NVIDIA's nForce2 Ultra Boosts AthlonXP's Chipset Power Base

New nForce Includes Gbit Network And SATA

The latest innovation from NVIDIA is not really new, technically speaking. However, the nForce2 Ultra 400 Gb is a valuable addition for the Athlon XP, which is still AMD's best-selling processor. It is meant to combine the high performance of the well-known nForce2 chipset with the Gigabit Ethernet controllers (which we found to be good) of the nForce3 250 Gb chipset. In addition to that, there is a Serial ATA controller.

NVIDIA's basic goal is to differentiate itself as much as possible from its main rival, VIA. Just a few months ago, the Taiwanese manufacturer introduced the KT880, a dual-channel memory chipset, which did not outpace the nForce2 in performance, but could be viewed as its equal.

The features that bring the "new" nForce2 into being have been available at NVIDIA since the end of last year, and they were already tested successfully with the Athlon 64 chipset, nForce3 250 Gb. However, there is still one essential difference: While the nForce3 is designed as a single-chip solution, NVIDIA still has to rely on two chips for nForce2. The memory controller requires too many transistors, and consequently the components do not all fit into a single BGA case.

As usual, this latest chipset had to endure our stringent series of tests, which consists of a broad range of benchmarks for testing performance. As a reference, we also used the test results for the Gigabit Ethernet tests conducted a few weeks ago and added the nForce2 Ultra 400 Gb to the test bed.