Chipset: nForce3 250Gb Review :: The Chipset

04-18-2004 · Category: Hardware - Chipset

By Benjamin Sun

There are currently two models of the nForce3 250 chipset, the nForce3 250 which is targeted for the value platform and the nForce3 250 Gb which is targeted for the enthusiast platform. So what differentiates the two chipsets? The 250 Gb has integrated Gigabit Ethernet, which is now a standard on most motherboards. The other new feature is an on-chip Firewall, which I'll go over a little later. The model that I'm reviewing in this review is the nForce3 250 Gb.

Chipset: nForce3 250Gb Review

nForce3 250 Gb is targeted for the AMD Athlon 64 platform. As such, it supports all available Socket 754 Athlon 64 CPUs. There are currently 4 different Athlon 64 CPUs; the 2800, the 3000, the 3200 and the 3400+ which was included in the test board. As our standard tests are run on a 3200+ system, I'll run both the 3200+ and the 3400+ in testing.

The board supports Gigabit Ethernet natively for the first time in an NVIDIA chipset. One of the problems with Gigabit Ethernet is the fact that the bandwidth required is more than that of the standard 32-bit PCI bus. Let me explain a little. A 32-bit PCI bus provides 133 MB of bandwidth (33 MHzx4 (32bits/8bits/byte.) While this is just fine for 10/100, which takes up to 12MB of bandwidth, it becomes problematic when Gigabit Ethernet comes into play. Gigabit Ethernet provides about 125MB, so as you can see, the PCI bus can easily be saturated by using the 32-bit bus. NVIDIA put the MAC (Media Access Controller) on the nForce3 250 Gb chip itself, which allows for higher performance than a traditional Gigabit Ethernet card based upon the PCI bus.

So what is an on-chip Firewall anyway? As you know a major concern today with computer systems is security for the network. With viruses such as Sobig and worms like the Blaster worm, causing networks to crash and problems with other systems being very widespread, a Firewall is becoming more and more of a necessity in today's environment to help protect a system. This is the first chipset of any kind to have the Firewall accelerated by hardware and native to the chip. This should lower the CPU utilization by the Firewall and should make it much harder to hack.

The other component of the nForce3 250 Gb chip is the RAID abilities. The nForce3 250 Gb is the first NVIDIA motherboard chipset to natively support Serial ATA hard disk drives. The earlier Serial ATA hard disk drives can support SATA but need another chip such as a Promise or Silicon Image to control the Serial ATA hard disk drives. The 250 Gb supports up to 4 SATA HDDs natively by the chip with the ability to use RAID 0, RAID 1 or RAID 0+1 modes supported. The 250 chipset is the first chipset to allow a RAID array to use both Serial ATA and Parallel ATA together, which is a great idea.