The nForce chipset has been one of the most anticipated chipsets ever. When information leaked out about its specifications, just about every hardware reviewer and hardcore gamer wanted to get their hands on one. MSI being as they are; that is, one of the first ever companies to release boards, like when AMD 750 was out; they came to our rescue. They have released one of the first fully retail available motherboards based on the nForce chipset.
The nForce is one of the most innovative chipsets today, and is among the first to support AMD's HyperTransport Technology for 800MB/s communication between the North and South bridges. Its also the very first to introduce 128-bit DDR SDRAM. But how do we get 128-bit DDR SDRAM when we only have 64-bit DIMM's? Easy! Installing two identical DDR SDRAM DIMM's into two special slots allows the nForce to switch from 64-bit to 128-bit memory interface; in theory increasing the available bandwidth from 2.1GB/s to 4.2GB/s. AMD's Athlon CPU's max out at 1.6GB/s, so with this new memory design you really won't see alot of difference between 64-bit and 128-bit. However, this design would best fit Intel's Pentium 4 CPU which requires 3.2GB/s to run at optimal speeds.
Along with the Twin Bank memory, the nForce Northbridge (known as the IGP) has a built in AGP video card based on the Geforce2 MX video accelerator. Now its making sense why nVidia wanted the GF2MX line removed and replaced with the MX200 and MX400. The onboard video is a Share Memory design, meaning it uses system memory for the video card. In the past, this has really placed onboard video well behind the eight-ball. While only running at 266Mhz and having to share the bandwidth with the CPU and other onboard devices, the video usually becomes more of a nusiance, but we will see what happens with 128-bit memory to play with.
The Southbridge of the nForce is the MCP. This little baby packs in quite a lot of features. Supporting 6 USB ports via 3 controllers, you'll have more than enough expansion possibilities with this baby. One of the most innovative features is the AC'97 device; it's a fully 5.1 channel Dolby Digital processor! That's right, it decodes Dolby AC3. This is a very handy feature if you are planning on using this chipset based board for a MP3 or DVD home entertainment center, it has more than enough video and audio capabilities. Along with the audio and USB, you get standard networking integrated, HomePNA and V.90 modem. The Southbridge is only revision 1, so ATA-133 support isn't integrated yet. We can only hope that the new MCP will add the extra ATA-133 support.