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ED#07 : The New NVIDIA nForce2 Chipsets : New Or Just Retouched?
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ED#07 : The New NVIDIA nForce2 Chipsets : New Or Just Retouched?

On May 13th, 2003, NVIDIA lashed back at its competitors with new GPU and chipset releases. The two-pronged assault involved the GeForce FX-line of GPUs and the nForce2-line of motherboard chipsets. In this editorial, we will be taking a closer look at NVIDIA's latest chipset releases!


The New nForce2 Chipsets

First up were the new nForce2 chipsets. NVIDIA sent us their press release and other details several days prior to launch. Apparently, there are two new nForce2 chipset offerings.

Let's see what the official press release had to say :-

"On Tuesday, May 13th at 6:00 a.m. PST, NVIDIA Corporation will officially unveil two new product offerings in its nForce family--NVIDIA nForce2 Ultra 400 and NVIDIA nForce2 400 platform processors.

Both NVIDIA nForce2 Ultra 400 and NVIDIA nForce2 400 platform processors are optimized and validated for the new AMD Athlon(tm) XP 3200+ processor with advanced 400MHz frontside bus technology (FSB). NVIDIA nForce2 Ultra 400 is still the only core-logic solution available for AMD Athlon XP-based PCs to incorporate support for the AMD 400MHz frontside bus, DDR400 memory modules and a performance-boosting, dual channel memory subsystem. NVIDIA nForce2 400 brings the power and performance of NVIDIA nForce2 technology into the mainstream market, and provides system builders and OEMs with an option to configure product offerings with more conventional features and functionality--and at significantly attractive price points.

Confused? Me too. So, I dug into the press documents NVIDIA sent me to get a better idea of what they were trying to convey.


The "New" Chipsets

A quick run-through of their press docs revealed NVIDIA's plans.

Courtesy of NVIDIA Corporation

If the new nForce2 Ultra 400 chipset strikes you as very similar to the C1 stepping of the original nForce2 SPP (System Platform Processor or in plainer PC terms, the north bridge), you are not far from the truth. The nForce2 Ultra 400 is nothing more than a renamed nForce2 SPP with official 400MHz FSB support!

As far as I can tell, there's virtually no difference between the Ultra 400 and the C1 stepping of the current nForce2 SPP. It comes with full support for the new 400MHz FSB, DDR400, up to 3GB of memory, DualDDR technology and AGP8X support. It can be paired with either the MCP-T or the lower-cost MCP south bridges.

So, the only product that's actually new is the nForce2 400 which looks like a low-cost version of the Ultra 400 chipset. Unlike its feature-rich brother, the nForce2 400 offers only a single DDR controller and will not be able to support the MCP-T south bridge. However, it will still offer full support for the new 400MHz FSB, DDR400, up to 3GB of memory and AGP8X support. Not bad at all, especially IF NVIDIA sells it significantly cheaper than the Ultra 400 chipset.

But bad news for those who are looking for an integrated graphics solution. NVIDIA chose not to update the nForce2 IGP (with integrated GeForce4 MX GPU) with support for the new 400MHz FSB. It is just being renamed as the nForce2 with GeForce4 MX Graphics. Probably a move to keep the nForce2 with GeForce4 MX Graphics at the same level as the nForce2 400.

The value of the integrated GeForce4 MX GPU, DualDDR support and greater flexibility in selecting the south bridge would have given the nForce2 with GeForce4 MX Graphics a considerable edge over the nForce2 400 and made it rather redundant. The implicit lack of official 400MHz FSB support as well as higher cost are geared to give the nForce2 400 greater appeal to those seeking low-cost alternatives.

It's quite evident that NVIDIA is aiming to make the nForce2 400 the ultimate low-cost chipset. In fact, they are aiming for nForce2 400 motherboards to be sold at the $70 level!

Courtesy of NVIDIA Corporation

A quick look at the feature-set of the nForce2 south bridges revealed nothing new. The nForce2 MCP and MCP-T south bridges remain the same. Please note that a NVIDIA nForce2 motherboard that uses the MCP-T south bridge is not necessarily SoundStorm-certified. For more details on SoundStorm certification, please read our comprehensive SoundStorm In A Cup editorial.



Thanks to NVIDIA, we have an assortment of eye candy for you to feast on. First up are pictures of the nForce2 Ultra 400 north bridge!

All pictures courtesy of NVIDIA Corporation

And here are the pictures of the new nForce2 400 north bridge!

All pictures courtesy of NVIDIA Corporation



In my opinion, the most interesting aspect of this NVIDIA launch is not the "introduction" of the nForce2 Ultra 400. We all know how well it performs.

The jewel, so to speak, of their launch is actually the nForce2 400. NVIDIA will be aggressively pricing this north bridge to wrest market share away from the likes of VIA in the low-cost market.

The nForce2 400 may not have any whiz-bang features like DualDDR or MCP-T support but the availability of a nForce2-powered motherboard at only $70 is sure to shake up the low-end motherboard market. Watch and see!


Questions & Comments

If you have any questions or comments about the new NVIDIA nForce2 chipsets, please feel free to post them here! We look forward to hearing from you! :)

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