The new PCI Express bus first came to PC users back in the early summer on mainboards for Pentium 4 processors, while the Athlon 64 community had to live on with older AGP 8x and PCI buses. Of course, it was not satisfying at all for most users, especially as the leading graphics card makers focused primarily on the PCI Express x16 solutions. However, there was no way out for a while: Intel was the only chipset maker then to have mastered mass production of PCI Express-supporting chipsets and remained such throughout the last summer and fall. And as you know, Intel doesn’t produce chipsets for the competitor’s CPUs.
We should acknowledge the fact that back in the early fall VIA and NVIDIA, the two companies that are challenging each other for the leadership in supplying chipsets for the Athlon 64 platform, announced their new chipsets that boasted PCI Express support among their features. To our regret, however, these companies are often practicing “paper-only” announcements when the introduction of a new product and the beginning of mass shipments of the actual silicon are set quite a wide distance apart from one another. So no wonder we haven’t seen any mainboards based on the new PCI Express-supporting chipsets from NVIDIA or VIA until very recently in retail.
Right before the beginning of the new year, first Socket 939 mainboards featuring PCI Express bus arrived to the shops, although in small quantities. Of course, we can’t leave this event unattended and will offer you a series of reviews of PCI Express mainboards for the Athlon 64 processor.
NVIDIA was the first manufacturer to supply its new chipsets for the Athlon 64 at a more or less regular rate, so our today’s review will be about a mainboard based on a modification of the long-awaited nForce4 chipset. The mainboard comes from EPoX, but before taking a closer look at it we would like to draw your attention to the features of NVIDIA’s new chipset. It deserves very thorough consideration, I should say.