NVIDIA brought editors together at their corporate headquarters in late October to discuss the launch of nForce 780i, 8800GT, 8800M, 3-Way SLI, and ESA. It certainly appeared at that time that all those new technologies would launch in early November. Unfortunately, there were early problems with 780i and the Intel Penryn processor, and NVIDIA delayed 780i until the Penryn compatibility issues could be resolved.

Since 780i is 680i with an added chip to support PCI 2.0 and two more x16 PCIe ports, it looked for a while as if NVIDIA might actually skip the 780i launch and wait until the DDR3 generation for a new chipset launch. Refinements for Penryn compatibility were completed and NVIDIA worked with Intel for Penryn family (Yorkfield quad-core and Wolfdale dual-core) compatibility certification.

Now, almost two months later, today is the official launch day of the 780i and 750i chipset. This is not just a paper launch, since 780i motherboards are available, or will be very soon, from NVIDIA launch partners XFX and EVGA. NVIDIA calls this the launch of the NVIDIA nForce 700i Series.

From a launch perspective, it is important to understand that 780i is not a new chipset. NVIDIA has said in their press releases, "The NVIDIA nForce 780i SLI MCP is built on TSMC's 90nm process technology, and contains the same micro-architecture as the NVIDIA nForce 680i SLI MCP. However, 780i SLI was designed with a high performance interface to be paired with nForce 200 to provide next-generation PCI Express 2.0 bus capabilities."



NVIDIA added 1333MHz bus support to the 680i chipset in June, as you saw in our review NVIDIA 680i SLI: Official 1333MHz FSB CPU Support Arrives. Other features are refinements to the 680i chipset that have been added as the 680i evolved in the marketplace. The only truly new specifications are features related to the added NVIDIA nForce 200. Compared to the 680i/650i chipset, the nForce 200 adds 32 lanes that are PCI Express 2.0 compatible.

With the addition of the nForce 200, this NVIDIA chipset can now provide the new feature of 3-way SLI. We will take a closer look at Triple SLI in another review today. If you are interested in the additional performance, a third NVIDIA graphics card can add to gaming performance in certain situations, and you will be interested in those test results.

The other new feature announced with the 700i series is ESA, which allows the NVIDIA chipset and software to control many system components. This technology is discussed in NVIDIA Introduces ESA - Enthusiast System Architecture. Testing has just begun on a system with a full complement of ESA devices. A review will be posted as soon as testing is complete on how ESA actually works in a system, and the potential benefit of ESA as a system control center for the computer enthusiast. In good news for 680i owners, NVIDIA now tells us that ESA will be backwards compatible with 680i after all. We will provide updated information on how that actually works in the upcoming ESA system review.

Since the 780i is the same chipset as 680i with the added nForce 200 for PCIe 2.0 and Triple SLI, we do not really expect any performance advantage for the 780i compared to the 680i under the same test conditions. We did a couple of quick general performance benchmarks just as a sanity check. The real performance advantage should be in with the new 3-Way SLI feature. We will cover this in our Triple SLI review, which examines the potential added gaming performance available with 3-way SLI. We will discuss the architecture and motherboards available at launch in this article.

nForce 780i Platform
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  • Dogbyte13 - Monday, January 07, 2008 - link

    how come no 16x16 on the 750i? will there be a performance hit with 16x8? Reply
  • edborden - Sunday, December 30, 2007 - link

    "The chipsets themselves, both 780i and 680i, are said to be perfectly capable of supporting Penryn if used on a modified board. It now appears a complete fix cannot be made with just a BIOS update for 680i; it is possible a BIOS update will allow dual-core Wolfdale to work as it should, but not quad-core Yorkfield. We will leave the official word for this with NVIDIA and their board partners."

    I just contacted my engineer at nVidia. He says:
    "We will be releasing a BIOS to support the Penryn Wolfdale's in the
    coming month, but there is no plan to support the Yorkfield quad-cores
    on NF680i."

    - Ed Borden, edborden.blogspot.com
    Reply
  • edborden - Sunday, December 30, 2007 - link

    nVidia had a bunch of new technologies to debut, and they wanted to do it all at the same time, with a new platform launch. Accomplishing the tech refresh on what is essentially the same chipset technology isn't necessarily a fact that has to make it non-event.

