NVIDIA's nForce4 Ultra chipset

Err.. chip

THE RACE TO DELIVER a core logic chipset with PCI Express support for the Athlon 64 has occupied much of our attention over the past few months. We first got a brief hands-on look at VIA's K8T890 chipset, and then we did a full review of ATI's Radeon Xpress 200. In between the two, NVIDIA announced its nForce4 lineup but wasn't able to produce review hardware—until now. We've finally gotten our hands on an nForce4 reference motherboard from NVIDIA, and we've subjected it to a grueling battery of tests to see how it performs against the competition from VIA, ATI, and even Intel.

The nForce4 packs a number of innovative new features, including the aforementioned PCI Express capability, a firewall-fortified Gigabit Ethernet controller with hardware acceleration, and a robust implementation of the latest Serial ATA spec, including Native Command Queuing for SCSI-like disk I/O performance under heavy loads. The question is, do all of the marketers' talking points add up to superior performance? We've tested these features, including ActiveArmour and SATA command queuing, and we have some answers. Read on to see what we found.

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