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New and Improved: NVIDIA nForce3 250 Gb Chipset
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Performance-wise, NVIDIA has caught up with its competitors - but that's about it. The fine-tuning of the memory controller is gone, because in the 64 bit Athlons, this function is incorporated in the processor core. But why do the results fluctuate so much?

Two factors should be taken into account: On one hand, the nForce3 150 lags behind because of its slow HyperTransport. The VIA system, in turn, suffers from the fact that all three of the other test systems get a head start with a speed advantage of 9 MHz.

Because most mobo makers today overclock their systems by 0.5 MHz to 1.0 MHz, which results in slightly higher processor speed, a chipset to chipset comparison like this one is in some ways unfair.

A nasty matter, especially because technically there is no problem with reaching exactly 2.0 GHz, but almost everyone these days seems to be just as brash. What remains are the differences based on the chipset architecture and the precision work of the developers.

Taking this into account, the nForce3 250 Gb emerges as the victor with a narrow edge, closely followed by SiS 755 and VIA K8T800. However, the victory of the NVIDIA chip is hardly attributable to its performance. It dominated in only 18 out of 30 benchmarks. Its value add is largely derived from its Gigabit network controller and hardware firewall.

However, we also see the problems that the Joe Blow user will feel, who might be overwhelmed by the number of options and will end up limiting Internet access by, for example, selecting an unsuitable security profile or not taking full advantage of the firewall's features. Thus, we see the NVIDIA firewall as a worthwhile addition for business customers and fans. For the home user, however, security on the Net will still be associated with cost - regardless of whether a software or a hardware solution is used.

However, NVIDIA's upwardly mobile design improvements are now apparent, as made unmistakably clear by the new GeForce 6800 Ultra. In a few weeks a test will show whether or not the narrow performance advantage of the nForce3 250 Gb in socket 939 can be expanded.

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