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» Channels :: Mainboard
By Vijay Anand
Category : Mainboard
Published by Jimmy Tang on Wednesday, 5th February, 2003
Rating : 4.5 out of 5 stars  


Does the term 'built-in graphics' equate to you as S3 Virge3D? Well, in today's context, it does not do any justice to the term especially if you compare it to an infamous vintage chipset. However, the users today still have that general perception.

The trouble with integrated graphics was the complexity in sandwiching something like a modern graphics chipset within the Northbridge of the system chipset or utilizing extra motherboard PCB space to integrate a GPU somewhere on the board. The second challenge is to set aside a dedicated frame buffer for this graphics processor. When the common Unified Memory Architecture (UMA) system is implemented, the difficulty was to have memory that is fast enough and has bandwidth wide enough for a good GPU as well as for the system’s own needs.

Those were some of the basic reasons why motherboards with built-in graphics were relegated to office systems, servers, small form-factor PCs and end-users who hardly dabble in 3D games.

NVIDIA’s nForce chipsets however, have managed to change some of this perception and it is getting even better with the recent nForce2. With the initial launch of the nForce chipset, the Integrated Graphics Processor (IGP) variant had a GeForce2 MX equivalent core built in. The chipset is also equipped with dual memory controllers to double memory bandwidth when more than one module of memory is used. That was crucial in maintaining the large memory bandwidth required for the integrated graphics core and for its time, it had some respectable performance figures (for a built-in graphics solution of course).

The nForce2 upped the ante with its IGP variant that has an integrated GeForce4 MX core. A GeForce4 MX based graphics card is a very common mainstream AGP card that systems are equipped with these days and its performance is quite acceptable for most games when average game quality settings are set. With such a core integrated within the nForce2 system chipset, there is no other built-in graphics based chipset that can rival it. The integrated GeForce4 MX core is capable of performance 300% faster than other integrated graphics chipsets such as the Intel 845GE.

Just a short while back, we reviewed the MSI K7N2-L nForce2-ST motherboard that utilized the nForce2 SPP Northbridge (which is without the graphics core). The MSI K7N2G-LISR nForce2-GT motherboard that we are focusing today is based on the nForce2 IGP Northbridge and uses the very same layout that we have seen on the MSI K7N2-L board. This makes the MSI K7N2G-LISR the very first nForce2 board with integrated graphics. Below are the technical specifications of the board and the integrated graphics core:-

