Details on the Chipsets - 590SLI and 570SLI
First on the list we are taking a look at the two SLI supporting chipsets in this family affair, the nForce 590SLI and the nForce 570SLI.
nForce 590SLI is set to be aimed at the enthusiast market for those with really high-end processors such as FX's and the 5000+ and above Athlon 64 X2's. The first part of the 590SLI is it follows the same path as the NF4 SLIx16, that being it is a 2 chip solution. nVidia was the first to pioneer the single chip solution for the K8 as there is really no need for a Northbridge with the lack of memory controller. This is done because nVidia has done a cheaper trick there. The nForce 590SLI Northbridge is simply a PCI Express to Hyper Transport tunnel converter chip. Is has a primary connection to the CPU at 2000MHz and a link to the MCP at 2000MHz. The Northbridge contains 16 PCI Express lanes for use on a single graphics card such as the GeForce 7 series, and yes it supports the GeForce 7950GX2.
The Southbridge of 590MCP as its known is where all the features are located. In fact, it is actually an nForce 570SLI chipset that has been reworked to run through the HT link that the Northbridge has. The 590MCP has an additional PCI Express x16 link for a second graphics card; this is how it gets its twin X16 rating for full-speed SLI. ATI with its Crossfire 3200 places both PCI Express x16 channels on the Northbridge, which is something we would like to see nVidia do, as there is bound to be some extra latency when having to communicate across and extra HT bus.
To add extra PCI Express support there are four additional PCI Express lanes for use on X1 slots or onboard PCI Express chips that motherboard manufacturers integrate into their boards. This can also be routed into a single PCI Express x4 slot if manufacturers want to go that way also.
Next is the Gigabit Ethernet support. nForce 4 offered a single Gigabit Ethernet port that was built directly into the MCP. This was no doubt a fantastic feature as it didn't require the use of any PCI Express lanes, and was hardware based, removing the load off the CPU. This time nVidia goes the extra step and integrates two GBE controllers into the MCP with TCP/IP acceleration support to remove further load off the CPU when under heavy network load.
Storage is where nVidia has upped the stakes again. Six Serial ATA ports supporting SATA-II specs have now been added instead of the four that the NF4 series supported. Two IDE ports are included again and Media Shield is again present for RAID support. You can once again combine the IDE and SATA drives to create a larger RAID array than any other chipset supports - well done nVidia!
Azalia HD audio makes its presence known on the nForce 590SLI and 570SLI chipsets for 7.1 Audio support under Windows XP and Windows Vista. While Intel started the Azalia Audio standard, it's good to see nVidia taking up this HD audio option.
The nForce 570SLI chipset is almost identical to the 590SLI; however it doesn't support twin x16 ports. It simply is the 590MCP chipset connected directly to the CPU. To get SLI on the 570SLI, the single PCI Express x16 lane is split into dual PCI Express x8 lanes, similar to how the original NF4 SLI worked. Its additional features such as SATA, GBE and audio are identical to the 590SLI; it's just a cheaper option and is aimed at the High Powered and Mainstream computers using Athlon 64 X2's.