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Massive nVidia nForce2 Motherboard Roundup

Massive nVidia nForce2 Motherboard Roundup - PCSTATS
Price Check: $/£/€
Abstract: Despite a bit of a delay at the release of the nForce2 chipset, nVidia appears to have learned their lessons well and have not made the same mistakes twice.
Filed under: Motherboards Published:  Author: 
External Mfg. Website: various Jun 29 2003   Colin Sun  
Home > Reviews > Motherboards > various nforce2

Massive nVidia nForce2 Motherboard Roundup

As a newbie to the chipset market, nVidia's original nForce chipset struck out pretty badly despite being fast for its time. The reasons for the failure were simple, the first nforce chipsets were expensive and bogged down by delay after delay which caused a very late release to market. Despite a bit of a delay at the release of the nForce2 chipset, nVidia appears to have learned their lessons well and have not made the same mistakes twice. Consequently, the nForce2 chipset is enjoying widespread popularity among consumers.

There are many reasons why nVidia's nForce2 chipset has proven successful so far; it delivers excellent performance, it's aggressively priced and most importantly it's an extremely stable and reliable platform. The only hiccup has been a brief issue with some recent drivers, but that looks like a one off.

Amazingly the competition has not been able to mount any sort of counter to the nForce2. VIA, the main rival in the AMD chipset market has only recently released the KT600, a chipset that finally offers some real competition to the nForce2. Fortunately for nVIDIA, the VIA KT600 is not battle tested and VIA's track record with first generation chipsets is pretty poor (KT133 -> KT133A, KT266 -> KT266A anyone?).

Before we take a look at the nForce2 motherboards we have rounded up I think a quick little recap of the background info is a good idea.

There are many reasons why the nForce2 chipset has put up such stiff competition. First off, the chipset has a very powerful memory controller which supports dual channel DDR memory - which in theory doubles the available memory bandwidth to the processor. nVIDIA also implemented a more advanced DASP (Dynamic Adaptive Speculative Pre-Processor) on the nForce2 which acts like the prefetch logic built into a Pentium 4 or AthlonXP processor.

Dual channel DDR, sounds impressive doesn't it? There are two independent 64bit memory controllers built into the nForce2 Northbridge and when two DIMM's are installed into each separate memory controller, the nForce2 runs them in parallel which doubles the amount of bandwidth available to the processor. Unfortunately feeding an Athlon processor with more bandwidth then it requires is a bit redundant.

Try to think of it this way, there's a four lane high way (memory bandwidth) with a 100KM/H speed limit (FSB) and there are four cars (data) running parallel to each other going at the speed limit. If we double the number of lanes from four to eight, it doesn't allow any of the cars to run faster because there's a speed limit so the extra lanes go to waste.

In order for the Athlon processor to take advantage of the extra bandwidth available, the processor would have to go through fundamental changes to its architecture so it could send more data (cars).

Please keep in mind though the reason why performance is better when running DC DDR instead of SC (single channel) DDR is because nVIDIA optimized the nForce2 to run DC DDR. In terms of performance difference between DC and SC DDR we're talking less then 200 points in 3DMark2001SE on a nForce2 SPP based system with a Radeon 9700 Pro an AthlonXP 3000+.

Things are totally different if you were to use the integrated GeForce4 MX as the videocard uses a lot of memory bandwidth itself and as you'll see in the upcoming benchmarks all nForce2 IGP based systems perform just slightly slower then their SPP counterparts.

DASP works on the same concept as the hardware prefetch logic's found in modern processors. What the nForce2 does is look for data that's constantly accessed and then try to predict what will be needed next. Once the prediction is made, it'll automatically load the data into memory before the processor requires it.

Office based 2D applications seem to get the biggest boost from DASP. Operations with those types of programs are fairly predictable, but 3D applications like games and 3D rendering programs do not really use DASP since they are more unpredictable.

A look at the contestants

Now that we've had the chance to play with eleven nForce2 motherboards, it's a good time to do a roundup. From budget to highend, to motherboards with integrated video we have a whole lot of nForce2 goodness coming your way.

Here's the list of motherboards that we'll be looking at today.

First the nForce2-SPP based boards: Asus A7N8X, MSI K7N2-L, Epox 8RDA+, FIC AU11, FIC AU13 and the Magic-Pro K7N-Ultra S.

The nForce2-IGP motherboards are: Abit NF7-M, Albatron KM18G Pro, AOpen AK79G MAX, Epox 8RGA+ and the MSI K7N2G-ILSR.

