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NVIDIA nForce 790i Ultra SLI
by Marc Prieur
Published on April 8, 2008

Memory performances
We were first interested in evaluating the memory controller by using ScienceMark 2 to obtain speeds and latency. The framerate was also measured in Crysis and file compression times were obtained with WinRAR 3.7. These two ‘’practical’’ applications were chosen because they are noticeably affected by the speed of the memory subsystem, something that isn’t always the case. Tests were carried out in FSB1600 (a speed at which the nForce 780i started to show some weakness) and in DDR2-800 4-4-4-12, DDR2-1066 5-5-5-15, DDR3-1066 7-7-7-21 and DDR3-1333 7-7-7-21.

To begin with, here are the results of tests with ScienceMark :

The nForce 790i displayed the lowest latency at 5 to 6ns less than the X38. In terms of bandwidth, the latter has a slight advantage in DDR3-1066 but results are similar in DDR3-1333. Either way, it was the practical performances that interested us the most:

While the 780i showed a certain weakness here, this isn’t the case for the 790i. Actually, we have first rate performances and 1 to 2% ahead of the X38. However, note that there is some resistance with DDR2. The X38 and its DDR2-1066 does as well as DDR3-1333, which however is much more expensive.

In Crysis the X38 is ahead of the nForce 790i, although the lead doesn’t exceed 0.5%. Here again, DDR2 is more than competitive.

As you can see, while NVIDIA’s nForce 780i was a chipset with lower performances than those of the X38, the nForce 790i puts this manufacturer on top again.
While the MCP is the same, we still wanted to verify RAID 5 improvements added with drivers with the nForce 790i SLI.

IOMeter is used to simulate the load in a multi-user environment, in this case by using a file server type load comprised of 80% reading and 20% writing, all 100% non sequential. In this test we measured performances, expressed in inputs/outputs per second (IO/s) with 1, 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64 and 128 simultaneous commands. The two chipsets were tested with Raptor 150 GB drives.

Just like with the nForce 780i, the nForce 790i plateaus at more than 4 simultaneous commands. Given that this behavior is only present in RAID, it shows a limit related to this mode. Moreover, this is not a factor with the X38. Of course, the nForce 790 is far from being destined to a server environment ; however, we might wonder where this limitation comes from.

We now move on to file copying. We measure reading and writing speeds, as well as the copying on the same partition of the different configurations. This is done on a series of files composed of 2 large files totaling 4.4 GB, 2620 files with a total of 2 GB, and finally, 16,046 smaller ones equaling 733 MB. The source or target in reading or writing on the drive is a RAID 0 of two Raptor 74 GB drives.

Like with the nForce 780i and X38 this type of test isn’t to the advantage of RAID 5 configurations. This type of writing with small files isn’t ideal for the software RAID 5 configuration offered by chipsets.

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