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Why We Need New Nvidia Chipsets

Posted on 26th May 2009 at 10:32 by Richard Swinburne with 22 comments

Richard Swinburne
Are Nvidia motherboard chipsets significant anymore? Do we need them? A simple pair of questions, but doubtless they'll receive a mixed response.

If we hark back to the days of VIA, innovating with its SDRAM Pentium 4 chipsets, while Intel was pushing expensive RDRAM chipsets, and then offering the highest performance DDR chipsets, it's clear that third party chipsets have played an important role in helping PC builders get the best deal and best performance. Nvidia itself made significant contributions - nForce 2 supplanted VIA's DDR2 chipsets, and then of course came the reintroduction of SLI, which owned the market for a while.

How things change. VIA gradually became reduced to mainstream, then niche chipsets for its own CPUs. Unfortunately for Nvidia, it is going in the same direction. The 9400M might be made sexy by the 'Ion' name, but it's a low end chipset and arguably has only a limited life until Intel Pineview launches and brings graphics all on-CPU.

Do we hear anything about a QPI or DMI chipset from Nvidia? Nothing so far in terms of actual products - the only concrete news has been a lawsuit filed by Intel against Nvidia.

Why We Need New Nvidia Chipsets

The upshot is that if you want to build a Core i7 PC, a motherboard based on Intel's X58 chipset is the only option. But is the X58 actually any good? We take it for granted that it is - the Core i7 platform is fast - but there's nothing to compare X58 against. If Nvidia could create a QPI chipset, with an MCP that had eight S-ATA ports and SoundStorm 2 audio on motherboards that cost £100-£150, would that not change the face of Core i7?

We absolutely need Nvidia, VIA and whoever else to put the spanner in the works: to mix things up and get us the best price. Intel is planning to introduce its P55 chipset soon, and we'll get what? A DMI chipset with six S-ATA ports and the usual Intel offering of features - one-size, so it's tailor-made for everyone!

Excuse me, *yawn*.

There's currently no driving force in the consumer market when it comes to motherboard chipsets. Look at the last few iterations of Intel's ICH Southbridge: 8, 9, 10. Wow, revolutionary. What have we got to look forward to? Incremental updates such as USB 3.0 and S-ATA 6Gbps?

I'm not giving Nvidia an easy ride here though, because on the AMD front it isn't even trying. For the first time since the nForce 4-era AMD has competitive CPUs and what does Nvidia do?

Rebrand.

The 780a has effectively been relaunched as the 980a. Name aside, there's nothing new - no progression to improve our PCs with more S-ATA ports, better audio or improved RAID support?

It's a shame because while AMD's SB750 might have swanky 'Advanced Clock Calibration', it's down on Nvidia's designs in certain areas - Nvidia's USB and S-ATA RAID performance is lightyears ahead (just as long as they fix the S-ATA corruption issues that can occur when overclocking), and of course, the 790FX doesn't support SLI either.

I don't understand what Nvidia is doing: is it forgetting its core audience? Love or hate Nvidia, the bottom line is, without Nvidia chipsets we're left with an AMD and Intel market monopoly and we're further forced down the route of buying into platforms, where CPU, chipset, and, I'm sure this is their plan, GPU, all come from one firm.

22 Comments

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ch424 26th May 2009, 10:47 Quote
:?

What would a 'revolutionary' southbridge add?

Your point on competition driving improvements in performance and pricing is a pretty obvious one. Have you considered the other side of the coin? If nVidia started producing chipsets again, would we see Intel locked out of SLI? Crossfire disabled for people with nVidia motherboards? Surely that is worse for consumers than the pricing issues. Performance differences have always been pretty marginal anyway.
iwod 26th May 2009, 11:17 Quote
The point is, Intel Chipset are crap... with no competition we wont even see USB3 and SATA 3 anytime soon on Intel Chipset.
Intel has worst graphics on the planet. Honestly i think even S3 is better then them.

No one consumer will complain if i have a small, quiet, fast, new IO chipset, and decent, working HD decoding as well as good drivers support for a cheap price. The problem is we dont. They have been forcing poor designed products into our throat, and we are force to have it.

While i love Intel's CPU, their chipset has been disappointing time after time. EU should not only punish them for 1 billion but also force them to open up QPI for other players.
azrael- 26th May 2009, 11:48 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by iwod
The point is, Intel Chipset are crap... with no competition we wont even see USB3 and SATA 3 anytime soon on Intel Chipset.
Intel has worst graphics on the planet. Honestly i think even S3 is better then them.

No one consumer will complain if i have a small, quiet, fast, new IO chipset, and decent, working HD decoding as well as good drivers support for a cheap price. The problem is we dont. They have been forcing poor designed products into our throat, and we are force to have it.

