Nvidia's nForce chipset unwrapped

Smug demo, great graphics

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Computex Nvidia has demoed its Xbox-derived PC chipset, nForce, at the Computex tradeshow in Taiwan, as we predicted.

The demo was full of hyperbole and a lot of smug-looking Nvidia employees enjoying the graphics and sounds on display. But the graphics were very good for an integrated graphics chipset, and the Dolby Digital 5.1 sound, pumped through a pretty professional PA system was impressive.

Marks were deducted though for using a very cheesy farmyard animals and guns script - no graphics, just dialogue and sound effects.

Any way, these are Nvidia's main claims for the chipset:

  • The world's fastest PC platform architecture ever designed.
  • Five to ten times the graphics performance of any other integrated PC graphics accelerator.
  • AMD's HyperTransport integrated on both the processors which make up the nForce providing upto six times the internal bandwidth needed by todays' systems. This promises a continuous throughput of up to 800MBps.
  • A DSP audio engine giving real-time 3D audio and real-time encoded Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound.

The two processors which make up the nForce are the Integrated Graphics Processor (IGP), and the Media and Communications Processor (MCP). This is instead of having a Northbridge/Southbridge set up.

The core of the IGP is the Twinbank memory architecture - a 128-bit memory controller supporting 266MHz DDR. Nvidia says Twinbank's memory controller allows the CPU, GPU and APU simultaneous access to the system's 4.2GBps memory bandwidth. The company's release says: "in tests Twinbank delivered up to 30 per cent peak system memory bandwidth when compared to comparable dual-channel-based RDRAM chipsets."

The IGP also has the GeForce2 GPU and the Dynamic Adaptive Speculative Pre-Processor (DASP) which monitors memory traffic and predicts and anticipates CPU requirements.

The MCP has the Audio Processing Unit (APU) for your 3D positional audio, and Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound. The APU outputs 3D audio streams to 2,4 or 6 speakers. The MCP also has a 10/100Base-T Ethernet controller on board. Its 15 to 20 per cent faster than Intel and 3Com's controllers says Nvidia.

Asus, MSI, Gigabyte, Mitac and Abit have signed up to make mobo's featuring nForce chipsets. Fujitsu Siemens is the first PC OEM to say it's building a box around the chipset.

Nvidia says nForce mobos will start shipping in the Autumn. Pricing? Nothing was being said about that but Tony Tamasi, director of product management, said the nForce was going to cost a lot less than a chipset and add-in graphics card. ®

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