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Feature Articles

NVIDIA nForce 500 Chipset Family (Socket AM2)

By Zachary Chan & Vijay Anand - 23 May 2006

And Even More Features

NVIDIA MediaShield Storage

From our previews, we've seen that the new nForce 500 series will feature expanded storage support with up to six SATA 3.0Gbps channels. NVIDIA has also finally come around to increase the RAID capabilities of the controller (and about time too!). They have so far stuck with the basics of RAID 0 and 1 combinations, but the nForce 500 series will change that with the introduction of RAID 5 support. Note that this isn't an industry first (Intel's Matrix Storage can do RAID 5 and 10), but it is the first for the nForce chipset family. NVIDIA also seems to have followed Intel's lead in regards to older connections, as the nForce 500 loses one of its IDE channels so there is support for only two Ultra ATA devices max. Note that there's no IDE RAID capability built in anymore and cross-controller RAID involving both IDE and SATA drives are no longer supported as well. You lose some and you gain some, but since nForce 500 is a forward looking chipset, it was designed to go easy on the IDE side and bulk up what the SATA RAID controller can do.

MediaShield configuration is now part of the new unified NVIDIA control panel.

Six SATA 3.0Gbps ports now give users a more options for storage solution with multiple RAID capabilities and RAID morphing.

The nForce 500 series SATA controller also has full NCQ support. Other MediaShield features that have made it into the nForce 500 series include RAID Morphing (on-the-fly RAID configuration changing), hot-plug support and the disk alert system where device problems or disk failures are graphically highlighted to ease troubleshooting. Most of these features were already present on the nForce4 series and were successfully replicated across the nForce 500 series as well.

MediaShield control panel will show a graphical representation of the SATA ports that are connected and the condition of the devices. To the left you'd notice that five out of six ports are used, all in good condition. To the right, one of the HDDs have failed and is highlighted in red.

HD Audio (Azalia)

Rather than focus on creating their own audio solution (which they did for the highly successful SoundStorm introduced in the nForce2), the entire line-up of nForce 500 MCPs will have updated audio support for Intel's Azalia HD Audio specifications.

nTune 5.0

NVIDIA has really beefed up their nTune utility for the nForce 500 series launch as the updated application has more or less undergone an overhaul. nTune now has access to a host of tweaking capabilities that it has become more or less redundant to mess around with the BIOS. The nTune utility is now a powerful performance analyzer and tweaking tool that you can access even more detailed functions than most BIOS' ever had.

Automatic performance tuning utility that can take as long as 12 hours to run?

nTune's own system monitoring utility had a lot more functionality than Windows Task Manager.

The user interface is very accessible and while the sheer amount of options may be daunting to the initiate dabbling into overclocking, we're very sure enthusiasts will be very happy with this new version.

Dynamic BIOS access to many of the actual BIOS options within Windows.

nTune 5.0 now comes with more advanced access to options for motherboard and graphics card tuning. Notice a button to check SPD timings, which also doubles up to relay EPP timings as well and that's most handy to check upon the capabilities of an EPP compliant memory module. Click on image to enlarge.

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