Single page Print

Sizing up the competition
Let's compare the nForce4 to the competition by singling out some of the more pertinent north bridge features:

Intel 915G/925X VIA K8T890 ATI Radeon Xpress 200 NVIDIA nForce4 Ultra
HyperTransport link N/A 16-bit/1GHz 16-bit/1GHz 16-bit/1GHz
PCI Express lanes 16 20 22* 20
North/south bridge interconnect type DMI Ultra V-Link 2 lanes PCI Express N/A (Single chip)
Peak theoretical interconnect bandwidth 2GB/s 1.06GB/s 1GB/s N/A (Single chip)

The nForce4 matches up almost exactly with the K8T890 and the Radeon Xpress 200 in terms of north bridge features, with the obvious exception that it's a single-chip design. Note the asterisk next to the number of PCI-E lanes on the Radeon Xpress 200. That's there because ATI dedicates a pair of PCI-E lanes to talking to the south bridge, so the effective number of lanes on the chipset is actually 20. Now, down to the south bridge, where more of the I/O capabilities lie.

Intel ICH6R VIA VT8251 ATI Radeon Xpress 200 NVIDIA nForce4 Ultra
PCI Express lanes 4 2 0 N/A (Single chip)
SATA ports 4 4 4 4
SATA peak data rate 150MB/s 150MB/s 150MB/s 300MB/s
Native Command Queuing Y Y N Y
SATA RAID 0/1 Y Y Y Y
SATA RAID 0+1 N Y N Y
SATA Matrix RAID Y N N N
ATA channels 1 2 2 2
ATA RAID support N N N Y
Max audio channels 8 8 8 8
Audio standard HD/AC'97 HD/AC'97 AC'97 AC'97

Compared to its primary competitors, the ATI Radeon Xpress 200 and VIA K8T890, the nForce4 has a few nice advantages in the disk I/O department, like support for NCQ, 300MB/s Serial ATA transfer rates, and better RAID capabilities on several fronts. Unlike the competition, NVRAID supports ATA devices, can do RAID morphing, and includes NVIDIA's nifty RAID software utility. When VIA's VT8251 south bridge arrives, though, the nForce4 will fall behind on the audio front because it lacks support for High Definition Audio.

The nForce4's most notable deficiency may be the lack of a version with integrated graphics. ATI's Radeon Xpress 200 has a real DirectX 9-class graphics core, and it should do well in low-cost PCs, corporate desktop systems, and the like. Despite being primarily a graphics company, NVIDIA has nothing comparable.


NVIDIA's nForce4 Ultra reference motherboard