NVIDIA have today upped the ante in the AMD chipset stakes with a new family of nForce motherboards featuring powerful GeForce 6 on-board graphics.

Formerly codenamed C51, the two new MCPs are now known as nForce 410 and nForce 430. Board partners have the choice of pairing these chipsets with the new GeForce 6100 integrated graphics chip, or the faster-clocked GeForce 6150.

The news comes just days before ATI are due to finally launch their Crossfire motherboard solution; not by accident, we're sure. Never the less, these new SKUs are a welcome addition to enthusiasts wanting to combine AMD Athlon 64 processors and PCI-Express graphics. NVIDIA has captured some 90% of this market, and these new boards are packed with features that should ensure that dominance continues.

For starters, the term "integrated graphics" no longer refers to a core barely capable of running Minesweeper. The passively-cooled GeForce 6150 is clocked at 475MHz, fully supports DirectX 9.0 and Shader Model 3.0, and features hardware acceleration for HD WMV9 & MPEG 2 video. Using an external connector box, you can hook up your HTPC system via Component, DVI, S-Video or Composite Out.

When you do so, your video playblack will benefit from NVIDIA's Pure Video processing engine, seen here for the first time on a motherboard solution. In short, Pure Video applies advanced algorithms to produce a clearer, crisper picture - great for scaling up to the maximum supported resolution of 1080p. These boards should be ideal for quiet Media Center or general HTPC systems, offering great multimedia functionality and reasonable gaming performance.

GPU aside, the boards come fully loaded with all the mod cons: 3Gb/s SATA; RAID 0,1,0+1,5; ActiveArmor hardware firewall; Gigabit ethernet and more. Should you lust after higher video performance at a later date, the boards have a 16x PCI-Express slot for you to drop a 7800 GTX into. Some partners will offer 6 channel audio, while cheaper boards make do with 2.1.

NVIDIA proudly boasts that this is "another Hard Launch" referring to their recent roll-out of the GeForce 7 family with immediate in-store availability. Motherboards featuring these new chipsets will be available "by the end of September" - that's just this week or next - and full systems featuring the boards will be available from major system builders and OEMs in early October.

The wires are already running hot with press releases from launch partners ASUS, Gigabyte, Foxconn, MSI, ECS, Biostar, EPoX, DFI, Chaintech, Shuttle and Jetway. We will be putting some retail solutions through their paces very soon, and will bring you full benchmarks and performance analysis at that time.

Meanwhile, you can discuss plans for your next HTPC project in News Discussion.


The mATX BIOSTAR TForce 6100-939 comes with specialised overclocking tools to extract the highest performance

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