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nForce too expensive for retail, mobo makers claim

Price not worrying the top-tier boys, though

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The high price Nvidia is charging for its nForce AMD-oriented chipset has forced motherboard makers to steer clear of the retail market, fearing that nForce-based boards will be just too expensive for price-sensitive consumers.

nForce boards have started to appear in the Taiwanese retail channel, according to a DigiTimes report, but sources close to mobo makers who haven't yet shipped a retail board reckon that nForce's time may have come and gone.

Quite apart from the basic cost of the chipset - around $45, says one DigiTimes source - the part's integrated graphics is looking increasingly underpowered and overpriced. nForce's graphics is pitched between Nvidia's discrete GeForce 2 MX 200 and MX 400 chips. That was fine when nForce was launched, but the arrival of the GeForce Titanium family - essentially clocked-up GeForce 2 and GeForce 3 parts - has forced down the price of lesser chips, including the MX series.

Board makers fear that punters will prefer boards based on much cheaper discrete chipsets into which they can plug a GeForce 2 MX 400 board, getting better graphics than a nForce-based board at a potentially lower cost.

Of course, retail is one thing and the system integrator market another altogether, and DigiTimes' sources say they have decided to target the latter. 'Name' motherboards are less in demand here, and second- and third-tier will have a better chance of selling boards to PC makers than to the kind of customer who buys retail boards who, we suspect, are more discerning.

As such, opportunity, far more than price, may be what is keeping less well-known mobo makers away from the retail market. Price issues certainly don't appear to be bothering first-tier motherboard companies too much. MSI has shipped its MS6367 board, and next month should see the arrival of Asustek's A7N266, Gigabyte's GA7NTX and Abit's NV22. ®

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