While i love Intel's CPU, their chipset has been disappointing time after time. EU should not only punish them for 1 billion but also force them to open up QPI for other players.
I'm not sure what you've been smoking, but Intel chipsets are about as good as it gets. If you were to differentiate your statement to only include Intel chipsets with integrated graphics, then at least I could agree with you on the graphics part. Other than that they're the most stable chipsets out there.
Paradigm Shifter 26th May 2009, 11:59 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by azrael-
I'm not sure what you've been smoking, but Intel chipsets are about as good as it gets. If you were to differentiate your statement to only include Intel chipsets with integrated graphics, then at least I could agree with you on the graphics part. Other than that they're the most stable chipsets out there.

From my fairly limited experience of Intel chipsets... agreed. Their mobile chipsets can sometimes be a little picky (945M certainly gave me a few headaches) but their desktop chipsets - while not setting the world on fire with featureset or raw performance the way the nForce4 chipset did at the time - were solid and capable.

I'd be a bit worried about an nVidia designed Core i7 chipset, to be honest. I know the memory controller is on the CPU die... but with how hot X58 runs normally, and how hot the old socket 775 nVidia chipsets ran... it would probably be a return to some fairly heavy active cooling. Of course, that wouldn't be a problem if they'd have chipset heatsinks that were big enough to put a fair-sized fan on.

Of course, having 'the option' is always nice. No one likes to get stuck with Hobson's choice.
Fod 26th May 2009, 12:15 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Paradigm Shifter

I'd be a bit worried about an nVidia designed Core i7 chipset, to be honest. I know the memory controller is on the CPU die... but with how hot X58 runs normally, and how hot the old socket 775 nVidia chipsets ran... it would probably be a return to some fairly heavy active cooling. Of course, that wouldn't be a problem if they'd have chipset heatsinks that were big enough to put a fair-sized fan on.

actually the majority of the heat is generated by the memory controller. it's why the athlon64 southbridges ran so cool.
azrael- 26th May 2009, 12:18 Quote
My main issue with nVidia chipsets is that they're pretty flaky. Granted, nVidia has a lot of nice ideas, but for some reason those ideas usually are executed poorly.

Case in point, I love the hardware firewall in the nForce3/4 chipsets, but you really need to fiddle with it to get it to work. Most people just gave up. It was scrapped as of the nForce5 chipset, although the hardware still seems to be in there. According to nVidia the hardware firewall was made superfluous by the Vista firewall. My money is on nVidia not being able to get it right. I worked directly with nVidia on identifying the main issues and they even wanted to buy my system.
Paradigm Shifter 26th May 2009, 12:27 Quote
Aye.

I think it depended heavily on the exact chipset, though - my A8N32 SLI Deluxe ran quite warm on the chipset (although that might arguably have been heat from the MOSFETs travelling down the heatpipes) while an nForce4x socket 754 board I picked up barely got warm, despite having a tiny passive heatsink and next to no airflow on it.

Given that the Intel socket 775 chipsets didn't get anywhere near as hot as the nVidia ones, there is no real reason to believe that nVidia would be able to run cooler than Intel's X58 chipset. Even so, it's an academic consideration for now. ;)
thehippoz 26th May 2009, 14:50 Quote
some good comments in here.. I would like to see them make chipsets for the i7 myself- I more than likely wouldn't buy it but it would bring down prices on intel
nvidia likes to use old tech in their new stuff.. like remember the 680i had a 2 year old mcp on it- and the 780.. they just stuck a pcie 2.0 chip next to the northbridge and tried to cover it all with one heatsink- wth was that
[PUNK] crompers 26th May 2009, 15:39 Quote
intel chipsets are great and certainly provide the vast majority of customers with a decent amount of choice.

nvidia chipsets i have found to be finicky with ram and generally less stable than the intel offerings.

this is just personal experience, despite this i agree that its important we have more than one company out there working on chipsets for intel procs
cheeriokilla 27th May 2009, 00:08 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by azrael-
I'm not sure what you've been smoking, but Intel chipsets are about as good as it gets. If you were to differentiate your statement to only include Intel chipsets with integrated graphics, then at least I could agree with you on the graphics part. Other than that they're the most stable chipsets out there.

WRONG! every time I go for intel I end up regretting it, but no more. Had DBT2 think it was(P4) and now 2 X48 and they are buggy as hell. Recently went for asus + AMD 720 BE and haven't touched one of my other rigs which are "better" but have intel chipsets.
Elton 27th May 2009, 05:18 Quote
I'm not fond of intel's chipsets, but they are better than say, the SB200(anyone remember that huge load of P4 failure?) or the 750a which was, frankly, atrocious.

But I agree we do need competition, if at least competent competition, so far Nvidia's NB/SB chips have been mostly bullseye or entire miss, partly because as someone mentioned before, they're excellent ideas, just executed poorly.
remixme 27th May 2009, 09:45 Quote
I think in the enthusiast space; where things tend to be at the cutting edge anyway, the flakiness of chipsets is hard to compare.

