The 680i SLI motherboards were launched with a tremendous public relations effort by NVIDIA back in November. There was a lot of hype, speculation, and fanfare surrounding NVIDIA's latest chipset for the Intel market, and it promised an incredible array of features and impressive performance for the enthusiast. At the time of launch we were promised the mid to low range 650i SLI and Ultra chipsets would be shipping shortly to flesh out NVIDIA's Intel portfolio. NVIDIA had plans to truly compete against Intel, VIA, ATI, and SIS in the majority of Intel market sectors within a very short period of time after having some limited success earlier in 2006 with the C19A chipset.

However, all of this planning seemed to unravel as the weeks progressed after the 680i launch. It seemed as if NVIDIA's resources were concentrated on fixing issues with the 680i chipset instead of forging ahead with their new product plans. Over the course of the past few months we finally saw the 650i SLI launched in a very reserved manner, followed by the 680i LT launch that offered a cost reduced alternative to the 680i chipset. While these releases offered additional choices in the mid to upper range performance sectors, we still did not know how well or even if NVIDIA would compete in the budget sector.


When discussing current Intel platform chipsets, the phrase "budget sector" is somewhat of an oxymoron. While there are a lot of choices in the $50 to $60 range for Core 2 Duo compatible boards, these are mainly based on older chipsets that do not offer anything in the way of extended overclocking, RAID, or performance oriented designs. This is not to say they are in any way bad, as one of our favorite budget boards in the lab is the VIA based ASRock 4CoreDual-VSTA, but rather these boards are targeted for an audience that is very price sensitive.

As you go up the price ladder there are some very good 945P boards from the likes of EPoX and Gigabyte, followed by the budget P965 boards from ECS, MSI, Foxconn, and Biostar. These boards usually offer solid performance and a decent set of features for prices in the $75 to $105 range. Once again, nothing in this sector is designed to offer mid-range performance capabilities at a price under $100. Well, this all changes with the eerily silent release of the NVIDIA 650i Ultra today. The EVGA 650i Ultra board we are reviewing today will initially be offered at $99 but prices should drop as supply and competition become widespread. What is different about this chipset and does it really offer an attractive alternative to the Intel chipsets in the $100 market? Let's find out in today's review of the EVGA 650i Ultra motherboard.

NVIDIA nForce 650i Ultra Chipset Features
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  • kentster2 - Wednesday, April 18, 2007 - link

    This motherboard sounds perfect for me but I can't find it anywhere. In fact I can't find any boards based on the 650i Ultra chipset available anywhere. I did find the specs on an MSI board based on this chipset but again no availability. Does anyone know when the general availability will be for these boards? Reply
  • yyrkoon - Thursday, April 12, 2007 - link

    Still does not compare to the best AM2 'budget' board out there. Add the following, and it would do good I think:

    1) Heatpipe cooled chipset
    2) Either one more PATA port, or 2 more SATA ports for a total of 8 drives
    3) Firewire ( not supported ?! )
    4) Overclocking options out the wazzu, with memeory voltages capable of 3.0v

    Are the PATA ports controlled by the 430MCP ? It seems that way, going by the features list. If this is the case, WHY leave out a PATA port ? It does not make sense. These four things I've mentioned above are not too much to ask, ABIT has already proven that with the NF-M2 nView, and places like newegg, ZZF, etc can not seem to keep these boards in stock ! What gives . . .
    Reply
  • kmmatney - Wednesday, April 11, 2007 - link

    it;s obvious that having a high priced sound card will help out with frame rates, but what about a cheaper card? Would a $27 Creative Audigy SE provide the same speed benefits by taking the load from the cpu? Reply
  • Gary Key - Wednesday, April 11, 2007 - link

    The SE will provide frame rates that are on average about 2~3% worse than the X-FI in my experiences. Reply
  • lopri - Tuesday, April 10, 2007 - link

    quote:

    The MCP is not actively or passively cooled and remained hot to the touch throughout testing; although additional cooling was not needed it is recommended. We feel like the inclusion of an additional low profile heatsink would have been in EVGA's best interest with temperatures soaring to 83C without airflow and 76C with airflow while overclocking. At stock voltages we witnessed temperatures reaching 71C without airflow while under load and hovering around 64C with airflow. Our idle temperature at stock voltage was 59C without airflow and 53C with airflow. Fortunately, the board has the mounting holes for a heatsink if the user wishes to add one.


    Gary's measure is remarkably similar to my observations on EVGA 680i board. (Interesting because the chips used on the 680i SLI are different from 650i Ultra) Without active cooling, I saw SPP temp rising to 100C(!) and MCP to 80C. This will not only cause instability (especially mated with other high-end components) but likely shorten the lifespan of the board. Even more worrisome is that the ever-increasing popularity of those L-shaped HSFs. These HSFs provide practically zero air-flow on the board's hot (i mean, HOT) spots and therefore the heat keeps building up.

    I think NV at this point just assume that their target audience are *enthusiasts* in that:

    1. Enthusiasts today just accept that a new motherboard/chipset is basically a beta product and expect fix/patches via BIOS updates and/or hardware revision.
    2. Enthusiasts tend to employ their own cooling solution anyway.

    And that's exactly what I've done up to this date. Every single NV chipset board I bought the first thing I did was replacing stock chipset/VRM cooling with aftermarket stuff.

    And I'M TIRED OF IT.

    This board may be selling for $99, but in order for you to build your main rig with a peace of mind on it, you will need an aftermarket cooling for the missing SB HSF (how dare they leave it wide open like that is beyond me) and the paltry NB heatsink for a heavier one. There goes extra $20~30 quite easily.

    To my eyes, this board cut so many corners and definitely not worth $99. $70~80 maybe. And I do think that's how much it'll sell for in less than a month.
    Reply
  • nullpointerus - Wednesday, April 11, 2007 - link

    When it's included, active cooling's crap anyway. The little NB/SB fans last a few months at most before giving out completely. Motherboard makers should get in touch with Zalman or somebody like them and get some decent quality HSF's on these boards. Reply
  • jay401 - Wednesday, April 11, 2007 - link

    Totally agree! It would be stupid to buy a motherboard that requires you buy other items just to ensure stable operation and longevity. Reply
  • Scarceas - Tuesday, April 10, 2007 - link

    Really, who needs 2.2V? If you have RAM that needs that much voltage, chances are you paid more money for it, and the board you are looking to use it with will probably not be a budget board. Reply
  • WT - Tuesday, April 10, 2007 - link

    I have an eVGA N41 board, so I want to like this thing, but looking at this 650 board .. blechhh .. talk about plain Jane !! It looks like a straight reference board or an Intel board ! Regardless of looks, performance is what we want, so I would refer anyone looking at this board to read Anand's earlier article on the MSI P6N Platinum and see if that isn't a better fit for your needs. The extra $40-50 is well justified (in my case at least) with the better cooling setup on the MSI board as well as Firewire (just bought a miniDV camcorder) so give that a read as well.
    If the MSI Plat is priced too high, then check out the FI board priced at $108 at popular vendors websites.
    Reply
  • Pirks - Tuesday, April 10, 2007 - link

    Gary, E6300 has TWO megabytes of cache, not FOUR Reply

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