The author of this article would like to acknowledge Vijay Anand's contribution to this article.
NVIDIA's nForce4 SLI Intel Edition
Late last year when NVIDIA and Intel entered a broad cross licensing agreement spanning multiple product lines (and product generations), as well as a multi-year chipset license agreement, it wasn't difficult for IT industry followers to foresee the many possible interesting developments that would take place for Intel processor based systems in the months to come. The most pertinent piece of information to NVIDIA's latest move is the chipset license agreement which allows NVIDIA to license Intel's front-side bus technology (part of Intel's NetBurst architecture) and enable them to deliver its nForce platform processors for Intel based systems. This is really a swell move for enthusiasts on the Intel platform wanting to get hold of NVIDIA's advanced chipset functions and features that were once only exclusive to AMD processor based systems. Of course, back then the question on everybody's mind was when this would really materialize, but NVIDIA was rather tight-lipped about any possible outcomes.
NVIDIA's nForce4 SLI Intel Edition Logo.
However just weeks back during the CeBIT Hannover 2005 exhibition, NVIDIA made a surprise announcement of their nForce4 SLI for Intel processor systems, aptly named the nForce4 SLI Intel Edition. Though that's a mouthful, information about it was still sketchy until today when NVIDIA officially launched this new chipset. Essentially, NVIDIA bottled all the goodness of the nForce4 SLI and released them into a chipset suitable for use with Intel processors. Unlike the one chip solution for the AMD64 platform, the nForce4 Intel Edition chipset topology has a lot in common with the old nForce2 series whereby a Systems Platform Processor (SPP) takes the role of a typical Northbridge chip and the Media Communications Processor (MCP) takes on the role of a traditional Southbridge. This was necessary since Intel processors rely on the Northbridge for a memory controller whereas the AMD64 platform compliant processors have an integrated memory controller, foregoing the Northbridge altogether. Hence, the memory controller is the biggest advance NVIDIA has made to the development of the nForce4 SLI Intel Edition and we'll soon bring you the details of it. The following figure courtesy of NVIDIA depicts the overall chipset topology and its crucial support functions.
The NVIDIA nForce4 SLI Intel Edition block diagram (Source: NVIDIA).