MSI K7N2G-LISR Technical Specifications
  • Socket A for AMD Athlon / AMD Athlon XP / AMD Duron
  • AMD processors from 600MHz to Athlon XP 2700+ or higher
  • Support for 200 / 266 / 333MHz FSB
  • NVIDIA nForce2-IGP (nForce2-GT) North Bridge
    • Integrated GeForce4 MX GPU
    • Supports DDR200 / DDR266 / DDR333 / DDR400 memory technology up to 3GB
    • 200 / 266 / 333MHz front side bus
    • AGP 4x/8x (1.5V only)
    • Dynamic Adaptive Speculative (DASP)
    • DualDDR Memory Architecture
    • HyperTransport Bus (800MB/s)
  • NVIDIA nForce2 MCP-T South Bridge
    • NVIDIA Audio Processing Unit (with Dolby Digital Interactive Content Encoder)
    • NVIDIA StreamThru
    • NVIDIA Enhanced Communications Suite
    • NVIDIA DualNet
    • 2-channel Ultra ATA 133/100/66/33 Bus Mastering IDE controller
    • Supports up to six USB 2.0 ports
    • IEEE1394a/Firewire controller
    • Supports AC-97 audio and MC-97 modem codec
    • PCI 2.2 interface
    • HyperTransport Bus (800MB/s)
Cache memory
  • CPU Built-in 256KB (Athlon/Athlon XP) or 64KB (Duron) L2 cache
System memory
  • 3 x 184-pin DDR SDRAM DIMM
  • Supports DDR 200/266/333/400 DIMM Module (Up to DDR333 using built in graphics core)
  • Supports 2.5V DDR SDRAM
  • Supports a maximum of 3GB of memory with 1GB DIMM
  • Dual DDR Memory Architecture
Integrated Graphics
  • Integrated GeForce4 MX GPU (IGP)
    • Integrated 256-bit 3D and 2D graphics accelerator
    • Default GPU clock speed of 200MHz
    • NVIDIA Shading Rasterizer with 24 of 26 DX8 pixel shading functions and full set of OpenGL® 1.3 pixel combiner operations
    • 32-bit color with 32-bit z/stencil
    • Digital Vibrance Control
    • nView multi-display technology
    • Resolution support up to 1920x1440
    • DVD-ready and HDTV-ready MPEG-2 decoding up to 1920x1080i ATSC Format
    • MPEG-2 hardware decode, including Inverse Discrete Cosine Transform and Motion Compensation
  • AGP 8X Interface
    • Compliant with AGP 3.0 8X and 4X with Fast Write data transfers
    • Supports AGP 2.0 for 4X, 2X, and 1X modes
  • Integrated NTSC/PAL TV Encoder (IGP)
    • Support for various worldwide formats
    • Composite and S-video output modes
    • Display resolution up to 1024x768
    • Full Macrovision™ 7.1L1 encoding for DVD compatibility
    • Fully programmable 5-tap horizontaland vertical upscaling and downscaling to TV resolutions
  • External DVI Interface (IGP)
    • Clock speeds up to full DVI specification of 165MHz (up to 1600x1200 at 60MHz in single link mode, up to 330 Mpixels per second in dual link mode)
  • 2 x bus master UDMA-33/66/100/133 IDE ports (up to 4 devices)
    • Support for PIO, UDMA-33, UDMA-66, UDMA-100, UDMA-133 IDE devices
  • Built-in Promise PDC20376 ATA-133 IDE/RAID controller using one ATA133 and/or two Serial ATA connectors
I/O Interface
  • 1x floppy connector (360KB - 2.88MB)
  • 1x serial port
  • 1x VGA port
  • 1x parallel port (SPP/EPP/ECP)
  • 1x PS/2 Keyboard
  • 1x PS/2 Mouse
  • 6x USB 2.0 ports (4x ports in the rear, 2x ports via D-bracket)
  • 2 x IEEE1394a/Firewire ports on Bracket (via Agere FW803 PHY)
  • 1x IrDA TX/RX header for SIR/ASKIR/IRDA
  • Audio ports for on-board sound (Line-Out, Line-In, Mic) based on 6-channel Realtek ALC650 AC'97 sound codec and NVIDIA SoundStorm APU.
  • 1x Bluetooth header
  • 1x  RJ-45 10/100 LAN port (NVIDIA controller)
  • MSI S-Bracket
  • MSI D-Bracket
  • TV-Out Bracket
Expansion slots
  • 5x 32-bit PCI slots, PCI 2.2 compliant
  • 1x ACR slot
  • 1 x 1.5V / 0.8V AGP 2.0/3.0 (1x/2x/4x/8x mode) slot
Power Management
  • Supports ACPI (Advanced Configuration and Power Interface)
  • Supports Suspend to RAM / Disk (S3 / S4)
  • PC2001 Compliant
  • WOR by PME
  • Power-on by switch, keyboard
  • Power-off by Windows 95/98/Me/2000/XP/NT shut down and switch
Form Factor
  • ATX Form Factor : 30.5cm x 23cm
  • Fits into regular ATX case
  • 4Mbit (512KB) Flash ROM
  • Award Flash BIOS with PnP, APM, DMI, and ACPI support
  • Multi-boot on LS120, ZIP, ATAPI CD-ROM, SCSI, IDE #1, #2, #3, #4

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