Athlon On The Fast Lane: Three Motherboards with nForce2-Chipset and Dual-Channel DDR

nForce2 Vs. nForce2 "Light"

Basically, there are four different chipset combinations, as nVIDIA offers two north bridge and two south bridge chips. The two north bridges both include the fancy memory interface, and differ by only one feature: the IGP (Integrated Graphics Processor) comes with a powerful, integrated graphics engine that matches a GeForce4 MX 440. Performance users should go for the SPP (System Platform Processor), which does not include graphics and requires an AGP graphics card.

I already mentioned the two south bridge chips MCP and MCP-T. The T-version includes nVIDIA's APU (Audio Processing Unit), and is your first choice if you value sound and Firewire. The simpler version only has one network controller, instead of the MCP-T's twin interface.

Based on this information, two reasonable chipset combinations can be derived. One is for business machines with some, but little, demands for 3D. They would consist of the IGP and the MCP. Power users, rather, should go for the other combination, consisting of SPP and MCP-T. A mighty AGP graphics card would satisfy the thirst for performance, while the MCP-T offers excellent connectivity and audio features. The three boards we received for this review all target the performance market, and are based on SPP and MCP-T.

Athlon Chipsets: VIA, SiS, NVIDIA

This time, we did not include former chipset generations for comparison with nForce2. For one thing, most of them are no longer available. Also, most do not look particularly attractive when comparing features with nForce2.

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ChipsetVIA Apollo KT400SiS746NVIDIA nForce2
LaunchAugust 2002September 2002July 2002
PlatformSocket 462Socket 462Socket 462
ProcessorsAMD Athlon XPAMD Athlon XPAMD Athlon XP
Multi-Processor Supportnonono
NorthbridgeVIA KT400SiS746NVIDIA nForce2 IGP/ SPP
SouthbridgeVIA VT8235SiS963NVIDIA nForce2 MCP/ MCP-T
Front Side Bus100/ 133/ 166 MHz DDR100/ 133 MHz DDR100/ 133/ 166 MHz DDR
Memory Clock100/ 133/ 166 MHz DDR100/ 133/ 166 MHz DDR100/ 133/ 166/ 200 MHz DDR
Asynchronous Memory Modeyesyesyes
Max. # DIMM433
Max. RAM3 GB3 GB3 GB
DIMM Support1 DIMM@DDR4002 DIMM@DDR3333+DIMM@DDR2662 DIMM@DDR3333 DIMM@DDR2661 DIMM@DDR400 Single2 DIMM@DDR400 Dual2 DIMM@DDR333 Dual3 DIMM@DDR333 Single
DDR-SDRAM SupportDDR200, DDR266, DDR333DDR200, DDR266, DDR333DDR200, DDR266, DDR333, DDR400
UltraDMA/33/66/100/133yes/ yes/ yes/ yesyes/ yes/ yes/ yesyes/ yes/ yes/ yes
# USB666
Max. # PCI666
Integrated Graphicsnonoyes, GeForce4 MX (IGP)
Integrated Sound ChipyesyesMCP: AC97MCP-T: APU
4x/ 8xyes/ yesyes/ yesyes/ yes
USB 2.0/ FireWireyes/ nono/ noyes/ yes