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nVidia nForce3 250 - Athlon 64 Chipset Design Done Right - Summary

nVidia's new nForce3 250 chipset is an innovative product for the AMD Athlon 64 platform which includes the majority all in one Media and Communications Processor with native Gigabit networking. Read on find out why we think it is Athlon 64 Chipset Design Done Right as we take nVidia's reference motherboard for a spin!

By: | AMD CPUs & APUs in CPUs, Chipsets & SoCs | Posted: Apr 21, 2004 4:00 am
TweakTown Rating: 9.5%Manufacturer: nVidia



- Chipset Rundown



It wasn't too long ago we could write a lot about the chipset thanks to it being separated into a Southbridge and a Northbridge with different memory controllers and the like. These days when it comes to the AMD Athlon 64 market, companies like nVidia only need to have one chip designs (in the case of nVidia, the Media and Communications Processor or MCP for short) that can do everything. This is not a bad thing either as it cuts down on the distance data is required to travel to access particular options hence reducing latencies inherent with older chipsets designs.


The new nForce MCP offers everything that a regular Southbridge can offer. Due to some other little features we will talk about later we are getting the most out of certain areas of the motherboard like native networking which nVidia are really pushing with the release of their nForce3 250GB product.


One thing that is worth noting about the nForce3 250 chipset is that it is pin compatible with the current generation nForce3 150 chip. This helps keep the overall cost down as R&D time of the folk from Taiwan and China is cut down to a minimum due to manufacturers only having to modify their current nForce3 150 motherboard PCB as opposed to creating an entirely new design. ATI partners recently went down this road with the release of the 9600 XT core - due to the 9600 XT core using the same pin layout, ATI partners were simply able to use their current 9600 Pro PCBs which prevents wastage and overall development time saving your wallet in the long run.


- nForce3 150 vs. 250


The nForce3 250 chipset comes in two variants. First we have the nForce3 250 and the other is a slightly modified version known as the nForce3 250GB.



The idea behind the nForce3 250 is to bring some of the more recent technologies to the AMD64 market place. The only performance feature that we can see is the increased Hyper Transport bus speed which we will talk more about later.


As you can see the main difference between the nForce3 150 and 250 is the inclusion of native Serial ATA, something that was missing in the original 150 MCP as well as the inclusion of two extra USB ports. Thanks to the inclusion of the Serial ATA controller on the nForce3 250 MCP series, motherboard manufactures no longer have to worry about adding third party chipsets from companies like Highpoint and Silicon Image which helps lower costs in the overall production of the motherboard. While the new MCP supports a maximum of eight USB ports, you will likely find that this is something a lot of manufactures don't push but is something that the more expensive and enthusiast based motherboards will have over the cheaper units. After all, it's really just another positive selling point for nVidia and their partners.


As you can see by the table, the only difference between the nForce3 250 and the 250GB is the inclusion of Gigabit networking actually embedded in the MCP itself.


- nForce3 250 Motherboard Partners


With the success of the nForce2 chipset, nVidia have more partners then you could poke a stick at. The motherboard partner list includes all the big names like Asus, ABIT, Gigabyte, MSI as well as other companies including DFI, Epox, Shuttle, Soltek, Aopen, Biostar, Chaintech FIC and Jetway.


We expect to see the motherboard manufactures version of the nForce3 250 hitting the streets with in the next month or so.




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