Chipset - All about the nForce2
The Chaintech Zenith 7NJS is our first hands on experience with an nForce2 board. Before we get into the tests that we are all waiting for, let me give you a bit of information on the nForce2 chipset.
The nForce2 is a combination of nForce 1 innovation with modern day research to produce the fastest possible AMD Athlon platform solution. Built with Dual Channel memory controller integrated into the Northbridge with use of DDR-400 memory, you can obtain in theory a maximum memory bandwidth of 6.4GB/s, this is more then double the power that VIA, SiS or ALI are offering, who give you a maximum of 3.7GB/s or 3.2GB/s. There is only one set back for this setup - you need two of the same size and density DIMM modules to run in dual mode. Dual mode simply uses two DIMM's to create a 128bit memory bus. This is the same design that went into the original nForce which we saw was a flop, not even being able to offer as much power as the AMD 761 chipset. We have been personally assured that this new chipset is able to obtain a lot more than its predecessor.
With this comes AGP 8x graphics transfer mode. AGP 8x offers up to 2.1GB/s data transfer between the AGP video system and the system memory. While this does sound good in theory, AGP 8x hasn't shown any current day advantages over AGP 4x video cards. Current video cards that run on the 8x specifications are equipped with 128MB onboard memory. This is more than enough to store the textures that are normally transferred over the AGP bus. Since there is no heavy transfers for the AGO bus, we don't see any difference between 4x and 8x modes - However I can see it coming into use in the near future.
The new MCP-T Southbridge hub interconnects with the same AMD Hyper-Transport protocol that the original nForce used. This does not serve as any hindrance, but a major boost. Hyper-Transport connects the North and South hubs together at 800MB/s, which is more than enough for USB 2.0, Firewire, Twin NICs, PCI interconnects and IDE controllers.
Designed with two NICs built into the MCP-T, you get nVidia's AC'97 LAN controller as well as 3Coms PCI Ethernet controller. While there are two NICs by spec, Chaintech have only used the single nVidia one.
Another great feature is the Dolby Digital AC'97 audio controller built in. This is the first and only Dolby Digital certified AC3 AC'97 controller.