Thanks to rapidly falling board prices, Intel’s Core 2 line of CPUs are quickly rising in popularity, especially among enthusiasts who crave performance – the Core 2 Duo is unquestionably the fastest processor on the market right now. Core 2 CPUs are also well known for their amazing ability to overclock. This is another “feature” many enthusiasts look for when CPU shopping. After all, it’s pretty hard to pass up free performance.
The question on the minds of many enthusiasts upgrading to Core 2 though is which motherboard to buy. That’s where today’s article comes in. We’ve rounded up five popular nForce 680i motherboards; each of these boards share the nForce 680i SLI chipset in common, but vary from there. Before we get into that though, let’s quickly go over the highlights of the nForce 680i chipset.
The nForce 680i platform
Since the introduction of Intel’s Core 2 platform last year, much of NVIDIA’s chipset development has been for the Core 2 CPUs. First, they released the nForce 590i SLI chipset, essentially an updated version of their nForce 4 SLI X16 chipset, only with a newer South Bridge featuring more PCI Express lanes, additional SATA and USB ports, dual Gigabit Ethernet, and HD audio support.
However, Intel’s own chipsets, the P965 and the 975X ultimately proved better in performance overclocking, and value than nForce 590 SLI. So NVIDIA went to work and developed a new Northbridge for the 590. They kept the South Bridge the same, but renamed the package as the 680i. You can get the full details of the new chipset in our 680i Preview article.
The nForce 680i SLI chipset supports much higher memory speeds of up to 1200MHz versus the 667MHz limit of the NF590. FSB support is also boosted to a whopping 1333MHz and up (our EVGA test board hit 1804MHz FSB in our nForce 680i preview article).
Other changes include a third PCI Express Graphics (PEG) slot and an improved memory controller. The South Bridge is untouched since it is already packed with features.
EVGA and ASUS were the first to provide boards with the 680i. In fact, EVGA was the NVIDIA reference board provided in our 680i preview article. Today we’ll be looking at 5 boards Abit, ASUS, and Gigabyte in addition to the already tested EVGA 680i board.
Let’s start with the Gigabyte board.