Nvidia’s first attempt at playing motherboard maker (with its AMD AM2 boards) was good, but there was definitely room for improvement. With the 680i, Nvidia gives the mobo game another go, and dives even deeper. Not content to just design boards, Nvidia is now manufacturing them too. These boards are in turn sold through partners, such as the EVGA board reviewed here.
The EVGA 680i has all the features an enthusiast could ask for. It offers SLI with full x16 support. It includes the outbound packet-prioritizing hardware firewall, LAN teaming, and tons of RAID options. And Nvidia’s RAID controller lets you change ports on the board from SATA mode to RAID mode without borking your Windows install.
For being EVGA’s first 680i mobo, it’s pretty well thought out. SATA ports are properly placed so you can access them all even in an SLI setup. The chipset cooler runs in two modes: By default it uses a passive solution, but water-cooling enthusiasts can add the clip-on fan for more cooling performance.
Neither the board-mounted power or reset buttons are new features, nor is the POST LED, but we appreciate the presence of all three. The EVGA board’s documentation of POST codes is more thorough than most motherboards’, explaining most of the errors you’ll see should your system hang. Of course, we still prefer the plain-language boot errors that Asus uses on its Republic of Gamers boards.
Like Foxconn’s board, EVGA’s mobo features Realtek codecs, which have issues rendering EAX audio. We brought our concerns to Nvidia’s attention and the company is looking into the problem. In the meantime, we recommend that you buy a good soundcard if you buy this board.
To judge the performance of these three boards, we used the same hardware set for each and manually set the RAM timings. Generally, with the same CPU, similar RAM timings, and same graphics drivers, you don’t see much variation, even between different chipsets. And true enough, we found that while the nForce 680i board leads the pack, it doesn’t blow away the Asus and Foxconn boards.
By offering a combination of solid performance, SLI support, and the ability to run dual and quad cores, EVGA’s nForce 680i could be the ultimate Core 2 motherboard to have. Our only real concern is longevity. We count on mobo makers to offer BIOS updates for at least two years, but will EVGA and Nvidia have the attention span to push new BIOSes for this board in 18 months? We won’t know that until 2008.
Month Reviewed: January 2007 + GREEN LANTERN: - GREEN GIANT: Verdict: 9 kickass=yes URL:www.evga.com