Enthusiast System Architecture (ESA) was announced at NVIDIA Editor's Day last October. The new and innovative system control interface was covered in our NVIDIA Introduces ESA. Just six weeks later there were already enough working ESA components to assemble a test system, and there has been a working ESA system resident at AnandTech since late December. The idea was to live with the ESA system so we could show readers exactly what kind of monitoring and performance you could extract from an ESA system.

During that period, NVIDIA has worked hard to provide updates and tweaks to the hardware and software that make up the ESA standard. That process is continuing. In a very significant development NVIDIA will be announcing approval of the ESA standard by the USB standards committee at CeBIT. This means the pace of ESA innovation and adoption will likely pick up since it is now an official standard that will work on top of standard USB.

ESA is nothing more than a communications and control protocol and it requires ESA-enabled hardware to work. This article details ESA as a monitoring interface, an area where at present it is already pretty mature. However, this is not the full-blown ESA performance control article we have been promising, because that is still a work in progress - one that is seeing rapid development now.

ESA is maturing, and most overclocking controls work just fine, but we agree with NVIDIA that ESA as a performance interface must be capable of the same overclocking performance as a carefully tweaked BIOS. With our 680i box, ESA overclocking is not to that point yet but it is getting closer. With the final tweaks and general release of the 780/790 NVIDIA chipsets it is fully expected that ESA as an overclocking and system tweaking control center will be fully realized.

The ESA test system will continue to evolve over the next few weeks as NVIDIA will update the motherboard for even better performance control. Current ESA monitoring functions and the very useful profiles work just fine now and that will be the subject of this review. When NVIDIA shipped us the ESA demo system their goal was to demonstrate the monitoring capabilities of ESA. Now they are hard at work finalizing the ESA interface as a very capable performance control and overclocking system without compromise.

The ESA Box
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  • cdl1701 - Friday, February 22, 2008 - link

    Should there be pics in this write up? I am not seeing any
  • initialised - Wednesday, February 20, 2008 - link

    But using this to implement closed loop control for your overclocking and cooling setup is taking things to another level. e.g. Twc -> 1C fans -> 100RPM & Pump -> 10lph or Tcpu -> 1C Vtec -> 0.2V or more radical fps < 30 & fcore/fmem/fshader=stable, fcore/fmem/fshader -> 25MHz fan -> 10%.

    Most PC cooling is either crude or expensive. An OS independent control system like this with true dynamic control of BIOS CPU and Memory and GPU settings and cooling would be fantastic and could be done if crashes due to overheating/clocking can be handled before windows BSOD's. Needs a graphic (LabVIEW style) interface and low overhead though.

    Hopefully it can be retrofitted to older motherboards and graphics cards with BIOS/driver updates.
  • Tristesse27 - Wednesday, February 20, 2008 - link

    "To be fair, NVIDIA made it very clear that the current test system was put together to demonstrate the monitoring capabilities of ESA with no real finalizing of performance tweaking in ESA."

    Then to be perfectly fair, why would you even mention that it crashed when you try to tweak through the OS? They told you it wouldn't work, and it doesn't. I bet when the waiter tells you the plate is hot, you put your hand right on it, don't you?
  • stevekgoodwin - Tuesday, February 19, 2008 - link

    So... turns out SMART has been subverted by various HDD manufacturers to misreport problems (because problems that might hurt sales). Which pretty much makes SMART useless.

    What's to stop this going the same way? There's no guarantee components are not distorting/faking results.

    It'll be an interesting one to watch.
  • Kevin Day - Tuesday, February 19, 2008 - link

    Could you imagine the kind of information you could gather on your corporate machines if someone wrote a plugin for say System Center Operations Manager? You could monitor client health not only from an applications perspective, but from the hardware as well. You could, for instance, detect a power supply that was having voltage fluctuations and replace it BEFORE it fails saving the user much down time.
  • IKeelU - Tuesday, February 19, 2008 - link

    Sorry if this has been address before, but will ESA interfaces be available for hardware that is not related to nVidia (e.g. intel chipsets, etc...)? It would be great to have a relatively consistent interface between manufacturers, similar to what a BIOS is now. If not, then I will definitely be swayed to the nVidia mobo camp. Being able to change profiles without going into the bios is going to be awesome. It's not like I need my C2D running on max overclock to use uTorrent or MS Word.

    Is there any chance of AMD adopting this? Does the spider platform cover most of what ESA does?
  • Wesley Fink - Wednesday, February 20, 2008 - link

    NVidia is not charging licensing fees for ESA and the USB standard, with ESA approved to sit on top of that standard, is an Open Standard. Anyone who wishes could use ESA, and there don't appear to be unsurmountable artificial barriers to any computer manufacturer using ESA technology.
  • LSnK - Tuesday, February 19, 2008 - link

    "This begs the question of whether ESA is working now."

    Raises the question. Begging the question is the name of a logical fallacy wherein one assumes to be true that which they're supposed to be arguing.
  • Wesley Fink - Wednesday, February 20, 2008 - link

    "Begs the question" expresses my thoughts.
  • Slaimus - Tuesday, February 19, 2008 - link

    Isn't there already a much more well established ESA, the Entertainment Software Association?

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