NVIDIA introduced the 680i chipset back in early November with eager anticipation from users looking to try something different within the Intel chipset world. There was a lot of hype, fanfare, and a great deal of media coverage that surrounded the launch of the NVIDIA 600i family of chipsets. We reviewed the 680i chipset in-depth at launch and came away very impressed with its capabilities for the upper-end enthusiast. Since the launch, most of the focus surrounding the 680i chipset changed from its impressive performance and flexibility to issues that seemed to plague the reference board designs from the launch partners such as EVGA and BFG. These issues revolved around audio issues when using SLI and data corruption or performance loss when utilizing SATA drives on the reference boards. The audio issues were solved with a quick BIOS update although we found in our testing that loading the Microsoft DX9 October update before the audio drivers also solved the issue. The data corruption on drives was an entirely different issue that seemed to be centered on users with RAID arrays but also spread to single drive users under varying circumstances.

A revised BIOS was introduced this past week that has apparently cured the majority of data corruption issues with the reference boards - an issue we did not witness in our testing of the ASUS 680i motherboards or with our own EVGA motherboards. While NVIDIA attributes the problems to signal timings on the motherboard, we are still investigating NVIDIA's claims about why the issue occurs on one board and not the other. NVIDIA has commented that statistical variations in the electrical paths between each board can vary and result in one board being affected and another one not. We know from the board manufacturers that this chipset is very sensitive to electrical noise and is one of the main reasons why a specific set of voltages is required to reach the upper overclock limits of the board. This specific set of voltage settings seem to differ from board to board and our initial opinion about this issue is based upon us having a "tolerant" MCP/SPP combination on our review boards.

We are about finished with our testing of several 680i boards and will have a full review up in the near future but at this time we are glad NVIDIA has come up with a fix. At the same time, these types of problems are not something people want to see in a top-end enthusiast chipset, and a bit more testing and validation in the future before launch might be a better solution than BIOS patches after the fact.

Since our first look at the 680i chipset we along with our readers have wondered when the lower priced 650i family of chipsets would arrive and more importantly how they would perform. ASUS is first to market with the NVIDIA 650i SLI chipset and we will see other manufacturers utilizing this chipset in January. The base 650i Ultra boards should be arriving in late January or early February. The 650i SLI was designed to offer dual x8 SLI operation, provide competitive performance to the Intel P965, and do this for a price in the $125~$175 range. The $64,000 question is if NVIDIA succeeded in designing a competitive chipset when compared to the Intel P965. We will provide some initial performance results today that should help in determining if ASUS' implementation of this chipset offers some serious competition or if we need to wait on additional motherboards before coming to a conclusion.


NVIDIA has designed the 650i SLI as their true mainstream performance chipset, given the 680i is targeted to the upper end performance segment with pricing starting around $230 compared to $130 for the 650i. Details about the differences between the two chipsets can be found here. The major highlights are the 650i only supports dual x8 SLI operation, single Gigabit Ethernet, four SATA 3Gb/s ports, and eight USB 2.0 ports instead of the dual x16 SLI, physics card slot, dual Gigabit Ethernet with teaming, six SATA 3Gb/s ports, and ten USB 2.0 ports on the 680i. Although NVIDIA has not stated specific support for the upcoming 1333FSB processors in the 650i, ASUS is saying the board will be capable of supporting them with an updated BIOS release. We also noticed that ASUS included EPP memory capability along with LinkBoost technology, both items are not officially supported by NVIDIA in their product documentation although each feature did work as advertised.

This leads us into today's performance preview of the ASUS P5N-E SLI. In our article today we will briefly go over the board layout and features, provide a few important performance results, and discuss our issues with the board. We will provide a further review of this product once we receive additional 650i based boards in January. With that said, let's take a look at where this board stands now.

ASUS P5N-E SLI Basic Features
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  • Thats Me - Tuesday, March 06, 2007 - link

    I currently have an Intel D945Gnt motherboard that has proven to be a looser in various ways. Using an Intel Dual-Core 3.2 Ghz processor, 2x512 Mb dual channel RAM. Am considering change to the Asus P5N-E motherboard so need advice--will my existing CPU work Ok in the Asus?
    HELP!
    Reply
  • jdrom17 - Tuesday, January 23, 2007 - link

    Just wondering if you are going to update the review, as ASUS released a new BIOS version yesterday (Jan 22) which says it fixes memory compatibility.

