NVIDIA nForce 4 SLI Intel Edition

Introduction, Specifications, and the Board

Hot on the heals of the official announcement of Intel's new dual-core Pentium Extreme Edition 840 processor, we have more news for those interested in Intel platform solutions. Today, NVIDIA is finally taking the wraps off of their nForce chipset for the Intel platform, a chipset now known as the nForce 4 SLI Intel Edition. For months there was speculation that this chipset would be called the nForce 5, but because it offers essentially the same feature set as its AMD supporting counterpart, NVIDIA thought it best to keep this chipset in the nForce 4 family.

The feature set of the NVIDIA nForce 4 SLI Intel Edition remains largely unchanged from other nForce 4 chipsets. However, since Intel's and AMD's architectures are quite different, NVIDIA had to design a memory controller to work with Intel's current (and future) processors. AMD's Athon 64 processors have their memory controller on-die with the CPU, and don't need a memory controller to be incorporated into the core logic chipset. NVIDIA's memory controller will largely determine the performance of their nForce 4 SLI Intel Edition platform, but NVIDIA seems confident that they were up to the task. So, let's fire up an nForce 4 SLI Intel Edition motherboard and see how she performs.

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Specifications of the NVIDIA nForce4 SLI Intel Edition Chipset
Today's Solution For Multi-GPU Configurations

Frontside Bus: Pentium 4 CPU Interface

  • 2× address and 4× data
  • QDR (Quad Data Rate) support for 400 MT/s - 1066 MT/s (100MHz –266MHz FSB)
  • Theoretical maximum burst bandwidth of 8.5GB/s
  • Standard bus speeds up to 266MHz supported
  • 36-bit addressing for access to 64GB of memory space
  • Dynamic Bus Inversion
  • Frontside bus (FSB) pipeline depth of 12 in-order queue depth
  • Hyper-Threading Technology support

Dual Channel DDR2 128-Bit Memory Interface
  • Two independent 64-bit memory controllers
  • Can also operate in ganged mode (as one 128-bit controller)
  • Support for 400 MT/s (200MHz), 533 MT/s (266MHz), and 667 MT/s (333 MHz) for a theoretical maximum bandwidth of 10.6 GB/s
  • Up to eight internal banks per DDR2 chip
  • Up to two DIMMs per controller for a maximum of four DIMM support
  • Separate 64-bit data bus per controller
  • Separate address and control bus per DIMM
  • Up to 16 GB using four 4-GB DIMMs
  • Supports synchronous and pseudo-synchronous operation with FSB
  • Supports un-buffered non-ECC DIMMs
  • Low power suspend-to-RAM (S3) support
  • Active and pre-charge power down
  • Support for SPD (Serial Presence Detect) scheme for DIMM detection and configuration


Native Gigabit Ethernet technology

  • The fastest Gigabit Ethernet solution in the market
  • Supports 10/100/1000Base-T Ethernet

Advanced networking features

  • TCP segmentation offloads
  • Jumbo frames
  • Checksum offloads
  • Interrupt moderation
  • Traffic prioritization
  • Remote wake-up
  • Network management for easy set up, configuration, and monitoring


  • RAID 0 disk striping support for highest system and application performance
  • RAID 1 disk mirroring support for fault tolerance
  • RAID 0 +1 disk striping and mirroring support for highest performance with fault tolerance
  • Disk alert system provides a visual indication so users know exactly which hard drive to replace during an array failure
  • Morphing allow users to change the current state of an array to another using one single step without reboot of the PC
  • Cross-controller RAID uniquely supports both SATA and PATA disk devices within a single array

Serial ATA

  • Support for SATA 3Gb/s, 1.5Gb/s disk controller standards
  • Dual controller architecture providing full 3Gb/s bandwidth to each disk
  • Features 4 integrated SATA 3Gb/s ports  

Fast Ultra ATA-133 Disk Drive Controller

  • 5V-tolerant primary and secondary channels, with support for up to four devices
  • Supports UltraDMA modes 6-0 (UltraDMA 33/66/100/133)
  • Industry-standard PCI bus master IDE register set
  • Separate independent IDE connections for 5V-tolerant primary and secondary interfaces