    I'm happy it's here - we had some significant issues with the 680i chipset and I'm hoping a re-work, some new features, and the psychological effect of a new model will help with.

    Also, the XFX and eVGA partner boards (both identical, manufactured by nVidia) look ALOT better than their 680i predecessors. Better cooling, especially.

    I blogged recently about us implementing these chipsets in our systems at http://edborden.blogspot.com/2007/12/nvidia-triple...">http://edborden.blogspot.com/2007/12/nvidia-triple...
    Reply
  • kevinkreiser - Tuesday, December 18, 2007 - link

    anyone know if the 780i might remedy the "display stopped responding" bug people like me are having? if so, it would be worth the upgrade. Reply
  • Fallen Kell - Wednesday, December 19, 2007 - link

    I stopped having that problem when I changed what drivers I was using. However, since either the CPU or the motherboard is dead (don't know which because the Gigabyte board does not have a BIOS CPU test (i.e. no beep code for bad CPU), I can't tell for sure what is dead, and since I don't have another 775 CPU or 775 socket motherboard....)

    Anyway, I started getting the problem in August/September when I updated my drivers, but when I reverted back to previous drivers, the issue went away.
    Reply
  • Fallen Kell - Tuesday, December 18, 2007 - link

    Without support for 1600 FSB anyone who buys this is just plain stupid. Nvidia has basically released a "fixed" 680i motherboard, and in reality people like myself who purchased the original 680i and did so because they were told, "Quad CPU, 1333 FSB, Penryn Support" should all be receiving these "fixed" boards for free... Without 1600 FSB support, you will not be able to use CPU's that arrive in 3 WEEKS! If it was 3 months, maybe a different story, but 3 WEEKS!!!!! Again, anyone who buys this is an idiot and a fool. Reply
  • aka1nas - Wednesday, December 19, 2007 - link

    You'll only be unable to run a single Extreme Edition Quad-core part without OC'ing the FSB. Regular Penryns will not be released at 1600FSB. Reply
  • ShantanuMalpani - Tuesday, December 18, 2007 - link

    While you have conducted a test with a single 8800 GTX, im surprised that you didnt conduct a test with two of them in SLI. with both the PCIE interconnects coming from a single bridge chip, and a rumour that they allow direct communication between them using the bridge chip(like first seen on RD580), there could be an improvement in SLI performance.
    Alternatively the added latency of going from the northbridge to the bridge chip might cause a decrease in performance.

    Also i assume that the NF200 bridge chip will be the one used in Skulltrail?
    Reply
  • chizow - Monday, December 17, 2007 - link

    Will be somewhat interested to see the OC'ing and Triple SLI results tomorrow but overall this seems a disappointing release.

    Honestly, it looks as if Penryn/700i is actually going to be worst for the enthusiast unless NV managed to also work out their FSB problems. If these boards can't hit higher FSB speeds than the 600-series, the higher stock FSB on Penryn (read: lower multipliers, locked upwards) will only make it harder to OC.

    Also was interesting about the layout and routing of the PCI-E lanes. I must have missed the PCI-E course for dummies but it seems like this board just totally shatters the previous NB/SB model as one of the SLI cards is being routed through the SB (MCP) and 2 through an "auxiliary" (n200) chip? Will be interesting to see how this impacts performance as I was under the impression that the lanes/traces from memory controller to GPU/RAM/CPU were the main bottlenecks in current PCs and this configuration just seems to add more of them.
    Reply
  • Frumious1 - Monday, December 17, 2007 - link

    I'm not sure if the article is "meh" or it it's the boards/chipsets. I'd have liked overclocking and additional performance results, and 3Dmark as a show of performance doesn't mean much outside of the ORB weenies. How about some actual games, and how about testing SLI with a couple of 8800GT cards to see if there are any tangible benefits to PCIe 2.0? I don't really expect much, but all we got was a "this is just 680i with a new chip on the board so we're not really doing much additional testing."

    I don't give a rip about Tri-SLI, but Penryn support and some actual testing of whether the new PCIe specification makes a difference would have been appreciated. Maybe we can get a follow-up article that's more of a real review instead of a quick chipset overview with some motherboard pictures thrown in at the end?
    Reply

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