Major Competitor: Nvidia nForce4 Intel Edition
But today, Intel isn't the only company with a high-value chipset. For Intel CPUs, Nvidia's nForce4 Intel Edition could cause the big boys more than one headache. This alternative can only grab professional segments of the market in small bites, because of Intel's overwhelmingly dominant position. But for gamers and PC enthusiasts, nForce4 Intel Edition is an attractive alternative.
Most Nvidia features simply match Intel's. Thus, the nForce4 Intel Edition also supports all socket 775 CPUs, including Pentium 4, Pentium D and Pentium Extreme Edition. Likewise for dual-channel DDR2-667 memory, plus four SATA connections at 300 M/s with Native Command Queuing. But the nForce4 memory controller does offer more user-friendly software, while NVRAID can't quite measure up to Intel's Matrix RAID just yet. Because this battle will be fought mostly on the software front, changes in standing through firmware updates seem inevitable.
On its best side, Nvidia has an integrated network controller with an ActiveArmor hardware firewall. The firewall runs on its own chipset, and puts hardly any load on the CPU. Nvidia also offers 10 USB 2.0 ports, whereas Intel offers only 8, but offers only 3 PCI-Express lines to Intel's 6 for expansion components. Interestingly, Nvidia's architecture permits the 16 PCI-E lines for the graphics card to be divided into two physical slots that x8 cards could use, for better SLI support.