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The nVIDIA nForce Motherboard Chipset:
a different perspective

Last updated: 6/28/01

Enter Microsoft.  In 1999 Microsoft told Game developers that it was going to build the world's greatest game machine, the Xbox.  In March of 2000 Microsoft announced that nVIDIA would design a customized version their high-performance GeForce3 graphics engine, eventually called the Xbox Graphics Processor Unit (XGPU), for the Xbox.  Later nVIDIA was chosen to design another principal Xbox chip, the MCPX or Media Communications Processor.  The MCPX integrates typical motherboard Southbridge chip functions, such as the IDE disk controller and USB, with networking and a high-end audio processing capability.  The $299 Xbox console will sport a Pentium3 733mhz CPU, 64MB of DDR memory, an 8 Gbyte hard disk drive, a DVD drive, 3D Dolby Digital Surround audio, Ethernet interface, etc.  It should appear on store shelves this October.  You can read more about it on Microsoft’s Xbox web site and the many other web sites on the Internet devoted to the Xbox.

Last September nVIDIA announced that it would use the integrated chipset development efforts for the Xbox as a foundation to grow into the motherboard chipset business.  This signaled a fundamental change in motherboard chipsets and motherboards.  Instead of a chipset manufacturer designing-in the graphics engine from a graphics board company, the graphics board company was going to design the entire chipset.  Graphics board designers do more than glue motherboard functions and components together with a chipset, they are driven to compete in market geared towards performance.  And that’s what nVIDIA did: designed performance into a chipset from the ground-up.  They put some of the essence of the Xbox in a PC architecture and introduced it as the nFORCE motherboard chipset at Computex in Taipei, Taiwan on June 4th.

The nFORCE chipset replaces the Northbridge and Southbridge chips comprising the typical motherboard chipset (right) with the Integrated Graphics Processor (IGP) and the Media and Communications Processor (MCP), respectively.  The chipset architecture and both chips differ significantly from their predecessors, as will the motherboards built with them.

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