GeForce 6100/6150, nForce 410/430Before we jump right into the review model, let's recap for a minute or two. A few weeks' ago we brought you news that NVIDIA was releasing a number of new chipsets for AMD's K8 platform. We're taking this opportunity to review our findings and see exactly where Foxconn's implementation fits in.
As you may already know, NVIDIA is launching a couple of new north- and southbridges. The southbridge, or MCP as NVIDIA refers to it, sees two new models; the nForce4 410 and 430. The ubiquitous table helps us keep track of what's on offer on either the '410 or '430.
|Southbridge||nForce4 430||nForce4 410|
|Storage||4x SATA2, 4x IDE||2x SATA2, 4x IDE|
|ActiveArmor Firewall||Yes||No||Networking||10/100/1000 (Gigabit)||10/100 (Fast)||MediaShield||Yes||Yes||Audio support||AC'97, High-Definition Azalia||AC'97, High-Definition Azalia||USB 2.0||8 ports||8 ports|
Clearly, the nForce4 430 MCP, fabricated on a 130nm process by the handy folks at TSMC, is the one to go for if features are important to you. It's nice to see MediaShield, NVIDIA's storage technology, exploited to the full on the feature-rich nForce4 430.
The southbridge, however, isn't the biggest news as far as the C51 is concerned. The whole reason a separate southbridge exists is to allow NVIDIA's architects to design an Athlon 64 northbridge that features integrated graphics. Again, two flavours are ready for consumption; the GeForce 6100 and 6150.
|IGP||GeForce 6150||GeForce 6100|
|Graphics core speed||475MHz||425MHz|
|Shader Model spec.||3.0||3.0|
|Dynamic Memory Allocation||Yes||Yes|
|TMDS/DVI||Yes||No||MPEG-2/WMV9 playback||HD 720p/1080i/p||Standard Definition (no HD)||Video Scaling||5x4||2x2||PCI-Express lanes||1x x16, 2x x1||1x x16, 1x x1|
Stating the seemingly obvious, the GeForce 6150 IGP is the one to go for if you're interested in a well-rounded package that offers High-Definition playback, (without h.264 support right now), the ability to connect a discrete graphics card and use the internal graphics in dual-head mode, TV-output, and better video scaling. The optimum performance/feature combination, then, would be the GeForce 6150 allied to the nForce4 430 southbridge. That's what we'll expect to see in MediaCenter-based PCs, given the GeForce 6150's better video-related feature-set. It's just a shame that the southbridges don't feature real-time Dolby Digital encoding support that would complement the GeForce 6150's HD playback capabilities. The GeForce 6100/nForce4 410 combination, the cheapest of all, will probably be specified on low-cost PCs based around cheaper AMD Athlon 64 or Sempron processors.
In terms of integrated graphics performance, don't expect too much. Both IGPs feature a couple of pixel pipelines and a single vertex shader each, and both, obviously, draw memory bandwidth from the system's. Having to allocate memory bandwidth from CPUs that feature on-chip memory controllers (which then access system memory) adds unwanted latency when compared to a traditional memory controller hub (MCH) architecture. That said, the pure grunt afforded by AMD's K8 CPUs should help performance at the very low end of the resolution scale - exactly where the GeForce 6150 and 6100 are intended to do well in.
Let's now see just what Foxconn has in store for us.