Were manufacturers churning out the same Socket A hardware as a year ago, the platform would have significantly less appeal. However, chipset and mobo makers have kept their products up to date, adding new features and functionality to keep Socket A as close to the cutting edge as an Athlon XP can be. Most recently, VIA released a dual-channel KT880 chipset with the same south bridge bells and whistles as VIA's Athlon 64 offerings.
Now it's NVIDIA's turn to update.
To compliment its feature-rich nForce3 250Gb chipset for Athlon 64 processors, NVIDIA is rolling out a new version of its popular nForce2 core logic that brings Serial ATA, Gigabit Ethernet, and a firewall to Socket A motherboards. Read on to see what NVIDIA's new nForce2 Ultra 400Gb chipset is all about and how it compares with the competition.
Introducing a new MCP
As its name implies, the nForce2 Ultra 400Gb is quite similar to the nForce2 Ultra 400. In fact, the two chipsets use the same nForce2 Ultra 400 SPP north bridge, which means they share the same AGP 8X interface, dual-channel DDR400 memory controller, double-pumped 200MHz front-side bus, and bidirectional 8-bit/400MHz HyperTransport chipset interconnect.
The nForce2 Ultra 400Gb finds its disctinctinveness at the south bridge, where NVIDIA's new MCP2-Gb makes its debut. Here's a quick rundown of what the MCP2-Gb brings to the table.
The Ultra 400Gb's RAID support covers RAID 0, 1, 0+1, and JBOD arrays. NVIDIA also includes a fancy RAID management utility with its ForceWare drivers that makes managing and monitoring arrays a snap.
With GigE on-chip, mobo makers won't have to marry third-party Gigabit chips to the pokey PCI bus. However, because the Ultra 400Gb's GigE is on the MCP, it will have to share interconnect bandwidth with other south bridge components, including Serial ATA drives and RAID arrays.
NVIDIA says it has put lots of effort into creating an intuitive and easy-to-use interface that is both simple enough for Joe Sixpack to understand and powerful enough to give enthusiasts plenty of tweaking control. For the uninitiated, the firewall's web interface offers a number of pre-defined security profiles and wizards to walk users through common tasks like opening up ports for IM programs, game servers, and the like. Security enthusiasts who eschew wizards and profiles may appreciate the firewall's ICSA Labs certification, and its support for stateless and stateful inspections, port blocking and filtering, remote administration, DHCP blocking, and protection against spoofing, sniffing and ARP cache poisoning.
NVIDIA says it's working with developers to make third-party firewall software take advantage of the Gb's hardware firewall hooks.
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