than the fsb.

    The first question is WHY ?? there is no explanation for use different multiplier in the review. Not some guys, but ALL ones have better result in chaintec and abit with a lower multiplier.
  • TheGlassman - Monday, July 11, 2005 - link

    Thanks Wesley, I did find you had checked HTT, and as I stated in my last post I don't understand what the problem was. But the deeper I looked into the review, the better job you seemed to have done, so sorry if I impied you didn't try very hard.
    DFI has a dual core (beta) bios available, dated 6-23-05
    Epox has a dual core (release) bios available, dated 6-29-05
    These were not used in testing.
  • Wesley Fink - Monday, July 11, 2005 - link

    #59 and #60 - One of the first articles I did a couple of years ago about Athlon 64 was how to overclock by manipulating HTT frequencies. I ALWAYS test manual HTT dividers I know should work for certain 1:1 memory clocks as well as Auto HTT if it is an available option.

    #58 - I was very CLEAR in the review that I tested with the BIOS that would allow the X2 A64 to work. We did check each board with an X2. That is the ONLY reason we tested and used very recent Beta BIOS'. Also there are 2 other very recent Chaintech reviews at other websites who had test results almost equal to what I found on the Chaintech, so there are at least 2 other Chaintechs loose with less than stirring overclocking. In the end, as I stated in the review, the Chaintech is a decent board, but at about the same price as the Epox, with poorer overclocking results, it was hard to give it an Editor's Choice this time around. The results found in this roundup should remove anyone's concern that we get cherry boards from manufacturers. I am a good overclocker, and very experienced in air overclocking and memory overclocking. What I got from these boards on air is all they could do with the TCCD memory that is all but standard test memory for motherboards these days. The capabilities of the memory we used is also well known and I tweaked for TCCD if settings were available if the board was not doing well at stock memory settings and our normal test timings.

    I am really pleased some of you experienced better performance than I did with the Chaintech and Abit boards, but I can only report what I actually found in my tests. I don't think you come to AnandTech for a survey of what other websites or Forums found, because I find overclockers are notorious at exagerrating what they can reach with overclocks. We try to provide a consisten test environment for overclocking that will give repeatable overclocking results. Results, of course, always vary board to board, but having said that, OC results are usually pretty consistent on better boards from sample to sample.
  • lefenzy - Saturday, July 9, 2005 - link

    Sorry, wrong link. that one was for the SLI version.
  • lefenzy - Saturday, July 9, 2005 - link

    Foxconn has a BIOS release that allow for multiplier adjustment.

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