NVIDIA 680i: The Best Core 2 Chipset?

by Gary Key & Wesley Fink on 11/8/2006 4:45 AM EST
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  • fenacv - Tuesday, January 08, 2008 - link

    http://www.pricebat.ca/EVGA-122-CK-NF67-T1-LGA-775...">http://www.pricebat.ca/EVGA-122-CK-NF67...-SLI-ATX...
    If you don't really care the prefermace, I found it's onsale just buy one only 138 bucks. It's cheap.
    Reply
  • TheBeagle - Friday, December 08, 2006 - link

    I'm wondering if these touted new 680i boards are vaporware, especially the Gigabyte GA-N680SLI-DQ6 board. Ever since you first alerted us to the fact that the 680i chipset was replacing the 590 version, I've been waiting to see this whole new array of motherboards. However, aside from a few boards (ASUS and a few others) the major board manufacturers haven't been forthcoming with these products. Maybe this is just going to be some sort of a big Christmas present that Santa delivers on the holiday. If you guys at AnandTech have some info on this, I'd sure like to hear about. Thanks Reply
  • mbf - Wednesday, November 29, 2006 - link

    I, for one, am going to seriously miss the native hardware firewall of the nForce3 and nForce4 chipsets, so I'm anything but "thankful" for seeing it "jettisoned into deep space." Actually, this was one of the coolest features of the nForce chipsets and truly innovative.

    nVidia's stance as to removing it because the functionality is built into Windows Vista doesn't ring true. A software solution can never work as efficiently and transparently as a hardware solution. And what of the people having no intention to switch to Windows Vista, and there are many reasons for not wanting to. They're practically left out in the cold.

    I second the opinion that nVidia probably botched the hardware in some form or other, although the hardware firewall works quite well on my nForce3 250gb based system, once you get familiar with its quirks. This actually doesn't bode well for nVidia's "inventiveness" and "forward-thinking" (think DualNet), since chances are nVidia will drop support completely rather than work out the bugs that inevitably will be there. Removing the hardware firewall is the best example of this.

    Also, and this is a bit off-topic in regard to the rest of this topic, wasn't there supposed to be ECC memory support in the new northbridge for the 680i chipset? I remember reading about the northbridge also being used in the new nForce Pro series chipsets. Another feature that has been removed in the mean time?
    Reply
  • skrewler2 - Monday, November 13, 2006 - link

    How was the Tuniq Tower 120 on the board? I've heard lots of people complaining about backplates not fitting right on this board because the back of the mobo has lots of capacitors... Did you need to do any modding or did it just work?

    Reply
  • Gary Key - Monday, November 13, 2006 - link

    I used the Scythe Infinity in my testing, Wes used the Tuniq. I did try the Tuniq and it was okay with an extra pad on the backplate that negated any damage to the capacitors. Reply
  • mlau - Monday, November 13, 2006 - link

    Did you test a recent Linux kernel on this board?
    Which components are supported (I don't care about "raid"),
    and how buggy are the HPET, (IO-)APIC and ACPI implementations?
    Reply
  • Governator - Saturday, November 11, 2006 - link

    First off, very well done article guys, but I've a question on the layouts with regards to PCI slots so far with the Asus and Evga; are we to expect similar layouts with upcoming boards from other manufacturers? I ask because I'm planning on a water cooled SLI setup upon a 680i and am planning on an X-Fi card but not sure if I'll be able to use the middle PCI slot, TIA...

    Gov
    Reply
  • Gary Key - Sunday, November 12, 2006 - link

    Most of the 680i boards have the same basic layout. On the Asus Striker board you should be able to use the X-FI with most watercooled SLI setups as an example. It will all depend on your setup but you can kiss the middle PCIe slot good-bye. ;) Reply
  • Governator - Saturday, November 18, 2006 - link

    Hi Gary, sorry I meant to reply sooner but thanks for this. I'm hoping I'll be in good shape with the fact that I'll be using the new 8800GTX water block codeveloped by BFG Tech from Danger Den which appears that it'll only take up one slot allowing for that bottom PCI slot to go to the X-Fi card, thoughts? TIA ;) Reply
  • deathwalker - Friday, November 10, 2006 - link