    It may solve the issues you ran into, and I'd like to know if it does.
    Reply
  • MikeeeE18 - Tuesday, January 09, 2007 - link

    I read some of the reviews over here and it was a big help in oc my E6600 on the p5n-e. Currently im runin it at 3.21ghz, but my mem timings are wack. Im kinda new to this so any help would be appreciated. I have the system set to 1425 fsb (qdr) x 9 (multiplier) using pc5300 mem 2gb pqi and evga 7950gt ko. I tried setting the fsb to 1608 like it says in one of the reviews but it overloaded the system. Hoping to get some results out of this so i can make this thing a bit faster. Thanks. Reply
  • Operandi - Tuesday, January 02, 2007 - link

    Nice review, bonus points for the fan control information. Reply
  • Lord Evermore - Monday, December 25, 2006 - link

    quote:

    a bit more testing and validation in the future before launch might be a better solution than BIOS patches after the fact


    Testing? But that would delay getting the product out to market before the competition, and possibly stuff up their overly enthusiastic deadlines and announcements. Not to mention costing money that they could save to let the customers beta test it. The people buying these things are tweakers anyway.

    Hey, the software industry gets away with releasing shoddy, half-finished products all the time, and in fact gets the same people to keep buying them. Not to mention releasing essentially the same product with a slightly different name (nF5/nF6).
    Reply
  • PoorBoy - Saturday, December 23, 2006 - link

    I would like to know where you are setting this FSB to 402X9 (Exactly what are you setting to 402 ?)or other FSB# Settings. I just received 2 of theses Boards and Compared to a Gigabyte DQ6 or ASUS P5W DH Board which I have also I'm at a complete loss with this Board. So far no where in the BIOS do I see where I can make this change, I've been in all the Sections & Sub Sections of the BIOS but have yet to find where to change the FSB ... ??? Reply
  • Gary Key - Monday, December 25, 2006 - link

    Go into the BIOS -

    Enter the Advanced Section -

    Change AI Tuning to Manual -

    Go to FSB & Memory Config -

    Changed Linked mode to Unlinked, feel free to change the FSB (QDR) rates. In this BIOS, 402FSB will be set as a 1608 (QDR) in this field.

    I beleive section 2.24 of the manual has further details if my memory serves me. I just arrived at the airport and will be offline for a week in a few moments. ;-)
    Reply
  • PoorBoy - Monday, December 25, 2006 - link

    Thanks for the Tip Gary, that's what I figured I had to do. The only problem is the FSB (QDR) only allows me to set the FSB between 533 & 3000. That's not going to work for me, even @ 533 with a 9 Multiplier that's way to high a CPU Clocks speed for the system to run.

    I tried backing off the Multiplier to 6 and going with 533 which should be about 3.2Ghz & about where I want to run the PC. The PC booted up but was only showing me a 1.59Ghz for the CPU ... ??? I'm starting to dislike this MB immensely, sometimes more is not better IMO...All the different Options, Linked, Unlinked, AUTO, Manual, I guess is something for the Die Hard OClockers but for somebody like me who just wants to go in the BIOS & set the FSB & Voltage without all the Head Scratching on what the different Options are this isn't a good board for them.

    I would return the boards but the policy where I got them is for replacement only for defective boards so I may have to just eat them & get something else that I'm familiar with. I do have 4 E6600's running on different boards @ 3.5-3.6Ghz with no problems & a X6800EE running @ 3.8Ghz also with no problems. Live and learn I guess ... Thanks again ... Steve
    Reply
  • Marlowe - Saturday, December 23, 2006 - link

    It would be very interesting if you could test the 8800GTX SLI setup in high resolution in several games that are known for acctually benefiting from SLI! So we can see how the performance difference is between the 2x16x on the 680i and the 2x8x on the 650i :-) Maby having 2x16x pci-e is more "placebo" than really important for perfomance? ;-)

    I also think it's interesting that there are no s775 motherboard chipset with 2x16x pci-e lanes. Both the 975X and RD600 offers "just" 2x8x pci-e if I am correct. Only the RD580 chipset for s939 and AM2 have the 2x16x pci-e feature. I wonder how the upcoming R600 cards will perform on these different platforms, how they also in Crossfire perform on the two different "speed grades" of motherboards :-) I wonder if ATI/AMD will come with a s775 chipset with true 2x16x pci-e for the release of R600 :-)
    Reply
  • semo - Sunday, December 24, 2006 - link

    quote:

    So we can see how the performance difference is between the 2x16x on the 680i and the 2x8x on the 650i
    yeah me too. i remember there were discussions about the pci-e transition because apparently the agp interface was quite sufficient for the traffic gf cards generated back then. i think it's also because the agp interface was not so reliable when approaching its limits but i'm really not too sure about that.

    anyway, it's interesting to know whether today's gf cards make benefit of the higher digital bandwidth
    Reply

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