With the introduction of the nForce4 chipset NVIDIA has certainly made a lasting impression, the nForce4 feels and performs like a polished version of the nForce3-250 chipset. With the added support for PCI-E but more importantly the ability to run two PCI-E graphics cards in SLI it simply is the most feature rich and best performing Athlon-64 chipset to date. Although the performance gap is small when compared to Intelís 3.6GHz Pentium 4, it is there nonetheless. This performance gap, judging by the PCMark04 detailed results, is mostly caused by the lower performance of the Athlon-64 FX-53 processor and the nForce4 driverís inability to use the NCQ feature on the Maxtor harddisks, which did work flawlessly on the Intel platform, significantly lowering the score. We would probably see the nForce4 platform do better if we had access to an Athlon FX-55 processor; unfortunately, due to AMDís inability to supply samples to some members of the press in a timely matter, we were unable to perform such tests.
The nTune application with the voltage and clock controls panels shown.
Overall the nForce4 combines many of the features that we have known and liked about the previous nForce chipsets and adds new features that make the platform even more sound and appealing. The cross-balancing RAID and the ability to add spare disks to any type of array certainly help to keep your data safe. So do the Active Armor and hardware firewall included in the chipset, by further protecting your PC from being compromised by viruses, trojans or other attacks. The nTune utility didnít do much for us, after having run it on automatic setting for about an hour, with the system locking up hard a few times, we ended up with a very small performance increase, barely touching upon a 1% improvement.
We are waiting with baited breath for the nForce4 SLI though, so we can finally build that monster PC that will put everything else that does not have SLI to shame. It is this feature that will make the nForce4 the most desirable chipset currently out, and the AMD Athlon-64 platform the de-facto choice for the gamer and enthusiast. Intel has yet to offer anything substantial with their PCI-E chipsets, as there is no real reason, other than the fact that socket-478 processors are now hard to come by, to upgrade to PCI-E on the Intel platform. Even the upcoming 1066MHz FSB for Intel processors and the new i925XE chipset will not be a compelling reason to upgrade to PCI-E. Kudos to NVIDIA for once again moving the Athlon-64 platform forward and offering new and compelling features that will undoubtedly make the nForce4 chipset a success.
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