Dell intros SLI box as nForce4 SLI X16 debuts

In something of a coup for NVIDIA, the world's largest PC maker's gaming lineup is getting a new entry based on non-Intel core logic. The Dell XPS 600 will feature NVIDIA's brand-new nForce4 SLI X16 Intel Edition chipset and a pair of GeForce 7800 GTX graphics cards. These PCs should be available to order online today. (They will, of course, not include any choice of AMD processors, despite AMD's total ownage in gaming performance.)

The nForce4 SLI X16 is a new spin of the nForce4 SLI Intel Edition chipset that packs even more PCI Express lanes, so systems can now sport dual PCI Express X16 slots with sixteen lanes going to each slot—no paddle card or PCI-E switch chip needed. This two-chip core logic solution offers up to 40 lanes of PCI Express connectivity by splitting up lanes between the north bridge and south bridge chips—or SPP and MCP, as NVIDIA likes to call them. The real change here is in the south bridge or MCP, because that chip adds the additional PCI-E lanes.

NVIDIA will also be introducing an Athlon 64 version of the nForce4 SLI X16, and this product will likewise be a two-chip solution. NVIDIA says it plans to continue down the two-chip path on the Athlon 64 in the future, in fact.

Even NVIDIA's press release concedes that dual sixteen-lane slots won't mean much for performance in current applications (compared to dual eight-lane slots.) However, this config should make a nice marketing checkbox for Dell and should make for easy PC configuration and upgrades, regardless. In addition to the Dell box, motherboards based on the new nForce4 SLI X16 chipsets should be available later this month.

As the nForce SLI X16 takes over duties in the high end of the market, NVIDIA is migrating the original nForce4 SLI down into the mainstream segment, where motherboards are priced as low as $100. To that end, NVIDIA's mobo partners will be shipping cheaper SLI motherboards, such as the MSI K8N Neo 4 SLI, already in the channel for about $120. The plan is to make that second PCI-E X16 slot virtually "free," bringing dual-graphics capabilities closer to ubiquity. These cheaper boards will use paddle cards to route PCI-E lanes, as most current nForce4 SLI boards do.

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