    I wonder if there are Matx mobo's in the future for the 600 series chipsets. Reply
  • 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
  • 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
  • yyrkoon - Thursday, November 09, 2006 - link

    From my little experience with an Asrock board that can use this program, it WILL adjust clock frequency on the fly, however I think that voltage changes need be done only by rebooting. Reguardless whether I'm remembering correctly, I'm fairly certain atleast one possible change needs to be done during, or after a reboot, could be thinking of clock multiplier maybe ? Reply
  • Pirks - Thursday, November 09, 2006 - link

    that sucks. guess I'll have to wait till nVidia makes 100% nonreboot-OC mobo, or on-the-fly-OC mobo where you just click a couple of buttons in Windows and voila - your machine turns from quiet office machine to a Crysis fireball, and vice versa - I can dream, can't I? ;) Reply
  • ssiu - Wednesday, November 08, 2006 - link

    Since NVIDIA claims the 680i has better FSB overclock than the 650i's, and the 680i results are on par with the mainstream P965's, I am afraid that the 650i's would be significantly worse than the DS3s/P5Bs. In other words, I am afraid that the 650i's are not really a new competitive option for budget/mainstream overclockers. Reply
  • yyrkoon - Wednesday, November 08, 2006 - link

    I dont think any true enthusiast is going to be buying a mid range board(chipset) to begin with. If the Intel numbering shceme is anything like the AM2 numbering scheme, the 650i will probably have less availible PCI-E lanes as well, and would be a major factor in my personal decission in buying any such hardware, and I know I'm not alone ;) Reply
  • Jedi2155 - Wednesday, November 08, 2006 - link

    I don't think your definition of enthusiast is wholly correct but rather the Manufacturer idea of enthusiasist. I personally think many enthusiasists do indeed have a limited budget, and after seeing the pricing of Asus 680i board, I think mid-range is the way to go...hoping for a cheap < $250 680i board >_>. Reply
  • yyrkoon - Wednesday, November 08, 2006 - link

    Yeah, He wasnt talking about true enthusiasts though, I realize this after re-reading his post.

    One a side note, that if my board brand of choice suddenly went away (ABIT), I would seriously consider buying a Gigabyte board, but the DS3 doesnt seem to be making a lot of people happy in the stability category. What I'm trying to say here, is that perhaps the board MAY not OC as well, but that according to what I've read (reviews, forum posts, and A LOT of newegg user reviews), it couldnt do much worse than the Gigabyte board in this area.

    The second question I'd be asking myself, is WHO THE HELL is EVGA . . . we all know they make Video cards (probably the best for customer support for nVidia products).

    I'm definately interrested in the 680i chipset, but i think my brand of choice for MANY years now would remain the same, and that I'll be sticking with ABIT :)
    Reply
  • Gary Key - Wednesday, November 08, 2006 - link

    1. The reference board is designed and engineered by NVIDIA. Foxconn manufactures the boards for the "launch" partners that include BFG and others. Asus, Abit, DFI, Gigabyte, and others will have their custom designed boards out in a few weeks.

    2. The Abit board is very interesting, here is pic of it - http://img474.imageshack.us/img474/2044/in932xmaxy...">Abit 680i - ;)
    Reply
  • yyrkoon - Thursday, November 09, 2006 - link

    Didnt even know there was one this close to release gary, lol thanks for the link. Judging by the 5 SATAII connectors, previously released ABIT boards, and what LOOKS like an eSATA connector on the back panel, I suppose this board will support eSATA, and possibly a SATA PM ? Reply
  • Stele - Friday, November 10, 2006 - link

    That Abit 680i board looks very interesting indeed... if nothing else because it looks like it sports a digital PWM power supply circuitry similar to that used by DFI in the latter's LANParty UT NF590 SLI-M2R motherboard (the Pulse PA1315NL coupled inductor array is a dead giveaway, as it is designed for use only with Volterra's VT11x5M digital PWM circuitry).

    Unfortunately more information on such circuitry is proving very difficult to find (Volterra themselves restrict their product details and datasheets to design partners only) ... it'd be great to know how such a power circuit compares in performance and capabilities over the traditional PWM-MOSFET-based ones.

