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Reviewed by: Norman Tan [08.01.05]
Manufactured by: Tyan



When the AMD Opteron was first launched, it seemed destined to be confined to the server market due to the lack of a robust chipset that supported the AGP standard. AMD has always depended on its channel partners to develop the appropriate chipsets and the Opteron was no different. For those craving a good AGP dual Opteron motherboard, the solution came in the form of the Nvidia Nforce3 Pro/250 Chipset which came quite some months after the initial launch.

Fast forward to now - PCIe has become the de facto standard for video cards and when it comes to video cards, three little letters are what people are talking about: SLI. A large part of this trend has been in the motherboards and the Nforce4 Ultra Chipsets have become the standard when it comes to SLI systems.

Dual CPU motherboards always tend to lag behind single CPU solutions due to their increased level of complexity so it comes as no surprise that when the Nforce Pro 2200 chipset was announced in January, there was a lag before they became readily available. Well, they're available now and they certainly come packed with features.

The Nforce Pro 2200 chipset is at its core, an Nforce4 Ultra for Opterons. As with the Nforce4 Ultra, it has a 16-bit/1ghz HT link, hardware accelerated Gigabit ethernet and 20 lanes of PCIe.  Storage support is provided in the way of a couple ATA/133 channels along with four SATA-II ports that support both NCQ and TCQ.

When it comes to SLI, most single AMD64 CPU solutions will only have dual 8x lanes due to the limitations of the chipset, but with a dual Opteron system, motherboard manufacturers are able to provide users with dual 16x PCIe lanes. Let me repeat that again. Dual 16x PCIe lanes. Truth be told, even AGP solutions are hard pressed to satuarate the entire bus, but it is expected that as technology progresses, especially in the high-end workstation market, cards will come out that will be able to saturate a 16x bus.

"But the Nforce4 only has 20 PCIe lanes!" you may exclaim. That's because only one of the 16x PCIe slots is connected to the 2200. The other 16x is connected to a secondary chip; the NFORCE2200 Pro.

The Nforce 2050 Pro is not strictly a southbridge. Instead, it serves to beef up the NF4, making it more suitable for workstation applications. As well as adding four more SATA-II ports and another hardware accelerated Ethernet adapter, the 2050 Pro also adds 20 more PCI-E lanes. This is what allows boards like the K8WE to support two full x16 graphics slots, and dual x16 SLI.

Since this chipset is connected to the Opteron's Hypertransport link, there are no bottlenecks created by creating an interconnect between the two chipsets. This also allows boards to use up to three 2050 chips, something that Tyan does on their 4 and 8 CPU motherboards.

Let's look at the motherboard we'll be testing now...

Next Page: (The Tyan K8WE and Board Layout)