New and Improved: NVIDIA nForce3 250 Gb Chipset

The nForce3 250 Gb Passes The Athlon64 Performance Jump Hurdle

Last fall, NVIDIA let us down. Despite great on-paper features and design, the nForce3 150 for the Athlon64 was inferior - albeit slightly-compared to the competing K8T800 from VIA.

Soon the talk was of the nForce3 250, which was expected to boost the HyperTransport bus width from only 8 bits and 600 MHz to a more suitable 16 bits and 800 MHz. And truth be told, the nForce3 250 Gb is now equipped for operation at 1 GHz, which will become a reality with the new socket 939 in a few weeks.

The Athlon64's architecture makes it difficult for chips makers to add many processor performance enhancements or value adds. Improving performance on a chipset level is largely done by tweaking the memory controller. You can't differentiate from your competitors by better performance, as the main aspect for fine-tuning is the memory controller - which is not part of the chipset with A64. So the way of enabling better value is providing more features. However, NVIDIA got around this value add limitation by adding additional Ethernet communication and firewall features to the chipset.

First and foremost, NVIDIA has added two serial ATA ports, because this year the new interface will be in demand. What's more, NVIDIA has now integrated a Gigabit network controller into the nForce3, and as a special bonus, has integrated a hardware firewall.