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home : reviews : nForce in Review : page 2

Benjamin Sun
February 13, 2002

Integrated Graphics Processor
NVIDIA chose to integrate their GeForce2 GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) core into the nForce platform. Utilizing the Twinbank Memory Architecture which gives 128bit memory performance and a dynamic adaptive speculative pre-processor (DASP) help boost CPU and system performance. The IGP also makes extensive use of AMD's HyperTransport bus to give the maximum throughput available for graphics functions in a motherboard chipset today.

The GeForce2 integrated on the nForce is basically a GeForce2 MX equivalent. With a fill rate of 350 megapixels a second and 2 texture units per pipeline, it has the same fill rate as the standard GeForce2 MX launched over a year ago. As we'll see later in the review, the performance of this integrated core makes playable resolutions of 800x600 32bit and below in today's popular gaming benchmarks.

The nForce has an internal AGP clock of 100mhz when the integrated video is utilized. What this means is, basically you're looking at AGP 6x throughput when the integrated graphics is used, since the normal AGP bus is set at 66Mhz. AGP throughput is equal to number of bits x speed/8 to get bytes. In this case its 100x128bits/8=1600 megabytes/second as compared to normal AGP speeds of 66x128/8=1032 megabytes/second. However, there are of course bottlenecks in every system, and we'll explore that in more detail later in the review.

By way of comparison a GeForce 2 MX, which the IGP is based upon has a memory bandwidth available of 2.6GB/second. The difference in memory bandwidth will be shown in head to head benchmarks later in the review. I expect, that the performance of the onboard video will be 10-20% slower than an external GeForce2 MX in most situations due to the difference in memory bandwidth.

Media Communications Processor
The MCP or Media Communications Processor handles the audio and the major I/O parts of the nForce platform. The key features of the MCP include the Audio Processing Unit, StreamThru, a complete Communications Suite and AMD's HyperTransport Bus. So what do the key features do for the nForce motherboard?

The Audio Processing Unit is one of the most powerful audio processors available, if not the most powerful.  The APU is fully compliant with Microsoft's DirectX 8.0 and provides real-time processing of up to 256, 20-bit simultaneous audio streams, 64 of which can be 3D. By comparison, the Creative Labs SB Live series of cards supports 32 3D streams and 64 simultaneous audio streams.

The APU supports 2 different sound APIs (Application Programming Interface), Direct3DSound and EAX 2.0 (Environmental Audio Extensions), which was first introduced into the market by Creative Labs. There is a 3rd API that's popular and supported by game developers, A3D, which was developed by Aureal, however, this technology is owned by Creative Labs and can't be supported without a license.

A little later into the review, I will discuss performance of the onboard audio. For now, it's easily one of the most powerful audio processors available on the market.

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