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
POST A COMMENT

60 Comments

View All Comments

  • Wesley Fink - Thursday, November 09, 2006 - link

    The other time you might need a fan on the northbrdige is when using water cooling or phase-change cooling. There is no air-flow spillover from water-cooling the CPU like there is with the usual fan heatsink on the CPU, so the auxillary fan might be needed in that situation. Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Thursday, November 09, 2006 - link

    The 680i Does NOT require active notrthbridge cooling and is shipped as a passive heatpipe design. At 80nm it is much cooler than the 130nm nVdia chipsets. The fan you see in the pictures is an included accessory for massive overclocking, much like Asus includes auxillary fans in their top boards.

    In our testing we really did not find the stock fanless board much of a limitation in overclocking as the northbridge did not get particularly hot at any time. We installed the fan when we were trying to set the OC record and left it on for our 3 days at 2100 FSB. Since it is a clip and 3 screws to install we left it on.
    Reply
  • IntelUser2000 - Monday, November 13, 2006 - link

    quote:

    The 680i Does NOT require active notrthbridge cooling and is shipped as a passive heatpipe design. At 80nm it is much cooler than the 130nm nVdia chipsets. The fan you see in the pictures is an included accessory for massive overclocking, much like Asus includes auxillary fans in their top boards.

    In our testing we really did not find the stock fanless board much of a limitation in overclocking as the northbridge did not get particularly hot at any time. We installed the fan when we were trying to set the OC record and left it on for our 3 days at 2100 FSB. Since it is a clip and 3 screws to install we left it on.


    That's funny. A cooler running one consuming more power. Must be the die size is much larger :D.
    Reply
  • yacoub - Thursday, November 09, 2006 - link

    ah okay thanks for that clarification! =) Reply
  • yacoub - Thursday, November 09, 2006 - link

    NTune would be a lot more interesting if it wasn't so slow to respond to page changes, cumbersome, and a gigantic UI realestate hog.

    The same functionality in a slimmer, more configurable, and efficient UI design would be highly desireable.
    Reply
  • yacoub - Thursday, November 09, 2006 - link

    and actually, that goes for the entire NVidia display/GPU settings configuration panel. Reply
  • Khato - Wednesday, November 08, 2006 - link

    Each CPU is going to have a max FSB clock that it'll run stably at for the same reason that it has a max core logic frequency. The main difference here is that you have two possible barriers: signal degredation due to the analog buffers not being designed for such high speed and then whatever buffer logic there is in the CPU to clock cross from FSB to core not liking the higher frequency. I'm kinda leaning towards the buffer logic being the limiting factor, since I'd expect the manufacturing variance in the analog buffers to be minimal. That and the described 75MHz variance in top FSB frequency between various processors sounds reasonable for non-optimized logic. Reply
  • Staples - Wednesday, November 08, 2006 - link

    I have no need for SLI. Makes the board more expensive and an SLI setup is just not worth it to me. I was about to buy a P965 chipset but now I am interested in a the 650i Ultra. Will we see a review of this chipset in the future? Most of it seems to be exactly the same as the 680i however it does lack some features and I am afraid that those missing features may affect performance. As it stands now, do you expect the performance of the 650i Ultra to perform identical to the 680i SLI? Reply
  • Gary Key - Wednesday, November 08, 2006 - link

    quote:

    As it stands now, do you expect the performance of the 650i Ultra to perform identical to the 680i SLI?


    We do not, we do expect the 650i SLI to perform closely to it. We will have 650i boards in early December for review. :)
    Reply
  • Pirks - Wednesday, November 08, 2006 - link

    is this functionality where you can overclock your CPU and FSB and memory on the fly without rebooting Windows available only on nForce mobos? I'm a stability freak and I want to be able to raise and lower my clocks and voltage on the fly, similar to the way Macs do this - they spin their fans under load and become totally quiet when idle - I wanna do the same so that my rig is dead quiet when idle/doing word/inet/email/etc and becomes noisy and fast OCed beast when firing up Crysis or something. and I want this Mac-style WITHOUT rebooting Windows

    so do I have to buy nVidia mobo for that?

    600i series only or earlier nForce 4 or 5 series will do as well?

    I still can't dig what's up with these "dynamic BIOS updates that _require_ reboot to work" - so can you OC without rebooting or not? if yes - what are these BIOS options that nTune changes that DOES require reboot?

    could you happy nTune owners enlighten me on that stuff? thanks ;)
    Reply

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now