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[nextpage title=”Introduction”]

NVIDIA launched this week their new chipset family with integrated graphics (a.k.a. “on-board video”). NVIDIA’s goal is to try to repeat the success they have on the discrete graphics motherboard market. To put things into perspective, AMD motherboard market is 60% discrete and 40% integrated graphics. From this 60% market, NVIDIA has 90% of it with their nForce chipset family.

For AMD platform, NVIDIA usually uses the single chip approach, where both north bridge and south bridge are integrated into one chip, as you can see in Figure 1.

NVIDIA GeForce 6100 and nForce 400 Chipset FamilyFigure 1: nForce 4 architecture.

For the new chipsets with integrated graphics, NVIDIA decided to use two chips. The north bridge chip is being called “GeForce” and the south bridge chip is being called “nForce”, as you can see in Figure 2.

NVIDIA GeForce 6100 and nForce 400 Chipset FamilyFigure 2: GeForce 6100 and nForce 400 family architecture.

If you want to learn more about chipset architecture, we recommend you to read our tutorial Everything You Need to Know About Chipsets.

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GeForce 6100 family uses GeForce 6 engine, which means they use Shader 3.0 model (DirectX 9.0c) and have all 2D video quality enhancements present from GeForce 6600 on. We’ve already posted a tutorial, called Enabling 2D Enhancements on GeForce 6 and 7 Series, where we explain what those video quality enhancements are and how to enable them. Also, motherboards based on this new chipset family can have DVI and component video outputs, which definitely is not a common feature for a motherboard with on-board graphics.

Since they are based on GeForce 6 core, their performance should be far greater than other solutions from competing companies available on the market. Anyway, we hope to get a motherboard based on this new family soon and then we will be able to discuss more about performance.

Four chips were launched so far, two north bridges (GeForce 6100 and GeForce 6150) and two south bridges (nForce 410 and nForce 430). The interesting aspect of this new chipset family is that you can mix and match the chips, i.e., you can use both south bridge chips with any of the north bridges. This is possible because the connection between the two chips is done using a standardized bus, HyperTransport. This gives a terrific flexibility to the motherboard manufacturer, that can choose the exact features they want for a specific motherboard model. In Figure 3, you can see the basic features of this four chips.

NVIDIA GeForce 6100 and nForce 400 Chipset FamilyFigure 3: Features of the released chips.

The GeForce 6100 and 6150 north bridges are manufactured using the 90 nm process, while nForce 410 and 430 are manufacture using the 140 nm process. The connection between north bridge and south bridge uses the HyperTransport bus running at 1,600 MHz (800 MHz DDR) and nForce 410 and 430 are the first NVIDIA chipsets to support Intel’s HD Audio (High Defintion, a.k.a. Azalia).

Also, GeForce 6150 runs at 475 MHz, while GeForce 6100 runs at 425 MHz. Both have two pixel shader pipelines and one vertex shader pipeline.

In Figure 4, you can see three of the mix and matching possibilities.

NVIDIA GeForce 6100 and nForce 400 Chipset FamilyFigure 4: Mixing and matching possibilities of this new chipset family.

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Motherboards will be available on the market by the end of September by the usual suspects: ASUS, Gigabyte, MSI, ECS, DFI, Shuttle, EPoX, Biostar, Chaintech, Jetway and Foxconn. NVIDIA, however, makes a point saying that motherboards using this new chipset family is more targeted to OEMs and system builders, while big retail stores like CompUSA, Fry’s, etc are more likely to be pushing high-end and enthusiast products, like motherboards based on nForce 4 SLI. So maybe they won’t be easily seen around like nForce 4-based motherboards. According to NVIDIA, OEMs and system builders should be releasing PCs based on this new chipset family by October.

In Figure 5, you can see a GeForce 6150/nForce 430 model from MSI.

NVIDIA GeForce 6100 and nForce 400 Chipset FamilyFigure 5: GeForce 6150/nForce 430 model from MSI.

NVIDIA GeForce 6100 and nForce 400 Chipset FamilyFigure 6: Detail of the same motherboard.

This model has DVI and component video outputs. The DVI connector is soldered to the motherboard, while component video and S-Video outputs are available through a bracket.

NVIDIA GeForce 6100 and nForce 400 Chipset FamilyFigure 7: Pay attention to the on-board DVI connector.

NVIDIA GeForce 6100 and nForce 400 Chipset FamilyFigure 8: Component video bracket.