It has been six months since NVIDIA announced their new 500 series chipsets. This past May the launch coincided with the release of AM2. Today NVIDIA launches a new chipset family, called the 600i family, with no mention at all of AMD and a launch date to coincide with the new Intel Core 2 Quad (Kentsfield).

Perhaps these two events, set just six months apart, best define the dramatic shifts that have occurred in the enthusiast market during this time. AMD was undisputed performance leader for the past couple of years, and enthusiasts didn't much care about Intel chipsets. With the launch of Core 2, however, the enthusiast world changed. Today Core 2 Duo and Quad are the undisputed performance leaders and AMD is once again the "value" chip. This will likely change again in the future, but for now Intel Core 2 is clearly the processor enthusiasts are demanding.

Of course, that has been the problem for NVIDIA. Where their 590/570/550 family was just great with AMD processors, their Intel variants left a lot to be desired. NVIDIA is a company that proclaims loudly its support of the enthusiast, and it had to be embarrassing that the NVIDIA chipsets for Intel were also the worst overclocking chipsets in the market. NVIDIA needs credibility as a provider of enthusiast chipsets in order to sell their top-end SLI to Intel buyers, since Intel has supported the competitor's ATI CrossFire as their multi-GPU standard. Features of nForce 590 looked great, but the overclocking performance, or rather the lack of it, kept enthusiasts away from the 500 series for Intel.

In addition, in the past 6 months AMD bought ATI, NVIDIA's major competitor in graphics. NVIDIA had become the leading supplier of chipsets for motherboards supporting the AMD processor, and with ATI moving to AMD that market position was now in jeopardy. ATI also had competent chipsets for AM2, and everyone expected AMD to make good use of those capabilities in the future.

What had been the minor annoyance of not having a good enthusiast chipset for Intel's Core 2 Duo quickly became a major problem for NVIDIA. The enthusiast was now buying Intel processors instead of AMD, their major competitor was now part of their largest customer in the chipset market, and the world's largest supplier of chipsets for Core 2 Duo - Intel themselves - was supporting the ATI CrossFire multi-GPU solution. NVIDIA needed a new product for the Intel Socket 775 that would excite the enthusiast enough to buy NVIDIA for Intel, increase NVIDIA's market share in the Intel chipset market, and provide a superior platform for SLI on Intel.

That product launches today in the NVIDIA 600i chipset family. The "i" is for Intel, and for now the 600 family is only available for the Intel Socket 775. (Future NVIDIA chipsets for the AMD platform will be named with a small "a" following the number.) The family will include some value boards and a top-end 680i that claims incredible overclocking on Core 2 Duo and Core 2 Quad processors. The new chipset also delivers dual x16 SLI to the Intel platform in a board NVIDIA is confident enthusiasts will want to own.

NVIDIA cut their teeth in the AMD market, but the Intel chipset market is a much more ambitious target. In the past AMD was only a minor player in the AMD chipset market, but Intel is the largest supplier of chipsets for their own socket 775 processors. Intel also has a long and impressive history of innovations in the chipset market. Intel chipsets are widely regarded as the top performers in almost any category supporting Intel processors. This is a very different market than the AMD platform NVIDIA targeted and conquered. With ATI now part of AMD, with current AMD chipsets moving toward the value category, and with the enthusiast buying Intel processors, the desire to target the Intel market is logical. However, as NVIDIA quickly found out with the 500 family for Intel, they must have the goods to persuade buyers to choose NVIDIA instead of Intel.

The real question then is whether the 680i and the 600i chipset family are the best available in the Intel market. If we believe NVIDIA marketing the answer is a resounding yes. Does the 680i live up to all the advance hype? We hope to provide answers to that question.

Features: nForce 600i Platform
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  • MikeyC - Friday, November 10, 2006 - link

    I'm looking forward to this. Any idea on when you guys will have the bin numbers for the different rates of OC-ability? I'm planning on OCing my e6600 on this board this weekend; I'll post up my numbers if that'll help. Reply
  • Gary Key - Sunday, November 12, 2006 - link

    We have not figured it out yet. Two CPUs from the same week and they both act differently during overclocking. We are still working with NVIDIA on this matter. Reply
  • Joepublic2 - Friday, November 10, 2006 - link

    965 and 975 boards to my knowledge don't support a FSB/mem ratio smaller than 1:1. Does this chipset have the right multiplier to use DDR2-400 while retaining a 1066Mhz FSB? Reply
  • Gary Key - Friday, November 10, 2006 - link

    The memory settings are sync or async capable on this chipset if you unlink the FSB and Memory in the BIOS. So the answer is yes to your question but believe me this chipset needs good DDR2-800 to get the most out of it. A 1T command rate can make a significant difference in several applications and games. We already found a 4FPS difference in Q4 at 1280x1024 with DDR2-800 at 1T instead of 2T as an example. We will have more on this in our actual board review. Reply
  • Joepublic2 - Monday, November 13, 2006 - link

    I was asking mainly because a conroe board that could run a 4:3 FSB/mem multiplier could be an even better overclocker than the 965. One would only need RAM that could hit DDR 752 for a 500Mhz FSB for example.

    A great review as always!
    Reply
  • VooDooAddict - Friday, November 10, 2006 - link

    Any idea if there are mATX boards using any of thse new chipsets on the way? Reply
  • Gary Key - Friday, November 10, 2006 - link

    quote:

    Any idea if there are mATX boards using any of thse new chipsets on the way?


    There is the possibility of the 650i Ultra being on a mATX board in late January. However, the suppliers might wait for the new NV Intel IGP chipset coming in Q1. We should have more information in December.
    Reply
  • BadThad - Thursday, November 09, 2006 - link

    quote:

    However, it should also be pointed out that a second X6800 GPU would not overclock 1 MHz higher


    Should be CPU, the X6800 is not a GPU, lol.
    Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Friday, November 10, 2006 - link

    Corrected Reply
  • yacoub - Thursday, November 09, 2006 - link

    Do all of the 680i SLi boards require active cooling on the northbridge? That's actually a deal-killer for me, as motherboard fans are about the worst ones out there anymore since they're small, fast-spinning (and due to those two characteristics they are noisy), usually short-lived, and I've yet to see one that is dynamically controlled by the temp of the northbridge.

    I'm guessng 650i boards don't require active cooling, but are any of the 680i boards using a non-reference design sporting completely silent cooling?
    Reply

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