We knew something was up when Nvidia officials were light on details concerning its 780i chipset during a recent press briefing. Normally quite happy to toot its hardware horn, Nvidia practically skipped the PowerPoint slide on the chipset. Why? Like Intel’s x48, the 780i isn’t really that new. In fact, those familiar with the 680i are well acquainted with the 780i, which is pretty much a 680i with an extra chip (interestingly named the Nforce 200) thrown in to add PCI-E 2.0 support and a full x16 tri-SLI mode.
Motherboard naming conventions have never been easy to follow, but Asus threw us for a loop with its P5E3 Premium board. Is it an even better version of the stellar P5E3 Deluxe that we reviewed in January? Nope. The board actually features Intel’s newest enthusiast x48 chipset, which is, umm, 10 more than the x38 used in the P5E Deluxe board.
We’ll be the first to admit that we were unimpressed by DDR3 when we first tested it last year, but there’s finally a glimmer of hope.
What changed our minds? Asus’s spanking-fast P5E3 Deluxe WiFi-AP@n mobo, which uses the enthusiast-oriented X38 chipset. The X38’s main highlights are apparently useful DDR3 support and PCI Express 2.0 support. We say “apparently” in reference to DDR3 because we didn’t have a DDR2 version of the board for a direct comparison, but from our tests, the X38 with DDR3 is a winning combination. Also good to have but not a proven performance boost yet is PCI-E 2.0, which doubles the bandwidth of PCI-E 1.0 from 8GB/s to 16GB/s. But does PCI-E 2.0 matter?
Gigabyte cranks up the specsmanship for its GA-N680SLI-DQ6, which offers no fewer than 10 SATA ports and four Gigabit Ethernet ports. Yep. Four. What you’d ever need four Ethernet ports for, we don’t know.
If you’ve seen one Nvidia 680i reference board, you’ve seen them all. Not so with Abit’s IN9 32X-MAX board, which thumbs its nose at the me-too crowd. The IN9 32X-MAX features Nvidia’s top 680i chipset, which gets you two x16 PCI-E slots for SLI, a third full-length x8 PCI-E slot for graphics, and support for unannounced, unofficial 1,333MHz FSB processors.