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Nvidia nForce 680i SLI Chipset Review

Date: 2006-11-9

   Nvidia has been present in the chipset market for just a few years but they have managed to become pretty successful in this field already. Starting 2001, when they introduced their fir...

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Besides the processor bus controller and the memory controller, the SPP of the new Nvidia nForce 680i SLI features another two important units. First of all, it is a PCI Express x16 bus for connection with the graphics card. Since SPP and MCP of the new Nvidia nForce 680i SLI support the total of 46 PCI Express lanes, the mainboard based on this chipset can be equipped with up to three PCI Express x16 slots (one of them is logically connected via the PCI Express x8 bus). As a result, the new Nvidia chipset not only supports SLI configurations but allows installing three graphics cards simultaneously, where one of the cards might work as a physics accelerator. The second important unit worth mentioning is the HyperTransport bus that connects the SPP and MCP together. The bandwidth of this bus is 8GB/s, which should be enough for two graphics cards in SLI mode if both of them are connected via the PCI Express x16 interface of the two different chipset bridges.

Nvidia nForce 680i SLI chipset South Bridge is identical to the Nvidia nForce 570 SLI MCP, so its features look as follows:

  • Dual-port gigabit network controller supporting FirstPack technology for managing the priority of processed network packets and DualNet technology for consolidated use of network ports.
  • Integrated ATA RAID controller supporting six Serial ATA ports with up to 3Gbit/s speed and a Parallel ATA-133 port. The controller can work with a single HDD as well as with RAID arrays 0, 1, 0+1 and 5. Serial ATA ports support NCQ, “Hot Swap?HDD connection and eSATA.
  • 10 USB 2.0 prots.
  • Built-in High Definition audio controller (Azalia).

So, Nvidia nForce 680i SLI looks like a pretty feature-rich solution that looks as good as any available competition out there. And in order to back up this statement once again, let’s take a look at a comparative feature chart for the solutions designed for Intel platforms:

Nvidia nForce 680i SLI Chipset Review

From the formal specification standpoint, Intel chipsets cannot outpace the new Nvidia nForce 680i SLI. However, Intel developers are not pursuing this goal in the first place. This company is targeting the mainstream and budget market segments having left the high-end chipset field for Nvidia and ATI that are also pushing forward their multi-GPU SLI and CrossFire technologies in the same performance segment.

Nvidia didn’t stop on the high-performance Nvidia nForce 680i SLI solution, however. They have also launched two more chipset models based on the same component base but boasting cut-down features list. They are Nvidia nForce 650i SLI and Nvidia nForce 650i Ultra. Both these solutions have only one PCI Express x16 graphics bus and two PCI Express x1 lanes for external devices. Nvidia nForce 650i SLI differs from the Ultra by the possibility to configure the graphics bus as 2 x PCI Express x8, so that the system would be able to accommodate two graphics cards. Other than that, Nvidia nForce 650i SLI and Nvidia nForce 650i Ultra are identical, although they boast fewer features than the high-end Nvidia nForce 680i SLI: they have only one network port instead of two, four SATA and? USB 2.0 ports.

Note that thanks to these changes that may seem minor at first glance, Nvidia nForce 650i SLI and Ultra fall into a completely different price category, as intended. While the approximate price of Nvidia nForce 680i SLI based mainboards should be around $250-$300, the 650i based mainboards should be priced starting from $100. So, the new Nvidia chipsets can be used not only in high-end solutions for gamers and hardware enthusiasts but also in inexpensive products.

However, the mainboards on low-cost nForce 600i chipset modifications will start selling a little later. Only a few selected manufacturers are ready to start shipping Nvidia nForce 680i SLI based mainboards at this time, however, even they cannot yet offer any diverse choice. In fact, it looks like Nvidia’s closest partners will only be able to offer solutions based on the reference design at this time. So, today we are going to discuss a mainboard like that, also.

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