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The nVIDIA nForce Motherboard Chipset:
a different perspective

Last updated: 6/28/01

nVIDIA nForce Chipset - Integrated Graphics Processor (IGP) nVIDIA nForce Chipset - Media and Communications Processor Processor (MCP)

Introduction.  For many years I have cautioned customers not to buy all-in-one motherboards (see Advice on Buying a Motherboard) or computers that use them.  These are motherboards with the display adapter and soundboard functions built into the motherboard.  Although, there have been attempts at establishing industry standards, many all-in-one motherboards are manufacturer-specific and computers built with them often cannot be upgraded with generic motherboards.  Also, in the event of failure, these motherboards can be costly to replace--if one can find a replacement.  Furthermore, many of them have been designed for low-end, cheap computers.  Some of them are poorly designed, lack other features, such as sufficient expansion board slots, and cut corners with the number and quality of parts used to make them.

In the past, all-in-one motherboards were designed with separate chips and software drivers from multiple vendors.  The integration of these components was done by the motherboard designer and has often been poor.  Sound functions, in particular, can add more unchangeable interrupts to a computer and can spell problems even if the function is deactivated.  I have seen computers with blown integrated display adapters that could not be repaired or jumpered-out.  Often the add-on sound and display chips are from the low-end of the manufacturers’ product lines--perhaps, so that the motherboard will not compete their expansion board offerings.  There are motherboards with on-board video that hog main memory and memory bandwidth for functions that would otherwise use video memory on a plug-in display adaptor, and very noticeably slowing everything down.

Recently, several motherboard chipset manufacturers have started to integrate the display and sound functions into the motherboard chipset.  The chipset manufacturer instead of the motherboard designer started doing integration.  However, these products are mainly being produced by partnerships (or acquisitions of one company by another) between motherboard chipset and display adapter manufacturers.  Although, this solved some of the problems with integration, the sound and display adapter functions are generally still not nearly as good as those found with expansion boards.

All of this is about to change...

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