nForce chipsets could return with Intel Lynnfield processors
Subject: Chipsets | August 19, 2009 - 02:56 PM | Ryan Shrout
You will likely recall that a large portion of the tech world in 2008 called for the demise of NVIDIA's chipset division with the approach of the Intel Core i7 processor that FINALLY moved the memory controller from the chipset to the CPU. At the time Intel had decided to NOT allow NVIDIA to get a license for QPI (the new interface for Core i7 Nehalem processors) and NVIDIA also started to drift away from AMD-platform chipsets, so the composition of those two factors pushed many to theorize the end of nForce.
However, the 9400M chipset turned out to be a huge success for the company, landing NVIDIA in nearly every single Apple computer and notebook sold today. And now it seems that with the pending release of Intel's Lynnfield processor next month, NVIDIA has plans to re-emerge in the chipset market with a few new offerings.
First I'll talk about the doozy - the MCP99 that is targetted at this new CPU and the DMI bus interface. The chipset will include integrated graphics with dedicated memory channels for the GPU. That means we will likely see motherboards with on-board DRAM exclusively for IGP use. Does that make this chipset a "budget" motherboard? It's hard to say since we have no point of reference for what other features the chipset might include. If it can offer 3-Way SLI support for example with some additional PCIe lanes then enthusiasts might indeed flock to it.
According to the report NVIDIA also has plans for a pair of chipsets for the LGA775 market - the Core 2 Duo/Quad processors. It looks like at least one of them, the MCP89, will include BOTH the necessary integrated DDR3 memory controller for the Core 2 line of processors and will also add in a 64-bit memory channel for a dedicated on-board frame buffer for use with the integrated graphics. It's likely then that the lower cost MCP85 will utilize primary system memory for its frame buffer as a cost saving measure.
This information presents us with some interesting questions - has Intel decided to allow NVIDIA to make the MCP99 for their DMI interface or is NVIDIA pushing ahead anyway without Intel's approval? If they are taking the hard-nosed route it could create some new legal fun for us to cover - but we would rather see Intel allow this chipset to be produced and I strongly believe that Intel NEEDS it. There is no denying that the integrated graphics on AMD's platforms will outperform the Intel offerings for some years to come and having the NVIDIA chipset on the market would at least allow for Intel to have a higher performing option for IGP on Lynnfield.
Fresh reports suggest that NVIDIA indeed has a chipset product lineup planned for Q1 2010, that supports socket LGA-1156 processors, codenamed MCP99. In addition to this, NVIDIA will also serve up two new LGA-775 chipsets, codenamed MCP85 and MCP89. What's common to all these chipsets is that they embed an integrated graphics processor (IGP). Some of these chipsets feature a 64-bit wide memory channel dedicated to the IGP's memory needs, apart from the 128-bit wide (dual-channel) system memory controller, on the LGA-775 platform. The dedicated memory channel allows the IGP to match entry-level graphics cards in terms of performance, without eating into the system memory. We predict this will be implemented in the same way AMD 780G, 785G and 790GX does, with dedicated memory chips present onboard. The LGA-775 compatible ones will further feature dual-channel DDR3-1333 standard supportive memory controllers for system memory. The MGPU will be named inside the GeForce 200M series.