Back in October of 2003, we had the opportunity to take a good look at several new Athlon 64 motherboards. We had two high profile boards from ASUS and MSI that came packed to the gills with features, extras and a promise of high performance courtesy of VIA's K8T800 chipset. A third, less prolific motherboard from Shuttle was a part of that round up, with just an above average feature set, yet promising top-end performance as well. This board was powered by NVIDIA's flagship chipset for the Athlon 64 at the time, the NFORCE3 150. Back then we walked away impressed with the performance of the NFORCE3, which ended up being a solid competitor for the VIA chipset.
However, while the NFORCE3 150 did a great job in the performance arena, its feature set was a bit lackluster compared to the VIA K8T800. On top of that, as the market matured, so did VIA's drivers, helping the K8T800 become the market leader as an Athlon 64 solution. Since then, we've seen some promising challenges from SiS with the SiS755 Chipset, otherwise, VIA has had little to concern themselves with.
Recently, NVIDIA returned to the chipset arena with the introduction of the NFORCE3 250Gb. While the expectation of improved performance is obvious, what was less evident was what new features, if any, NVIDIA was going to bring to the table this time around. Would the NFORCE3 simply be a tweaked 150 offering a nominal increase in performance, or was NVIDIA hard at work on a product that would offer something new? Our initial impressions say NVIDIA has been hard at work, aiming to bring a number of compelling features to bear with their latest creation.
Today, we are going to have a look at two new NFORCE3 250Gb motherboards, comparing their performance to the K8T800 from VIA and SiS755 from SiS. The first board comes from MSI in the form of the MSI K8N Neo Platinum, a motherboard designed to grab your attention with all the trimmings expected from a product with "platinum" in its name. The other board that we have fired up in our labs is the Epox EP-8KDA3+. While it lacks a catchy name or flashy packaging, this motherboard should not be overlooked. The Epox EP-8KDA3+ offers a solid feature set that rivals the MSI board sans some of the fanfare.
While both of these motherboards take a different approach at garnering the enthusiast's attention, one thing is certain, each has a lot to offer. However, before we get down and dirty with these two boards, first we should get acquainted with the NFORCE3 250Gb and highlight some of the newest features NVIDIA added to the mix this time around.