NVIDIA's nForce 420/220: It's finally hereby Anand Lal Shimpi on September 24, 2001 8:26 AM EST
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It's been three months, two weeks and six days since we introduced you to NVIDIA's nForce chipset. The chipset literally stole the show at this year's Computex. By the end of our stay in Taiwan our number one question to the motherboard manufacturers we visited was "what are your thoughts on nForce?" NVIDIA quite honestly had VIA very worried at Computex. The original launch schedule placed nForce review samples in the hands of editors towards the end of June; months before VIA could have their KT266A ready. After already receiving a heavy blow from SiS with the barrage of SiS 735 chipset reviews prior to Computex, VIA was in no shape to deal with an even more formidable opponent.
Luckily for VIA, this is NVIDIA's first shot at making a PC chipset. As many of you are probably wondering, what exactly took the nForce this long to end up in a final production ready state? NVIDIA overestimated themselves; based on their experiences in the add-in graphics card industry they assumed a successful chipset rollout would be very similar to what they had encountered in the past. As we heard from virtually every single one of the motherboard manufacturers that NVIDIA had given samples to, nForce was hardly ready for prime time at Computex.
We actually managed to spend some time benchmarking the various nForce motherboards ready for Computex. The motherboards were plagued with stability problems and were not performing up to par. This was in fact the biggest complaint motherboard manufacturers had with initial revs of the nForce chipset; the performance was not up to par with what NVIDIA was claiming. A very painful and rigorous revision process ensued over the coming months with a new chipset revision or BIOS revision coming almost every week. These weren't minor revisions either; from what the motherboard manufacturers had told us, they were apparently pretty serious hardware revisions occurring many times over the course of a single month.
NVIDIA was learning though; when they first approached their five launch partners and wanted a performance debut of the chipset at or shortly after Computex it was clear that they were newcomers to this sector. But it didn't take more than a couple of months later for things to turn around. Worries of whether the chipset would even hit the streets this year were finally put to rest, and the chipset was quickly nearing a production level state. NVIDIA was also improving their understanding of the lead times the motherboard manufacturers needed to produce a solid board design. Today we're finally able to let you all know that the nForce is ready and very capable of being benchmarked, which is exactly what we did.
We've actually been playing around with the nForce for over a month now and its performance was there weeks ago, but the stability of NVIDIA's reference board design was only just recently solidified. With a final product in hand and production quality drivers, we set out to review the most versatile desktop chipset to ever hit the market.