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NVIDIA nForce4 SLI Intel Edition Preview - Page 1 of 6

INTRODUCTION

Back on November 19, 2004, NVIDIA announced a cross-license agreement with Intel that spans multiple product lines and product generations. The agreement also provided NVIDIA with a license to Intel's front-side bus technology, which they had been seeking for a number of years, but felt was too expensive.

Although Intel dominates the processor market with a market share of around 82%, AMD remains a serious competitor with their AMD64 processors. If you hang around web sites that cater to "hard-core" gamers, it doesn't take long to figure out the Athlon 64 is currently the favored processor. And with NVIDIA's Scalable Link Interface (SLI) having been exclusive to the AMD platform, Intel was falling further behind at the high-end.

Limited Edition Logo

But that is about to change as NVIDIA receives the licensing it needs to bring Intel processors to the nForce platform, while the Intel platform receives NVIDIA's SLI technology, which will boost the 3D graphics performance of Pentium 4-based systems.

Back in January of 2004, NVIDIA's revenue declined for three consecutive quarters with an overall decrease of 3.4%. But the success of the GeForce 6 Series is beginning to pay off as revenue increased in the July to October 2004 quarter by 13.1%. Since then, over 350,000 SLI motherboards have shipped, which accounts for some 30-35% of all nForce4-based motherboards being sold. NVIDIA rebounded in 2004 and is continuing that positive trend in 2005 with today's huge announcement of the nForce(TM)4 SLI(TM) Intel(R) Edition.

FEATURES

Although nForce4 SLI for the Intel Pentium 4 platform is a high-end desktop product, NVIDIA is planning future products for notebooks, media PCs, servers, and workstations. NVIDIA decided against naming the new chipset nForce 5 since nForce 4 SLI for the Pentium 4 is similar in design to the AMD64 architecture. There are a few differences though as the Intel Edition features a re-engineered memory controller and marks the debut of NVIDIA's MediaShield Storage technology.

The following diagram illustrates the nForce4 SLI Intel Edition architecture, which supports LGA775 Socket Pentium 4 and Pentium 4EE (Extreme Edition) processors running up to a front-side bus (FSB) frequency of 1066MHz and beyond. Dual core processors are supported, but support will be left up to motherboard manufacturers.

A single x16 graphics slot supports PCI-Express graphics cards and NVIDIA SLI allows a second GeForce 6 Series graphics card of the same make and model to be added for increased 3D graphics performance. Models currently supported in an SLI configuration include the GeForce 6600 GT, GeForce 6800 LE, GeForce 6800, GeForce 6800 GT and GeForce 6800 Ultra. Professional solutions offering SLI support include the Quadro FX 1400, Quadro FX 3400, and Quadro FX 4400.

nForce4 SLI Intel Edition Architecture
Click Image to Enlarge

NVIDIA's DualDDR2 memory controller was designed to support DDR2 memory only and is rated to operate at 667MHz data rates and beyond. NVIDIA has been working closely with Corsair and is launching a retail DDR2 memory program. Memory submitted for validation and testing in this program will be "highly overclockable" and will surpass JEDEC (Joint Electron Devices Engineering Council) requirements.

nForce4 SLI Intel Edition Memory Controller
Click Image to Enlarge

NVIDIA engineers designed an effective dual DDR memory controller for the Athlon processor with the nForce2 and have made a substantial investment in developing a DualDDR2 memory controller for the nForce4 SLI Intel Edition. A number of technological advancements have been incorporated in order to operate the memory interface at 667 MHz (and higher) data rates and sustain the bandwidth demands of the Pentium 4 processor:

  • Asymmetrical and symmetrical interleaving schemes - CPU access is sent simultaneously to both channels
  • Dedicated (vs. shared) address bus per DIMM - achieves a 1T timing resulting in less latency
  • Increased memory bus utilization - burst length of 4 and 1T address timing
  • NVIDIA Dynamic Adaptive Speculative Preprocessor 3.0 - data prefetch per core and thread
  • NVIDIA QuickSync Technology - reduces latency that occurs when FSB and memory speeds differ

NVIDIA MediaShield is a set of hardware and software technologies that aim to simplify the configuration of RAID (Redundant Array of Independent Disks) for the typical PC user. RAID optimizes performance and/or storage by grouping disks together and treating them as a single storage resource. nForce supports RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 0+1, JBOD, cross controller RAID, spare disk allocation and bootable RAID 5 configurations.

Additional features of the nForce4 SLI Intel Edition include Gigabit Ethernet amd NVIDIA Active Armor, which features hardware-assisted firewall protection.

Network Access Manager Main Menu
Click Image to Enlarge

NVIDIA's nTune was recently updated to version 2.5 and provides a plethora of performance optimization and application monitoring features for nForce-based systems.

nTune Clock Control Menu

nTune features nVProfileManager, which is a rules based system management tool. For example, a rule can be created that executes a program when the processor is idle or load a profile when a Direct3D or OpenGL game is executed.

Next Page: Board Shots and Technical Specifications

Last Updated on April 5, 2005


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