Ever since Intel launched their PCI-E platform and graphic processor manufacturers ATi and NVIDIA launched a whole slew of PCI-E products many have waited for AMD to make the transition to PCI-E as well. Today, with the launch of NVIDIA's nForce4 chipset the wait is over, all that we are left wondering is whether it was worth the wait and if PCI-E has indeed got enough going for it to quickly replace AGP as the preferred graphics interface standard. But obviously there is more to the nForce4 chipset than just the PCI-E support, it is a whole new chipset specifically designed for socket-939 AMD processors.
PCI-E and PCI slots on the NVIDIA nForce4 Ultra reference motherboard.
Unlike Intel that launched PCI-E in just the high-end segment of the market, NVIDIA has positioned their chipset as a top-to-bottom solution. According to their roadmap they are not just planning nForce4 SLI socket-939 motherboards with dual PCI-E x8 slots to accommodate the infamous SLI configuration many people have been salivating over, but we will also see mainstream nForce4 Ultra socket-939 and socket-754 motherboards featuring a single PCI-E x16 slot. To top it all off, the nForce4 value boards will only carry socket-754 and will have to make due without some of the features offered by the other two flavors.
Four DDR memory slots, supporting regular DDR400 memory, without ECC.
So what are these new features? Well, unfortunately NVIDIA dropped the support for Sound Storm 2, as customer surveys held by NVIDIA for previous nForce products showed that many did not use Sound Storm, or it was not an important enough feature to influence their decision to buy nForce. So, instead they provided the necessary hookups for 3rd party codes such as we have seen with other motherboards, the ALC650 being a popular one, but also more recent 7.1-channel audio codecs such as the ALC850. What NVIDIA did include on their chipset however is the much anticipated SLI feature, a new secure networking engine, dubbed Active Armor, working closely with the hardware firewall, Serial ATA RAID with cross-controller capabilities, and Gigabit ethernet.
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