NVIDIA nForce2 Ultra 400Gb

Meet GigE, RAID and the BIOS

Gigabit Ethernet
Top Speed

One of the main reasons for the launch of the nForce2 Ultra 400Gb is the addition of the Gigabit Ethernet, which is now provided via the new MCP.

This is the typical architecture for a Gigabit Ethernet connection.  Most chipsets will run the Gigabit Ethernet over the PCI Bus of the motherboard.  As you can imagine, such an implementation will only operate at the maximum speed of the PCI Bus, which is not fast enough to support the peak throughput of Gigabit Ethernet.  Yet another limitation is the shared resources of the PCI Bus because other PCI components are sharing bandwidth at the same time.

What NVIDIA set out to do was to offer Gigabit Ethernet using its own, dedicated pathway to the CPU and main memory so as not to be hindered by the limitation of the PCI Bus.   This is accomplished by providing an industry standard Reduced Gigabit Media Independent Interface (RGMII) and integrating the controller right into the MCP.  This allows motherboard vendors to interface this solution to the Ethernet PHY (OSI Physical Layer) using parts from an assortment of vendors.

This type of implementation permits NVIDIA's Gigabit Ethernet to operate at speeds much closer to its theoretical peak.  NVIDIA also offloads some Ethernet functions from the CPU, which minimizes CPU utilization during transfers, making this what NVIDIA likes to call "the fastest Gigabit Ethernet desktop solution today".

RAID Support
Storage at Warp Speed

Another major motive for the release of this new chipset is the addition of RAID support into the MCP-Gb Southbridge.  NVIDIA RAID technology will support RAID 0, 1, and 0+1 for both SATA and PATA connections in a single RAID array.  NVIDIA dubbed this new technology "Cross-Controller RAID" since it can support both SATA and PATA controlled hard drives in a single RAID array.  A mixture of other technologies are used here such as bootable RAID drives, On-the-Fly Rebuilds and Spare Disk Allocation.  All of these pieces are brought together with a user interface which should make building a RAID array an easy task for both the beginner and experts among us.

We saw a demo of NVIDIA's RAID implementation at Editor's day back in April and were quite impressed.  They had set up a 4 drive SATA array, and were streaming 7 DVD feeds from the drives.  As we watched the video playing on screen, one of the NVIDIA reps pulled a drives from the array.  Surprisingly, the system continued to function normally and the video never skipped a beat.

All Things Change



The reference motherboard used Phoenix's AWARD Bios.  Of course each individual motherboard manufacturer will be at liberty to choose their own BIOS.  The settings you see here should be quite typical of retail nForce2 Ultra 400Gb motherboards, but by no means is the end all solution.  Above are two standard screens which show the initial BIOS page and the Integrated Peripherals.  From the Integrated Peripherals page, any on-board component can be enabled or disabled depending on the user's wants and needs.  The Advanced Settings page is where the fun begins.  Here Memory Timings can be changed as well as Front Side Bus timings.  For those that didn't notice, the CPU Multiplier is not changeable here, but it will be in future BIOS revisions and should be standard in the retail product.



Besides timings, all various voltages are adjustable from the Advanced Settings screen including CPU, AGP, Memory, VAux, and VID voltages.  The range of voltages offered here are a bit slim, but again, retail versions of this motherboard will most likely have a diverse collection of voltages to choose from.  In any event, the offerings here are ample enough to try overclocking this motherboard, but first we will cover the software that makes this motherboard tick, in the form of NVIDIA's System Utility and their new 4.24 Chipset drivers.  Let's have a look at the supplementary benefits that are packed into this software.


Tags:  Nvidia, nforce, Ultra, force, GB, ULT, id

Related content