The Motherboard Continued
The chipset used is nVidia's GeForce 6150. This is the latest chipset from nVidia for the value and integrated markets and is another of the 2 chip solutions from nVidia. There is the GeForce 6150 Northbridge and the MCP430 Southbridge.
The nVidia GeForce 6150 Northbridge brings GeForce 6 GPU to the Northbridge along with a hardware based HD rendering engine to allow HD gaming as well as HDTV support. The unique nature of the GeForce 6150 compared to the ATI Xpress 200 series is that this chipset allows you to run Dual Graphics system. That is if you install a graphics card into the PCI Express x16 slot, you can have the option to keep the onboard graphics system working. This allows you to take advantage of the onboard graphics and the external graphics to give you quad monitor support.
The integrated graphics core of the GeForce 6150 is almost unchanged from the 6100, only a High Definition rendering engine has been added for gaming and HDTV purposes - ideal for the HTPC market. The core uses the Unified Memory Architecture, or in simple terms, some of the system memory will be used to give the onboard graphics its frame buffer, similar to how the 6200 Turbo Cache works.
In terms of performance, the 6150 graphics core comes in under the GeForce 6200 based cards. There are only 2 Pixel Pipelines and 1 Vertex Shader engine compared to a 6200's 4 Pixel Pipes and 2 Vertex Engines. Engine Clock of the 6150's GPU runs at 475MHz, which is 175MHz faster than the 6200.
Next up is the new and improved nForce MCP430. This new Southbridge was added by nVidia to aid the adoption of the Digital Home, similar to Intel's DH series of Southbridges. The MCP430 adds a few extra features to its predecessor to jumpstart the Digital Home revolution towards the nVidia platform. First on the list is HD Audio. This has been elusive from nVidia since the removal of Sound Storm, the first ever hardware HD audio integrated into a Southbridge, and this was from nVidia back in the nForce 2 days. Using the Intel Azalia Audio specs, nVidia has added a 7.1 HD audio controller into the MCP430.
A single 4 port SATA-II controller system has been added to give you 4 SATA ports supporting 300MB/s transfer rates, NCQ and all the SATA 2.5 specs require including RAID level 0, 1, 0+1 and 5.
Beefing up on the MCP410 is nVidia's onboard Gigabit Ethernet controller which is attached directly to the chipset, so no PCI bandwidth or PCI Express lanes are taken up by this addition.
To make the Digital Home requirements these days (though its not written anywhere as a law) you will want to have Firewire support. Foxconn knows this and has added in a 2 port Texas Instruments IEEE1394a PCI controller chip. These ports can be accessed by an optional bracket or routed to front panel ports on most HTPC cases supporting a Firewire port.
Lastly is the Marvell PHY controller chip used to interface between the RJ45 port on the rear I/O to the Southbridge's integrated Gigabit LAN controller.