Some months ago I wrote up a little article talking about how it seems that NVIDIA is no longer all that interested in competing with the chipset division at AMD.  While the 980a/780a/750a are all very nice chipsets, we have yet to see a true AM3 motherboard featuring an NVIDIA chipset and sporting SLI support.  Well, the day has finally come.  MSI is stepping up to the plate with one of the first new 980a designs in some time, and AM3 to boot.  That’s right, Phenom II X4 and DDR-3 combined with SLI.  About damn time.

The MSI NF980-G65 is a very full featured board.  It has 3 x PEG slots for up to triple SLI action (16x, 8x, and 8x respectively).  The 980a chipset is combined with the nForce 200 chip to give that kind of functionality.  6 SATA ports, a whole bundle of USB 2.0, Gig-E, Firewire, and HDMI out for those wanting to use the internal graphics for some reason.  The board does not look to be cheap, as it will likely be in the $200 range.  Still, it is a welcome sight for those who are AMD CPU fans, and who wanted to upgrade to AM3 yet still be able to utilize multiple NVIDIA cards in SLI.

AMD SLI Enthusiasts Rejoice! - Motherboards 2

While at Quakecon I was able to sit down with some of the NVIDIA guys and discuss the situation with AMD processor support and SLI.  There really is nothing nefarious going on (from what I could tell), but rather that AMD is pricing the competition out of the market.  NVIDIA is a “for profit” corporation, and they expect most of their products to actually make money.  If they were to compete with AMD in the chipset section, then it would be a losing proposition.  We can see from the pricing of most AMD motherboards that AMD is not actually making any money per chipset sold (that includes the northbridge and the southbridge).  AMD is essentially sacrificing chipset margins to enable potentially higher margins for their CPUs (the cost of the platform is overall lower, and thereby more attractive to consumers), or perhaps more significantly they are sacrificing chipset margins to gain overall CPU marketshare.

NVIDIA’s choice was to continue pursuing marketshare in the AMD market (which is relatively small), or put their energies into the Intel platform and Ion (far more CPUs sold there, plus higher margins on their products).  Also, Intel still has cruddy integrated graphics on their side, which is an added bonus for NVIDIA.  As we well know, the integrated graphics on the AMD side are as good, if not slightly better overall than what NVIDIA offers.  It really does make sense for NVIDIA to spend the engineering and marketing resources to sell products that actually have decent margins.  In the short term, AMD is gaining ground because of their pricing, but in the long term they could seriously be cutting their own throats.  AMD has survived going against Intel for decades because it has always been willing to partner with other companies, and leverage the synergy that resulted into better products and platforms.  The SNAP alliance was a perfect example of this.  NVIDIA was able to make a significant impact in the chipset market, and AMD was able to leverage the advanced chipset features that NVIDIA brought to the market.

Still, it is nice to finally see a AM3 SLI enabled product, and kudos for MSI for stepping up to the plate and delivering a very interesting product.  A thanks to Brothergc who found the board and posted it in the forums this morning.