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Nvidia revamps chipset line

The chipmaker launches the next generation of its nForce chipsets, including support for many technologies expected to become basic PC components. USB 2.0 is on the list.

Graphics chip leader Nvidia launched the next generation of its nForce chipsets on Tuesday, including support for several technologies expected to become basic PC components in the near future.

As previously reported, nForce2 continues Nvidia's venture into the risky but potentially profitable business of chipsets, chips that bridge a PC's processor with key components such as memory. Nvidia last year signed a licensing agreement with AMD to create chipsets that work with the company's Athlon processors.

nForce2 will be available both in discrete models, which handle just chipset functions, and "integrated" versions that combine the chipset with a low-end graphics processor, eliminating the need for a separate graphics card.

Advances in nForce2 include support for a number of new connections technologies, including USB 2.0, the IEEE 1394a version of Firewire and HyperTransport, an AMD-initiated effort to create a new type of high-speed connection between chips.

"The idea was to remove some of the bottlenecks associated with everyday computing," said Brian Huynh, product manager. "We're really bullish on HyperTransport...and I think 1394a is going to be ubiquitous in a year or so, so we want to be there now."

Other additions to nForce2 include faster memory bandwidth, support for version 8X of the AGP graphics port, dual Ethernet channels for home or business networking and multichannel audio processing via Nvidia's SoundStorm technology.

Graphics enhancements in integrated nForce2 chips include support for dual-monitor setups using nView software and hardware.

Hyunh said Nvidia had no plans to enter the market for Pentium-compatible chipsets, which would require a licensing agreement with Intel. Graphics chip rival ATI recently began producing integrated chipsets for Pentium 4.

"We think the AMD market is a huge opportunity for us," he said. "Right now, we're quite content with the AMD space."

Motherboards based on nForce2 are expected to begin shipping in mid-August.