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Print 20 comment(s) - last by Knish.. on Jun 13 at 11:44 PM


nForce 550 chipset courtesy of HKEPC
Take out that soldering iron and turn your nForce 550 or 570 motherboard into an SLI compatible motherboard

HKEPC has stumbled across a few interesting findings regarding the non-SLI compatible nForce 5 variants. A motherboard manufacturer by the name of Magic-Pro has an nForce 550 motherboard that is compatible with SLI—the A2N5. This is quite strange as NVIDIA doesn’t certify the nForce 550 for SLI operation but somehow Magic-Pro has found a way around it. The A2N5 has two full length PCI Express x16 slots with eight lanes routed to each slot—similar to an nForce 570 SLI setup. NVIDIA drivers were able to detect two graphics card and open up SLI options on the Magic-Pro A2N5.

The A2N5 was than compared to other nForce 550 motherboards and it was found the nForce 550 chipset lacked a resistor that was found on other nForce 550 core logics. This is similar to how nForce 4 Ultra boards were modified for SLI compatibility. After further examination HKEPC did further experimentation with an MSI K9N Platinum nForce 570 motherboard. The K9N Platinum nForce 570 motherboard appeared to have the resistor soldered in place that prevented SLI operation. It was removed but SLI operation was still disabled on the motherboard. 

There was more to just unsoldering a single resistor to enable SLI operation on nForce 550 and nForce 570 chipsets. A couple more resisters had to be removed around the second PCI Express x16 slot to divide the sixteen PCI Express lanes to both slots. After removing more resistors HKEPC achieved success and was able to mod the MSI K9N Platinum nForce 570 motherboard to allow SLI. SLI performance on modified nForce 550 and 570 motherboards came out identical to a regular nForce 570 SLI motherboard.

nForce 550 and 570 users shouldn’t rejoice quite yet. Although the modification appears to work well, don’t expect it to be working for too much longer. If previous nForce 4 Ultra modifications is a hint of things to come expect NVIDIA to find a way to prevent SLI support on uncertified motherboards. While this modification is a hard mod the chipset ID still remains the same so expect NVIDIA to use this to its advantage.  nForce 570 and 570 SLI only have a price differential of about $20 right now, so for those not handy with a soldering iron, the modification might not be worth the elbow grease either.



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Saw that coming
By peternelson on 6/13/2006 8:35:58 AM , Rating: 2
"nForce 550 and 570 users shouldn’t rejoice quite yet. Although the modification appears to work well, don’t expect it to be working for too much longer. If previous nForce 4 Ultra modifications is a hint of things to come expect NVIDIA to find a way to prevent SLI support on uncertified motherboards. While this modification is a hard mod the chipset ID still remains the same so expect NVIDIA to use this to its advantage."

Nvidia can use drivers to disable SLI if it's not their genuine chipset, in the same way SLI doesn't work on an ATI chipset. If you don't PAY for SLI, don't expect them to give you it.

On the other hand, I think Nvidia should allow SLI on all chipsets (except maybe ATI) because it will help them sell more graphics cards. Maybe those without the right chipset could pay an "upgrade" fee by credit card to enable the drivers to work on their machine, if there are no technical reasons why not.




RE: Saw that coming
By Lord Evermore on 6/13/2006 8:50:55 AM , Rating: 2
Anything that is limited only by a software or even a firmware modification will eventually get hacked, so basically they'd get only one purchase out of that, and then everybody and their mother would have SLI.


RE: Saw that coming
By Lord Evermore on 6/13/2006 8:56:05 AM , Rating: 4
Of course then they could come out with "nvidia Genuine Advantage" and require that you install a program that validates via the Internet that your system does actually have an authorized, purchased ability to run SLI, during the bootup process, before the second card is enabled. And that software could check a serial number burned into a permanent ROM chip required on every motherboard (or in each chipset) to ensure that people don't just share some sort of "authorization" file, and if you change your motherboard you have to make a phone call and read off a 200 digit number to authorize SLI on your new board, or even better, you have to buy it again if you change boards.


RE: Saw that coming
By Stele on 6/13/2006 9:38:40 PM , Rating: 2
That's one heck of a scary story... everybody jumping on the Genuine Advantage bandwagon! :S But sarcasm aside, who knows, it might just happen one fine day.

quote:
And that software could check a serial number burned into a permanent ROM chip required on every motherboard (or in each chipset)

Except that won't this cause the same problems and uproar that the PIII did with the CPU serial number? Then motherboard manufacturers would be forced to include an option to turn it off (and which is usually set to OFF by default) to 'protect consumer privacy' or whatever.


RE: Saw that coming
By Lord Evermore on 6/13/2006 10:06:34 PM , Rating: 2
Sure, but then you'd have the option to either turn it off, or turn it on if you want to purchase the SLI functionality, and it would have a legitimate reason (nearly unbreakable authentication scheme). Of course there'd be a huge uproar over only making SLI available to people who were willing to turn it on, but that didn't stop Intel from trying it, why should it stop anybody else?


