NVIDIA's NFORCE3 250Gb - New Motherboards from MSI and EPoX



The NFORCE3 250Gb from NVIDIA
What's New?

With the introduction of the NFORCE3 250Gb, NVIDIA brings a long list of enhancements as well as feature upgrades.  From a performance standpoint, NVIDIA has implemented several features exclusive to the NFORCE3 250 product line that are meant to enhance the performance of all levels of the various subsystems. We'll attempt to shed light on some of the more notable improvements.

The first major change to the NFORCE3 250Gb was adding a 33% clock speed boost to the Hypertransport link, bringing the maximum speed up to 800MHz. This in turn allows for a full 6.4GB/s of bandwidth, significantly improving the available bandwidth for all system devices. NVIDIA also added native support for SATA by adding Dual independent SATA controllers to the chipset, which allows for a total of 4 SATA devices to be connected at one time. The chipset also provides quite a bit of flexibility with its RAID implementation, offering RAID 0, 1 and 0+1 between any combination of SATA and/or IDE hard drives.

Another benefit for the NFORCE3 250Gb is native support for Gigabit Ethernet. This is a major improvement over the NFORCE3 150 which was hampered by legacy 10/100 Ethernet.  Finally, to get the maximum available throughput, NVIDIA uses an isochronous controller that, when paired with the Hypertransport technology, results in maximum throughput with low overhead.  Below is a diagram showing how traditional Gigabit solutions run through the PCI bus, limiting the performance of the Gigabit Ethernet to the top speed of the bus.

The second image shows how the NFORCE3 250Gb design offers an independent link which allows for a full 1Gbps in each direction. This busless configuration takes away the effects of bus traffic, allowing the Ethernet to run at its maximum throughput at all times, reducing overall latency.

Another major addition is the inclusion of a hardware firewall into the NFORCE3 250Gb's design. By making the firewall a hardware solution, as opposed to an aftermarket software package, the end user will see a significant improvement in system performance. Software firewalls typically run at the expense of CPU cycles, whereas, NVIDIA's hardware firewall integrates this design into their MCP's, reducing its effects on system performance.  While this isn't an all-in-one solution to network intrusions, this integrated design offers a far more effective solution than a third party software package, as well as being an excellent option when coupled with a router/firewall combination.

It should be clear to you now that NVIDIA has been hard at work, adding some excellent features and performance enhancements to their latest NFORCE3 creation.  But with modern motherboard chipsets, hardware is only part of the picture.  Next we'll take a quick look at the NVIDIA Forceware driver package and utilities that help unlock the full potential of the NFORCE3's feature set.

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