The Features of the nForce Chipset

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While all of the topics below are covered much more in depth in our nForce Chipset Preview, I am going to sum up the most critical features here.

The Integrated Graphics Processor or IGP is comparative to what we know as a standard motherboard north bridge. It handles the processor to memory communication as well as an on-board video system. The integrated GeForce2 Graphics chip on the IGP gives NVIDIA by far the most powerful video in terms of integrated solutions.

The GeForce2 video chipset runs at 175 MHz, just like the external GeForce2 MX 400 video cards. What is really of interest here is that the memory performance that is usually a bottleneck for on-board video systems has been greatly improved. I’ll cover their Twin-Bank memory architecture a little later. The on-board video system has two options of interest that can be controlled in the bios. The first is the ability to edit the amount of memory that video can access – since the IGP video uses your system memory. On the reference board I have, you can not set it to more than 32 MB, but it will be interesting to see if any retail boards offer the user the option to push 64 MB or more into their on-board video setup.

Also of note is the 100 MHz AGP bus that is offered to those who opt for the on-board video system, which corresponds to an AGP 6X mode. If you will be using an external video card in the AGP slot, you will still be limited to 66 MHz AGP 4x modes.

The TwinBank Memory Controller is also a first for a motherboard chipset. Using this revolutionary memory controller, NVIDIA can offer the manufacturers the option of a standard 64-bit memory bus or an advanced (and a bit more expensive) 128-bit DDR Intelligent Memory Interface. This will essentially allow the motherboards that feature this option to boast a 4.2 GB/sec maximum memory bandwidth, higher than any current available system for any home platform.

Finally on the IGP is the introduction of the DASP – Dynamic Adaptive Speculative Pre-processor. The acronym DASP is NVIDIA terminology for their pre-processing feature that is built into the IGP north bridge. Simply put, the DASP on the nForce acts much in the same way as the prefetch features do on the Palomino and Morgan core AMD processors. NVIDIA is the first chipset manufacturer to offer this option on a chipset and that means that unless NVIDIA licenses it out (they have a patent pending on the technology), we may not be seeing it on any future ones either.

After looking at the IGP, the MCP – Media and Communications Processor is equivalent to the standard motherboard south bridge. However, this MCP chip offers much more than any other south bridge has before, including networking, modem, 5.1 digital audio, USB and all the I/O features you’d expect on a motherboard.

While these features are not as easily tested in the sense of benchmarks, I was able to use them all and I will report to you my thoughts and feelings on them.

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