Media Communications Processor(s)

As with the ‘Northbridge’ elements of the nForce2 chipset the ‘Southbridge’, or Media Communications Processor (MCP), also comes in two flavours: the MCP and MCP-T (or Digital Media Gateway). The MCP is aimed at the more value oriented section while the MCP-T has all the features of the MCP and a few more aimed at more media rich applications and high end users.

Similar to nForce, both nForce2 MCP’s feature NVIDIA’s own Ethernet controller which had a very low CPU utilisation enabling streamed network data to be processed effectively. However, although NVIDIA’s Ethernet port has all the functionality of standard Ethernet controllers it wasn’t a recognised brand and to this end the MCP-T also features a second Ethernet port licensed from 3Com – this does have a recognised brand and hence will be welcomed much more readily in the corporate environment. Two Ethernet adaptors can also be of great benefit to home or small business users as well as the PC based on nForce2 with MCP-T can be used as both the Wide Area Network (Internet) gateway via one Ethernet port and for LAN access via the second Port.

nForce2 based system used as Internet Gateway

Both nForce2 MCP’s have support for USB 2.0 and up to Ultra ATA/133 external and drive connectivity. USB 2.0 is fully compatible with older USB 1.1 devices, however it allows for an increased bandwidth of 480Mbs and nForce2 has the capability of controlling up to 6 ports. With the harddrive connectivity, NVIDIA decided that with the proliferation of ATA drives and the infancy of Serial ATA they’d opt to stick with the more widely recognised format for the time being; having said that they have opted to go up to Ultra ATA/133 which is currently Maxtors format, rather than being an industry adopted format, but this does also ensure full compatibility with ATA/100, 66 and 33 drives.

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Reference nForce2 System

Alongside USB 2.0 and Ultra ATA/133 the higher-end MCP-T will also support IEEE-1394 (or ‘Firewire’ in Apple terms). Moving IEEE-1394 on chip enables users to get round the PCI busses latency and lack of isosynchronous transfers and move video data around their PC’s faster with data transfer speeds of 100, 200 or 400Mbps. NVIDIA demonstrated the use of their onchip IEEE-1394 using a video camera hooked up to an nForce board and a video camera viewer onscreen displaying whatever the camera was pointed at live. With an added twist, using the onboard GeForce4 MX graphics, they were then able to translate that video image as a 3D scene and preceded to do all manner of interesting effects with the images directly from the camera!

Reference nForce2 ATX back panel
with dual VGA connectors replacing Serial ports, 1 IEEE-1394 (Firewire) connector
and 3 USB 2.0 connectors