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Last week nVidia was nice enough to fly me out to sunny Santa Clara, California. Although it was nice to get some sunshine on my pasty British skin, it seems the trip came with a catch – a solid day of presentations on its latest products.
Today sees the launch of nVidia’s nForce 5 chipset and AMD’s socket AM2. Although I have done extensive AM2 testing for this review, the emphasis of these tests has been on gaming and the nForce platform as a whole. I will test the AM2 platform in more detail at a later point. For those who aren’t aware of what socket AM2 is, it will be replacing both Socket 939 and 754 as the socket of choice for everything from budget Semprons to high end Athlon FX processors. Accompanying this socket change is a move to DDR2 memory, initially at speeds of 800MHz as well as the introduction of Virtualization.
As the memory controller is integrated into the Athlon 64 processor, the move by AMD to DDR2 memory required a relatively slight change to the processor. In theory, as the CPU is isolated from the chipset, nVidia could have happily continued with nForce 4 and released AM2 based nForce4 boards. Indeed, ATI has chosen not to update its AMD chipset and launched RD580 based motherboards on an AM2 platform instead of attempting to reinvent the wheel.
Above you can see a table describing the main differences between the four new nForce5 chipsets, including features you won’t have heard of yet. At the very bottom of the range is the nForce5 550 which has a single x16 PCI-E slot, doesn’t support any of the interesting networking features and has only four SATA channels with no RAID 5.
570 Ultra will also have a single x16 PCI-E slot, but will support the newer networking features and the improved SATA support. 570 SLI will have two PCI-E slots, which will have x8 lanes when running in SLI or x16 when a single card is in use. Then at the very top we have 590 SLI which uses an extra chip (SPP) to give the full twin x16 lanes when running in SLI. This is very similar to the current nForce4 line up, just with the addition of new features.
nForce4 has been an incredibly popular platform for those who like to build their own, and has offered the best performance and overclocking for the AMD platform to date. So what changes has nVidia decided to make?
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