In our previous Socket AM2 motherboard preview, we made a few mentions on the gist behind AMD's upcoming Socket AM2 processors. To recap that, you can expect the AM2 processor to have 940 pins, but it is not pin-compatible to existing 940-pin sockets used by the Opterons and any other current AMD processors on any other socket formats. However with the change, the new AM2 CPUs will have a brand new integrated DDR2 memory controller, support for virtualization technology and are available in standard/low TDP versions.
Unlike Intel processors, which normally require a new supporting chipset for changes of this magnitude, AMD processors are less dependant on the chipset because of the integrated memory controller on-die. Thus, the new AM2 processors are actually compatible with all existing AMD chipsets because the same HyperTransport communication link is used between the processor and the motherboard chipset. Despite this fact, NVIDIA is taking AMD's Socket AM2 processor launch rather seriously and is targeting to release a whole new chipset series. After all, the motherboard choices on the AMD market have been relatively stable with many models more than a year old which are perfectly suitable and relevant for current use; take for example the nForce4 SLI chipset which was launched more than 1.5 years ago and motherboards based on it released then are still formidable options today. To stir this stale state and spice things up on the AMD motherboard market, NVIDIA's upcoming chipsets are matched to release just before Socket AM2 processors reach gold status.
Dubbed the nForce 500-series, the new class of chipsets actually has a lot in common with the existing nForce4 series, which is not surprising since it was such a hit. The full details of this series have not been released yet, but from what we gathered, certain key specifications have been upgraded such as adopting the Azalia High-Definition Audio standard, incorporate more PCI Express lanes among others like better networking support and a more robust storage subsystem. Though the existing nForce4 lineup is no slouch, the new nForce 500-series just ups the ante even higher that we feel other vendors would be truly hard pressed to match. With ULi now under NVIDIA's belt, this could be truer than ever.
Having seen a nForce 570 SLI class motherboard just a couple of days back, Gigabyte delivered us a surprise package containing not only their nForce 570 SLI solution, but even their stunning nForce 590 SLI board.
At this point of time, what we do know is that the nForce 590 SLI is NVIDIA's top performing chipset that has dual full-speed PCIe x16 slots and the chipset is also a two-chip solution like the current nForce4 SLI X16 class. The finer specifics will soon be revealed in a matter of weeks, but for now what we are aware is that if has six SATA 3.0Gpbs connectors (RAID 5 capable), dual Gigabit LAN media controllers integrated, HD-Audio support and many more numerous PCIe lanes available. Like the current best, it is likely going to be tuned for better performance and overclockability than the mainstream chipsets.