NVIDIA, SiS and VIA Bring on Chipsets for AMD Socket 939

NVIDIA nForce3 Ultra

NVIDIA does not provide a chipset diagram - but that doesn't matter, because the nForce3 is actually a single chip that includes the complete function set. Compared with the nForce2, the NVIDIA APU (Audio Processing Unit) with Dolby Digital Encoding is no longer supported, but the AC97 system still offers up to eight high-quality audio channels.

The 1394a controller has also been eliminated completely - instead the nForce3 can now handle RAID 0, 1 or 1+0 via the two SATA ports as well as the UltraATA/133 channels. The number of USB 2.0 connections has increased from six to eight.

An exclusive feature offered by the nForce3 Ultra is that its integrated network controller provides gigabit speed, unlike SiS and VIA. With the K8T800 Pro, the motherboard manufacturer also has the option of adding a gigabit chip - but it is addressed via the comparatively slow PCI bus.

In addition, none of the integrated network controllers currently offers the functionality available in the NVIDIA chip: an integrated firewall handles IP package filtering according to configurable criteria. Although "stateless packet filtering" is the simplest form of protection it is certainly a welcome feature when provided for free.

The software is extremely easy to use - the driver installs a service that is readily accessible via a browser interface. Experienced users will quickly find their way, for other users NVIDIA provides a configuration wizard. The integrated firewall is particularly interesting for enterprise-wide use, allowing the setup of multiple computers according to pre-configured images (depending on the specifics of the enterprise domain). This feature thus provides the means to implement maximum-security requirements.