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It’s finally arrived, the first retail nVidia nForce4 SLi for Intel motherboard. Ok, ok, I’ve calmed down now, after all it’s just another motherboard chipset, or is it? Considering that this is nVidia’s first attempt at creating a chipset for Intel processors it’s no mean feat to bring out an SLi solution at the same time. There are some obvious reasons why nVidia has gone down this route with the main one being that Intel doesn’t have a consumer level SLi capable motherboard at the moment.
Of course I imagine that Intel isn’t too happy about more competition in the chipset market, regardless of whether it’s a solution that Intel doesn’t offer itself. There are some rumours about Intel launching its own SLi compatible solution shortly, but so far it is only a rumour.
However, the nForce 4 SLi Intel Edition chipset is still an unproven platform and the new Gigabyte GA-8N-SLi Royal is the first production board available for review. But if this first board is anything to go by, Intel will be looking at some stiff competition in the motherboard chipset market for its own CPUs.
One of the most interesting features of the nForce 4 SLi Intel Edition is that it has native support for 667MHz DDR2 memory. This is not yet a ratified standard, but Corsair is already offering memory which will run at this speed and faster. The new Twin2X CM2X512A-5400UL modules we were sent to test the GA-8N-SLi Royal with worked flawlessly at 667MHz on a 1066MHz bus with a 3.73GHz Pentium 4 Extreme Edition CPU.
nVidia might be one step ahead of Intel when it comes to memory speeds at the moment, but I doubt it will take to long before 667MHz DDR2 memory becomes the norm. But nVidia seems to have anticipated this and the new DualDDR2 memory controller has an independent bus for each memory module. This should allow for better performance when compared to competing chipsets that share the same bus for each pair of installed modules.
Add to this nVidia’s QuickSync and DASP 3.0 technology and you’ve got most of the features from the nForce 2 chipset integrated into the new nForce 4 SLi Intel Edition core logic. QuickSync allows for better performance with asynchronous memory whereas DASP 3.0 is a high performance memory pre-fetch core-logic. This should give the CPU quicker access to data it needs by predetermining what the CPU will need next. This is all fairly complex and there’s no easy way to explain how it all works, but it should all count towards better memory performance and lower latency times.
Another advantage is support for dual channel asymmetric DIMM population. What this means is that you get dual channel memory performance even if you use three modules. This is a unique feature to the nForce 4 SLi Intel Edition chipset, although very little stays unique for long in this industry.