RE: Saw that coming
By Stele on 6/13/2006 9:35:08 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
...on all chipsets (except maybe ATI)...
Hmm yeah I think so too! :P

If they wanted to permanently disable SLI on non-SLI designated chips, a possible compromise between a totally different die (higher production costs) and driver- or firmware-based checks (can be hacked) could be to have a fusible link on the die which can be blown for non-SLI chips with the same methods used in FPGAs or PLDs. Could be incorporated into the die testing process or one more step before the wafer's cut. Since it's unlikely that nVidia would want to change the die design now, though, they might just have to hang on until their next product.


a bit odd to me....
By NerV04 on 6/13/2006 10:02:24 AM , Rating: 2
if they go through an extra step just to disable SLI, wouldnt they be wasting more money to do it? I find it kinda funny how they charge less for more work done to the board. I know they make a killing with the extra money from the SLI, but still..




RE: a bit odd to me....
By masher2 (blog) on 6/13/2006 10:25:08 AM , Rating: 2
> "I find it kinda funny how they charge less for more work done to the board."

The extra cost comes from the R&D effort required to develop SLI in the first place, as well as modifying drivers and certifying SLI on as many games and applications as possible.

Don't fall into the trap of thinking that manufacturing costs are the only-- or even the primary-- cost of delivering a hardware product.


RE: a bit odd to me....
By BladeVenom on 6/13/2006 1:05:53 PM , Rating: 2
SLI was developed by 3dfx a long time ago.


RE: a bit odd to me....
By masher2 (blog) on 6/13/2006 1:12:34 PM , Rating: 2
3dfx introduced the concept of SLI...as well as the specific implementation of it on their own hardware. However, it should be obvious that implementing SLI on other cards-- particularly those with a wholly different bus interface-- is a whole new development effort.


RE: a bit odd to me....
By pr0nbot on 6/13/2006 4:09:57 PM , Rating: 2
pr0n!


RE: a bit odd to me....
By pr0nbot on 6/13/2006 4:10:19 PM , Rating: 2
More pr0n!!!


Cut the traces?
By Lord Evermore on 6/13/2006 6:02:16 AM , Rating: 2
It's kinda funny that the boards the manufacturers came out with are the exact same board, the 570 and 570SLI for example, and all they did was run the non-SLI models through an extra step to stick a few resistors on it, and make the second X16 slot a different color. With the NF4 models the ones I saw that were essentially the same board at least used only a physical X1 slot even though you could see the pinout and traces on the board where it could have been an X16.

Couldn't nvidia just insist that the traces NOT be physically connected to the slots, or that they be cut in places where people couldn't re-connect them? Like when they're soldering the chipset to the board, just don't solder the pins which connect those extra lines? Or heck why did nvidia even leave those pins on the chip package in the first place?




RE: Cut the traces?
By RTJP66 on 6/13/2006 7:04:22 AM , Rating: 2
To make a host of different boards is going to cost alot extra, when simply adding parts to a single generic board is alot simpler and cheaper, yes there will be the small percentage who work out the where to add the 0R resistors to enable thigns but in the grand scheme of things its not a threat to their sales.



RE: Cut the traces?
By masher2 (blog) on 6/13/2006 10:22:57 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
Couldn't nvidia just insist that the traces NOT be physically connected to the slots, or that they be cut in places where people couldn't re-connect them? Like when they're soldering the chipset to the board, just don't solder the pins which connect those extra lines?


Regardless of where one cuts a trace, it can always be reconnected by soldering a jumper directly between the relevant pads. The same goes for leaving chipset pins unconnected. The only way you're going to make a board truly tamper-proof is to modify the chips themselves...and there's a fairly stiff manufacturing cost for doing so.


RE: Cut the traces?
By Knish on 6/13/2006 11:44:13 PM , Rating: 2
Omg. It's Masher. Great to see you again man...


Info abound
By Stele on 6/13/2006 4:26:55 AM , Rating: 2
While interesting, especially for the experiment-minded, I wonder how the modders obtain the necessary info to know how to perform these mods. It's not like you remove and replace each and every resistor that you see and testing to see if it has any effect! Neither are detailed datasheets for the chipsets easily available for download. Leaked info from the inside I suppose?




RE: Info abound
By Lord Evermore on 6/13/2006 5:41:11 AM , Rating: 2
Just compare between two boards? They could probably follow most of the surface traces, which is where all the resistors would have been, so they could see where resistors were in the paths to the PCIe slots on one board but not the other. That's how they figured out the chipset mod in the first place.


RE: Info abound
By jmke on 6/13/2006 5:51:13 AM , Rating: 2
"Just compare between two boards?"

of course :)


Rip-off
By BladeVenom on 6/13/2006 9:11:31 AM , Rating: 3
Shouldn't they happy enough that so many consumers are buying 2 graphics cards instead of just one? Then to to charge you an extra $20 just so you can use two graphics cards seems a bit greedy and counter productive. I'll just stick with single card soltions.




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