NVIDIA MCP73 - One Chip to Control It All
The NVIDIA GeForce 7-series mGPU for the Intel platform is a single chip core logic controller manufactured under TSMC's 80nm process. This means the chip will take over all the logic processing for IGP and traditional Northbridge and Southbridge functions as well, combining the GeForce 7 mGPU with the nForce 630/610i MCP into one chip. Regardless, NVIDIA has made sure that the MCP73 will not be feature-deprived (at least not the high-end models).
As a 'Northbridge', the MCP73 will fully support all Intel LGA775 processors, including the upcoming 45nm Penryn. This means full 1333MHz FSB support as well. However, the MCP73 will only feature a single-channel DDR2-800 memory controller. There will be 18 PCI Express lanes in total with a configuration of 16/1/1. The 'Southbridge' features include a MediaShield storage controller supporting four SATA 3.0Gbps ports, dual channel IDE and up to RAID 5. The chipset will also feature HD Audio, Gigabit LAN and ten USB 2.0 ports.
GeForce 7 in the House
The GPU component will be sporting a GeForce 7-class architecture, supporting all the features of its discreet counterparts such as full DirectX 9 Shader Model 3.0 with a core clock from 500MHz to 630MHz (depending o the mGPU model). The display controller features two digital outputs, one DVI and one HDMI, but most importantly, they are both fully HDCP compliant for HD protected content (HD DVD/Blu-ray) output. However, like all low end GeForce 7 GPUs, the MCP73 display controller will only support a single-link DVI output. Luckily, this is more than sufficient for a full 1080p display.
Graphics performance of the MCP73 is expected to be within the range of the GeForce 7100 and 7200 discreet GPUs, which means that while you can expect to play games, you can also expect only marginally passable frame rates at low resolutions. NVIDIA obviously knows the limitations of the mGPU all too well in terms of gaming. So, while they have focused a little on the gaming aspect, the real direction that the MCP73 is taking is modern day productivity and compatibility instead. And this time, someone has finally managed to hit the spot. NVIDIA has focused on the rise in everyday 3D capable applications from Adobe Acrobat to Google Earth as the main target of the MCP73, promising better applications compatibility (Hey, it's a GeForce!) and rendering performance. For additional information, we've briefly covered these aspects from our hands-on trial here on GPU assisted applications.
This is where the discussion regarding NVIDIA's choice for a single channel controller comes in. During our review of the SiS762FX , we made it known that we didn't think much of a single channel controller in today's home computing market, especially on an IGP chipset which relies on the memory subsystem bandwidth to feed the GPU. With the MCP73, NVIDIA supposedly has a highly optimized and efficient internal GPU to memory pipeline to compensate, which they're claiming trumps all of its competition. The MCP73 is the only IGP capable of achieving Vista Premium certification through a single 1GB DIMM. Of course, the higher GPU clocks on the Intel versions of the NVIDIA mGPU help as well. If you look at NVIDIA's chipset comparison chart (downloadable here ), you'll notice that the line of AMD GeForce 7-series mGPUs (which are inherently dual-channel) are all clocked at 425MHz only, while the GeForce 7150 for Intel is clocked a whole 200MHz more at 630MHz. In any case, we'll see just how strong the MCP73's single-channel controller is in our benchmark section of the MSI P6NGM review.