All the motherboards support 200/266/333/400 MHz FSB Athlon/AthlonXP processors and the DIMM slots can be equipped with a maximum of 3GB of PC1600/2100/2700/3200 DDR RAM. Let's take a quick overview of all the motherboards before diving into more detail...

nForce2 SPP Motherboards
Asus A7N8X MSI K7N2-L Epox 8RDA+ FIC AU11 FIC AU13 Magic-Pro K7N-Ultra S

Northbridge nForce2 SPP nForce2 SPP nForce2 SPP nForce2 SPP nForce2 SPP nForce2 SPP
Southbridge MCP MCP MCP-T MCP-T MCP-T MCP
Supported FSB 200/266/333/400 MHz 200/266/333/400 MHz 200/266/333/400 MHz 200/266/333/400 MHz 200/266/333/400 MHz 200/266/333/400 MHz
Form Factor ATX ATX ATX ATX ATX ATX
IDE 2 Ultra/133 2 Ultra/133 2 Ultra/133 2 Ultra/133 2 Ultra/133, 2 Serial ATA 3 Ultra/133, 2 Serial ATA
AGP 8x AGP, 1.5V Lock 8x AGP, 1.5V Lock 8x AGP, 1.5V Lock 8x AGP, 1.5V Lock 8x AGP, 1.5V Lock 8x AGP, 1.5V Lock
PCI 5 32bit PCI's 5 32bit PCI's 6 32bit PCI's 6 32bit PCI's 6 32bit PCI's 5 32bit PCI's
Audio Realtek ALC650 5.1 AC'97 Realtek ALC650 5.1 AC'97 nVIDIA SoundStorm nVIDIA SoundStorm nVIDIA SoundStorm Realtek ALC650 5.1 AC'97
Price $135 CDN ($100 US) $100 CDN ($75 US) $112 CDN ($85 US) $130 CDN, ($97 US) $115 CDN ($85 US) $155 CDN ($115 US)

nForce2 IGP Motherboards
Abit NF7-M Albatron KM18G Pro AOpen AK79G MAX Epox 8RGA+ MSI K7N2G-ILSR

Northbridge nForce2 IGP nForce2 IGP nForce2 IGP nForce2 IGP nForce2 IGP
Southbridge MCP MCP MCP-T MCP-T MCP-
Supported FSB 200/266/333/400 MHz 200/266/333/400 MHz 200/266/333/400 MHz 200/266/333/400 MHz 200/266/333/400 MHz
Form Factor ATX ATX ATX ATX ATX
IDE 2 Ultra/133 2 Ultra/133 3 Ultra/133, 2 Serial ATA 2 Ultra/133 3 Ultra/133, 2 Serial ATA
AGP 8x AGP, 1.5V Lock 8x AGP, 1.5V Lock 8x AGP, 1.5V Lock 8x AGP, 1.5V Lock 8x AGP, 1.5V Lock
PCI 5 32bit PCI's 3 32bit PCI's 5 32bit PCI's 6 32bit PCI's 5 32bit PCI's
Audio Realtek ALC650 5.1 AC'97 Realtek ALC650 5.1 AC'97 nVIDIA SoundStorm nVIDIA SoundStorm nVIDIA SoundStorm
Price $125 CDN ($92 US) $135 CDN ($100 US) $183 CDN ($135 US) $135 CDN ($100 US) $178 CDN ($131 US)

First up we have the remarkable ASUS A7N8X.

© 2014 PCSTATS.com Next Page >

 

Contents of Article: various nforce2
 Pg 1.  — Massive nVidia nForce2 Motherboard Roundup
 Pg 2.  The Pioneer - Asus A7N8X
 Pg 3.  Super Budget MSI K7N2-L
 Pg 4.  The awesome Epox 8RDA+
 Pg 5.  8RDA+'s twin, the FIC AU11
 Pg 6.  FIC's second go with the nForce2, the AU13
 Pg 7.  Magic who? Oh Soltek...
 Pg 8.  Abit, ahh wonderful Abit...
 Pg 9.  Small but powerful, Albatron KM18G Pro
 Pg 10.  Black Beauty, AOpen AK79G MAX
 Pg 11.  The Epox 8RGA+
 Pg 12.  Feature Rich MSI K7N2G-ILSR
 Pg 13.  System Spec's and Benchmarks
 Pg 14.  Benchmarks: Winstone 2002
 Pg 15.  Benchmarks: PCMark2002
 Pg 16.  Benchmarks: 3DMark2001SE
 Pg 17.  Benchmarks: Quake III Arena
 Pg 18.  Benchmarks: UT2003
 Pg 19.  Overclocking and Conclusions

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