    Curiously, the Abit 680i seems to have dropped the AudioMax daughter board.

    yyrkoon, I'm guessing the 5th SATA II and the eSATA port are there courtesy of an SiI3132 controller - which is likely the little square IC under the upper heatpipe, just beside the audio connector block. As such, the usual capabilities and features of the said IC would apply, I think :)
    Reply
  • yyrkoon - Wednesday, November 08, 2006 - link

    I'd just like ot point out that DualNet technology is NOT true NIC Teaming, or rather Link agrregation(802.11a/d I think).

    When I first heard about DualNet I was extremely excited, since I had been doing TONS of research on NIC bonding etc, but after doing some homework, I found that DuelNet only supports out going packets. It was my hope that you could link two of these boards via a regular GbE switch, and get instant 2GbE connections, but this is not the case(unless they've recently redone DualNet).

    Now to the question: Since SATA port Multiplier HBAs require a specific SIL chip(s) on the device they communicate with (to give full speeds of a true RAID), what are the chances that nVidia boards will work with these devices ?

    In the past, I've seen two AM2 boards that have a built in SIL chip with eSATA connectors on the board back panel (ABIT, and Asus), but onboard SIL 'chipsets' seem to be rather limited(as in only supporting PM support on two SATA connections). I'd personally REALLY like to see this technology standardized, so it doesnt matter WHAT SATA controller chipset you're using. I also think that once nVidia realizes that PM support onboard is a major plus, and once they implement it, they COULD be taken seriously by many Intel fans.

    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.
    Reply
  • 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
  • davidos - Wednesday, November 08, 2006 - link

    Great Review... When can we expect the cheaper 650 boards? Reply
  • Gary Key - Friday, November 10, 2006 - link


    quote:

    Great Review... When can we expect the cheaper 650 boards?

    December for 650i SLI and January for 650i Ultra.
    Reply
  • jackylman - Wednesday, November 08, 2006 - link

    Why no power consumption tests? I mean, we know the NFurnace is a power hog, but numbers would be nice.

    A review from another site has the NFurnace consuming about 25W more at idle than a P965. Buy one now and save on your heating oil bill!
    Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Wednesday, November 08, 2006 - link

    The upcoming 8800 review reports power consumption of the 8800 on the 680i. We figure a 680i with 8800 SLI and phyics processor should draw enough power to light San Jose :-) ALL the first DX10 video cards will likely require huge amounts of power.

    We will compare 975x, 965, and 680i chipset on power consumption and add it to the review later this evening.
    Reply
  • jackylman - Wednesday, November 08, 2006 - link

    Awesome, thank you! Reply
  • Gary Key - Sunday, November 12, 2006 - link

    Hi,

    I decided to run the power tests with a typical high-end setup in a case. We are still working on getting down to the board level properly but these numbers should give you a good indication of the results to date.

    X6800, 2GB Memory, 8800GTX, 2 Optical drives, 2 320GB Hard Drives, USB Floppy, Cooler Master Stacker 830 case with 4 120mm Fans, Tuniq 120 Cooler, SB X-FI.

    Idle - Power Savings Off

    680i SLI - 242W
    590SLI - 236W
    975X - 221W
    P965 - 218W

    Full Load -

    680i SLI - 324W
    590SLI - 331W
    975X - 313W
    P965 - 309W

    We should have some overclocking and SLI numbers by the end of the week.
    Reply
  • gramboh - Wednesday, November 08, 2006 - link

    Been waiting for this chipset/mainboards to come out for a while, might finally be time for C2D build (with G80!)

    Thanks for the review.
    Reply
  • BladeVenom - Wednesday, November 08, 2006 - link

    Nice review. Any idea as to when these should start to shop up at retailers? Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Wednesday, November 08, 2006 - link

    The EVGA boards are supposed to go on sale today. We have reports they were on the shelves at Frys last night.

    nVidia says partner boards will be available beginning today, and ODM boards should start appearing in early December.
    Reply
  • hubajube - Wednesday, November 08, 2006 - link

    They're on sale at Newegg right now. $270. Reply

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