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.
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.
We think we’re seeing a pretty solid pattern here. As is true of the Star Trek movies, it’s possible that only the even-numbered Nvidia chipsets are worth a damn. The original nForce was a beta product. The nForce2 was great. The nForce3 sucked eggs. The nForce4 SLI kicked much booty. And then there’s the nForce 590 SLI Intel Edition, which was hyped more than a David Blaine stunt, and might be just as anti-climactic. Originally scheduled for availability in August, boards using the laggard chipset didn’t appear until late October—just before boards using the newer nForce 680i were released. What’s the point?
It’s no secret that Nvidia had a heavy hand in designing Foxconn’s excellent AM2 Athlon 64/nForce 590 SLI board, but Foxconn’s Intel-powered 975X7AB-8EKRS2H board suffers for a lack of Nvidia-applied polish.
We loved MSI’s last nForce4 board so much that we gave it a Kick Ass award and even bumped the Asus A8N32-SLI board from our Best Of The Best list. Unfortunately, MSI was so late to the nForce4 SLI x16 party that the board debuted right on the cusp of the AM2 launch; thus its lifespan was brief, and product was impossible to find.
In a world of “me-too” motherboards, Gigabyte is known for its “not-me” risky moves. The company was the first to integrate two GeForce 6800 GPUs onto a single card, and it was the first to make dual BIOSes standard.