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NVIDIA nForce 700a, GeForce 8000 Chipsets

For AMD processors.

August 20, 2008



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Though AMD is currently NVIDIA's main rival in the field of gaming and professional GPUs, but we should give credit to the latter's management -- they do not suffer from "competitive prejudices". As a result, NVIDIA's timely launched chipset family for the AMD platform includes many more products (which are also more interesting as far as functionality is concerned) than company's chipset family for the Intel platform. On the face of it, it seems strange, because Intel does not make good integrated chipsets. So, from the technical point of view, it would have been easier for NVIDIA to compete there. But if we take a closer look at the situation in this field, we'll see that apparently Intel's strategy is aimed at "wiping out" all competitors. If not technically, then using other leverage, e.g. by selling expensive and unpopular chipsets as a mandatory addition to more popular solutions (which forces motherboard makers to acquire fewer chipsets from NVIDIA) and by trying to shorten product life cycles. As a result, it's just inexpedient for competitors to spend money on chipset design. Their products will just have no time to pay off, because Intel processors will "suddenly" reveal a new FSB clock rate and will soon change sockets to a backward-incompatible one.

However, NVIDIA's prospects for the AMD platform do not look peachy either, although for different reasons. It's not easy to compete with AMD chipset series, from the technical point of view. Besides, AMD is faster in moving its products to finer process technology, which significantly affects prime costs. So unfortunately, it's unlikely for NVIDIA to launch the next generation of its chipsets.

But enough of sad things. Chipsets to be examined in this article have already been launched. Motherboards on these chipsets have already arrived to stores, and they will be manufactured for quite a long time. Being based on Socket AM2+, such motherboards may serve their users for a long time, especially as expensive models are richly featured. On the whole, NVIDIA is cutting down peripheral functionality and reduces the number of proprietary options with nice marketing titles (the list of these features in its previous top products is very long). It's a natural move, considering that PCI Express network controllers allow to implement practically all features, which previously distinguished integrated MAC adapters in NVIDIA chipsets. At the same time, the demand for dual-Ethernet motherboards is much lower now, because small hubs, access points -- so-called Internet centers have become more affordable. It hasn't been convenient to use a computer as a gate anyway, and now there is no need to do it. Besides, few home users need to expand channel bandwidth by plugging two Gigabit lines (and merging them into a single channel). So only a single built-in MAC adapter is left. What concerns extra functionality, only First Packet is supported. We described it in detail in our review of the nForce 500 chipsets.

However, chipsets haven't been simplified from the engineering point of view, because all of them without exception have an integrated graphics core supporting DirectX 10. As before, it acts in inexpensive chipsets as the main graphics system and allows users (with relatively low requirements to 3D applications and video decoding) do without installing a graphics card (or install an entry-level card and pool its resources with those of the chipset core in Hybrid SLI mode (GeForce Boost). What concerns High-End models that can accommodate up to three graphics cards in SLI mode, the integrated graphics core allows to disable the cards to save power and reduce heat release and noise (Hybrid Power mode). Although all our chipsets support both technologies, not all graphics cards are ready to work at least in one of these hybrid modes. The general rule is quite logical -- top cards support Hybrid Power, and the weakest cards can join forces with the chipset core in Hybrid SLI mode. The list of cards is constantly growing, so get the details from the following table on the official web site.

Another common trait of the new generation of chipsets is full compatibility with Socket AM2+ specs. They support HyperTransport 3.0 bus (to a processor) and PCI Express 2.0 (for expansion and graphics cards). In what follows we'll examine chipsets that were available at the time of this review. But it's no secret that NVIDIA, like no other, loves to segment its product lines by adding models with subindices and minor differences in functionality. So if you read this article in a couple of months after its publication date, you'd better look into the updated list of chipsets published at the NVIDIA's website.


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