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We weren’t impressed with Nvidia’s follow up to the popular 680i chipset. The 780i felt like a retread of the original and lacked support for Intel’s top proc: the 1,600MHz FSB Core 2 Extreme QX9770. Plus, PCI Express 2.0 was simply tacked on as an extra chip and DDR3 support was glaringly absent.
Nvidia heard our complaints and created the 790i chipset, represented here by EVGA’s Ultra SLI board. It has native PCI-E 2.0, 1,600MHz FSB support, and DDR3. This board even addresses another shortcoming of the 680i and 780i reference boards: lack of eSATA.
The board’s physical layout is well thought out, and all the SATA ports are accessible, even with two honking dual-GPU cards installed. We’re not thrilled, however, with one feature of this board (and, by extension, all Nvidia reference-design boards): The massive heatsinks are held in place with screws that protrude too far through the bottom of the board. So, if you put the board down on a table and apply pressure while installing the CPU heatsink, the screws can push forward, unseating the chipset heatsinks. That’s just sloppy design. For our build, we propped the board up on Dixie cups to keep from pushing out the screws.
In performance, the board redeemed itself. It was neck-and-neck with the pricier Asus Striker Extreme II in the majority of our benchmarks, a close second to that board in memory tests, and superior in real-world gaming tests.
Heatsink screws aside, there’s not much to complain about. Sure, there are boards with more luxury items, but if you want solid, bare-knuckle performance—with SLI support to boot—the EVGA 790i Ultra SLI has it.
Fierce performance; eSata; native PCI-E 2.0, DDR3; 1,600MHz FSB.
Heatsink screws protrude too far.