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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  • StriderGT - Thursday, November 09, 2006 - link

    Also, some Intel chipset fans believe that Intel chipsets are best for a rock solid system (for the record, I'm not one of these people), I guess we'll see if nVidia will change thier minds.

    No it won't, its the same group of people that suggested the P4 was a more "stable" platform than the Athlon 64 platform. Its simply a psychological state of denial, when someone has paid more for less needs an excuse: "Stability"
    Reply
  • skrewler2 - Wednesday, November 08, 2006 - link

    I agree with you on your two points.

    I also wish PM tech was standardized.. I just went through a headache researching what was compatible with what chipset etc, imo it should just all work. From what I understand, the SATA II standard isn't even really a standard at all.. anyways I agree that NV should start implementing Port Multiplier support!
    Reply
  • yyrkoon - Wednesday, November 08, 2006 - link

    Yeah, I recently bought a budget Asrock board that SUPPOSEDLY supported SATAII connections. As per the standard, SATAII is supposed to support native command queuing (NCQ), and up to 3Gbit/s throughput on each connector. Anyhow this motherboard does not support NCQ . . . which is the majority of the reason to own a SATAII drive / interface, the rest is basicly marketing hype. Reply
  • Kougar - Wednesday, November 08, 2006 - link

    Wanted to point out all the tables on the Memory Performance page are mislabled as "980i".

    Also some power consumption figures would be good, even if not critical. With a chipset cooler that huge it's about a giveaway it is hiding a nice and crispy chipset! ;) Thanks for the article!
    Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Wednesday, November 08, 2006 - link

    The perils of Table cut-and-paste are now corrected.

    Please see comments above above Power Consumption. That information will be added to the review since several have requested it.
    Reply
  • Avalon - Wednesday, November 08, 2006 - link

    I was much more interested in the 650i Ultra boards, specifically how well they overclocked compared to the 680i you benched. Additionally, do you think it's necessary for an active fan cooling the northbridge when highly overclocked on this chipset, or does it run fairly cool? Reply
  • Gary Key - Wednesday, November 08, 2006 - link

    We will not have 650i boards until early December for review. The fan is required for upper-end 24/7 overclocking in my opinion, otherwise the board ran fine without it. Reply
  • yzkbug - Wednesday, November 08, 2006 - link

    tables in page 10: NVIDIA 980i -> NVIDIA 680i Reply
  • ShoNuff - Wednesday, November 08, 2006 - link


    I'm impressed with the review. It was very thorough. In particular, I was amazed at your overclock with the X6800. I am looking forward to getting one of these boards in my hands.

    It appears that NVIDIA has done it this time with respect to the on board memory controller. It is hard to imagine things getting better when the OEM's add their nuances to this board. If results are this good based upon the reference design, it is almost scary thinking about how good a board DFI would/could produce.

    Oh…and btw…I like the new location of the front panel connectors. The new location will make it easier to "stealth" the wires.
    Reply
  • hubajube - Wednesday, November 08, 2006 - link

    These are ass-kicking OC's!!! Can't wait to own this board. Reply

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