But from anecdotal experience in the mainstream space, I have definitely been burned on the handful of occasions I have gone for third party chipsets. In particular VIA. But nvidia have had their moments.
ChaosDefinesOrder 28th May 2009, 00:09 Quote
so, Intel are pursuing a lawsuit against nVidia saying that nV don't have the right to make i5 or i7 chipsets, resulting in Intel having a pure monopoly on i5 and i7.

Shouldn't this EU anti-competition fine be doing something about that?

I suppose in a way I shouldn't complain really, I have an i7 rig, and my memory of all nVidia chipsets in recent years has been an over-riding "they're f****ng expensive" message

Still, Intel has a monopoly for this latest (and emerging) CPU generation, and this needs to stop
Elton 29th May 2009, 01:54 Quote
The Same could be said for AM2+ + AM3 boards.
Ending Credits 29th May 2009, 12:38 Quote
But at least Nvidia are still actually producing boards for AM2+.
Dreaming 29th May 2009, 15:37 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by ChaosDefinesOrder
so, Intel are pursuing a lawsuit against nVidia saying that nV don't have the right to make i5 or i7 chipsets, resulting in Intel having a pure monopoly on i5 and i7.

Shouldn't this EU anti-competition fine be doing something about that?

I suppose in a way I shouldn't complain really, I have an i7 rig, and my memory of all nVidia chipsets in recent years has been an over-riding "they're f****ng expensive" message

Still, Intel has a monopoly for this latest (and emerging) CPU generation, and this needs to stop

I think with regards to the case, is that Nvidia and Intel drew up an agreement whereby Nvidia would be permitted for some fee no doubt to produce chipsets for Intel motherboards. Intel created the i7 series and Nvidia got to work on creating the motherboard, then Intel turned round and said 'hold on a minute... we never spoke about i7 before!' so it's now going through the courts to work out if Nvidia are permitted to make i7 chipsets. In the meantime 100% of i7 boards are Intel.

It would probably cost them less in the court fees keeping this in court as long as possible, compared to the profit they would lose if they didn't have a monopoly. Oh, Intel and it's wicked ways...
Dr. Strangelove 30th May 2009, 11:59 Quote
I agree competition is a good thing, and at the end of the day nVidia (or some other 3rd party) doesn't even have to make a great chipset, just one that has some really cool and innovative features. I think the biggest problem is not that we might be lacking 1-3% performance or something like that, it's more a question of us loosing innovation. With no competition, why should Intel bother putting feature X into a chipset that already works and sells.. on the other hand if someone else makes a chipset with feature X then maybe Intel will put into their next chipset. *Rinse and repeat*

-> Tim: Just call it SATA 3, none of that stupid SATA 6Gbps, I'm quite sure none of your readers will mistaken SATA 3 for SATA 3Gbps ;)

With regard to the anti-competition / monopoly stuff.. there is not illegal in being a monopoly, its abusing your status as a monopoly that is "illegal" (as far as I understand it). Hence if Intel does not want nVidia to make i5, i7 chipsets its fully in its rights. If nVidia had a "legal" chipset out and Intel bribed or bullied MB makers into not using it, then that would be anti-competitive.
wuyanxu 30th May 2009, 14:34 Quote
i want HybridSLi!

imagine: Intel i5 CPU on nVidia south bridge, SATA3, g200 integrated desktop graphics with HDMI 1.4 support paired with GTX380 hybrid SLi card that only kicks in when needed, otherwise power consumption is 0w.
D-Cyph3r 30th May 2009, 22:05 Quote
God no we DO NOT need nVidia chipsets. AMD and Intel have had the best chipsets for their respective platforms for a good few years now, all Nvidia have brought us are stupidly overpriced high end boards (trying to whore SLI) and inferior IGP boards.

Yes you could argue that more competition drives the likes of Intel and AMD to make better chips, but to be frank I think they are more bothered about trying to sway people to their platforms, rather than trying to better Nvidia.
azrael- 31st May 2009, 15:55 Quote
I agree. I also believe the reason that Intel and AMD make better chipsets is rather obvious. They both know the processors these chipsets complement intimately, so they know where to tweak and how to circumvent possible "short comings" (what normal people call bugs :)).

nVidia does have its place and competition is always good. However, like previously stated, nVidia had effectively established an artificial monopoly with its "SLI-enabled" chipsets. And it has apparently screwed over a lot of partners over the years. So it's really a lot like that proverbial pot calling the kettle a certain dark hued colour.
Elton 31st May 2009, 16:58 Quote
In my eyes, if it wasn't for the constant screwing over and artificial monopoly(and flat out refusal to share interfaces CF/SLI) I'd buy an Nfore Mobo any day.

There is that problem with the SB/NB being too hot as well though.
Fod 31st May 2009, 17:12 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by wuyanxu
i want HybridSLi!

imagine: Intel i5 CPU on nVidia south bridge, SATA3, g200 integrated desktop graphics with HDMI 1.4 support paired with GTX380 hybrid SLi card that only kicks in when needed, otherwise power consumption is 0w.

yeah, except the current hybrid SLi implementations are a complete joke, with the card still drawing a silly amount of energy.
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