PCI Express interface

  • PCI Express high-performance, scalable interconnect. Rapidly being adopted by the PC industry; designed to replace the AGP and PCI interconnects currently in use.
  • x16 PCI Express link has 4 times the total bandwidth of today's AGP 8X interface
  • x16 PCI Express link for high-performance graphics cards featuring the latest graphics processors with Microsoft DirectX 9 Shader Model 3.0 support
  • Additional x1 PCI Express links for other add-in cards
  • VC1 support on all links provide guaranteed bandwidth to CPU for time-sensitive applications

NVIDIA ActiveArmor Secure Networking Engine

  • Dedicated hardware engine
  • Enhances network security
  • Reduces CPU overhead
  • Powers and accelerates NVIDIA Firewall

NVIDIA Firewall technology

  • Industry's first true hardware-based firewall
  • Unmatched performance and protection
    • Instant-on and tamper resistant
  • Advanced management features through user friendly interface
    • Remote access, configuration, monitoring
    • Command line interface (CLI)
    • Intelligent application management
    • Instant-on and tamper resistant
USB 2.0
  • USB 2.0 Enhanced Host Controller Interface (EHCI)/dual and USB 1.1 Open Host Controller Interface (OHCI)
  • Support for up to 10 ports
  • Supports transfer rates at high speed (480 Mbps), full speed (12 Mbps), and low speed (1.2 Mbps)
  • Dynamically configures slower devices for best utilization of bandwidth
  • Allows USB concurrency

PCI Interface

  • Integrates a fast PCI-to-PCI bridge running at 33 MHz. Includes an arbiter that supports six external master PCI slots.
  • Features of the PCI interface include:
    • PCI 2.3-compliant, 5 V tolerant
    • Supports six external PCI slots at 33 MHz
    • Supports six bus master arbitration PCI master and slave interfaces
    • Supports both master-initiated and slave-initiated terminations
    • Bidirectional write posting support for concurrency
    • Flexible routing of all four PCI interrupts
    • Supports read ahead: memory read line (MRL) and memory read multiple (MRM)

AC '97 2.3 compliant interface

  • Supports 2, 4, 6, or 8-channel audio
  • Dual AC-Link: supports up to two codecs
  • Dual S/PDIF: supports two simultaneous digital outputs; handles stereo PCM or AC-3 output
  • 16-bit or 20-bit stereo, 48kHz output and 16-bit input streams across AC-Link
  • 24-bit, 96kHz stereo output on the secondary S/PDIF output
  • Supports input, output, and general purpose input/output (GPIO) channels for host-based modems
  • Separate independent functions for audio and modem

Power Management

  • Internal clock generator
  • Support for Pentium 4 performance states
  • Support for HyperTransport link lower power disconnected state
  • PCI Express L0s and L1 active link power management support and L2/L3 low power state support
  • Full ACPI 2.0 and PCI PM 1.1 support, including C2/C3, Power on Suspend, Suspend to RAM, Suspend to Disk, and Soft-Off CPU power state support


Click Any Image For An Enlarged View

To test the nForce 4 SLI Intel Edition chipset, NVIDIA shipped us a reference motherboard with features that should be indicative of retail-ready products. We should note that the motherboard we tested does not support Intel's new dual-core processors, even though the nForce4 SLI Intel Edition was designed for both single and dual-core processors from the start. NVIDIA has informed us that support for dual-core processors is board dependent, and that top-tier manufacturers will have dual-core supporting nForce 4 SLI Intel Edition boards available shortly.

Unlike the single-chip nForce 4 SLI chipset for AMD processors, the Intel Edition is a two chip configuration. Since Intel's processors don't have an on-die memory controller like the Athlon 64, NVIDIA has designed their own Dual-DDR2 memory controller for the current Intel platform. The SPP (System Platform Processor) that incorporates NVIDIA's new memory controller, among other things like support for 20 PCI Express lanes, is built on a 0.13 micron manufacturing process and consists of roughly 61 million transistors.  The companion MCP (Media & Communications Processor) which incorporates the features of a traditional Southbridge, is a .15 micron part comprised of about 21 million transistors. Together these two chips provide all of the functionality found in the AMD version of the nForce 4 SLI chipset, and then some.

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