Although the past 3-4 months have seen plenty of verbal abuse thrown towards NVIDIA developed chipsets, EVGA has thrown caution to the wind and released an updated 790i based motherboard known as the 790i FTW. To clarify, the FTW (For the Win) naming suffix merely denotes a more extreme version of the earlier released NVIDIA reference 790i Ultra SLI motherboard. The main "improvements" are centered around the Volterra VT115 PWM controller, solid capacitors throughout, 3x PCI-E 2.0 slots, onboard power/reset and CMOS clear buttons, and a slew of increased voltage ranges to appease the demands of the extreme user community.

In order to stir the pot and encourage adoption, Peter Tan (Aka Shamino), who formerly worked at Foxconn, has been enlisted by EVGA to make their latest offering palatable for the niche extreme overclocking market. As a first task, this is no small undertaking for anyone regardless of prior credentials. With NVIDIA succumbing to pressure from Intel (by providing SLI licensing rights to the upcoming X58 chipset), it seems there's little reason for anyone to be looking at a short-term stopgap SLI mainboard - unless we factor in the cost of a new processor that the X58 chipset will require if you're moving up from an older platform.

It appears that Nehalem/Core i7 won't universally benefit gaming performance, but even with that small nugget of hope for the 790i FTW, we have to acknowledge that there are already plenty of SLI capable motherboards in the marketplace. Boards based on the 650i, 680i, 750i, and 780i are all perfectly capable of providing decent performance for SLI aficionados, at a lower cost than the 790i FTW. Nevertheless, the 790i FTW is available for those who must have the top NVIDIA chipset, and EVGA's solid reputation as a consumer friendly organization may inspire enough confidence for such users to take the plunge.


As the NVIDIA 790i reference boards have been in the marketplace for over six months now, our initial expectations for general peripheral compatibility on the 790i FTW are quite high. We'd expect that many of the faults highlighted by prolonged use of the reference design boards will now be ironed out, so these fixes can be transplanted directly into the backbone of the 790i FTW BIOS.

On the flipside, we already know there's a few things we need to look out for based our past experiences with the 790i SPP/MCP Northbridge/Southbridge combination. Specifically, there's the notorious potential for SATA OS drive corruption when the790i chipset is pushed to its limits. Of course, this can happen on any board and chipset if you get a little over zealous, but it seems the NVIDIA 6 and 7 series chipsets have been more susceptible to this issue than any other competing chipset. There's not really anything positive we can say about this situation other than the fact that boards based on these chipsets are usually best run in a conservative rather than aggressive manner. However, the FTW does beg to be pushed a little, so we're going to put our convictions aside while we do just that.

This won't be a hugely in depth review, as a very comprehensive 790i chipset overclocking guide has already been provided within our ASUS Striker II Extreme review. We'll briefly compare performance against some of the other enthusiast boards we've reviewed this year, and then perhaps throw caution to the wind and try our hands at a little sub-zero benchmarking. With all that said, let's move on to board specifications and features.

Board Layout and Features
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  • wongstein - Saturday, November 08, 2008 - link

    I don't know why AnandTech had so many problems OC'ing with this mobo. I put a Q9400 to 3.4 GHz at 4*425 with Patriot Extreme 1600MHz RAM running at 1700MHz, and it's rock solid. There's no FSB hole that I could find in all my experimentation. That's on air cooling (w/ cheap Coolermaster Hyper TX2) never going above 55 degrees in a normal room, even with all for CPU cores maxed at 100% with Prime95. I know that's not very extreme, but it runs rock solid and faster than a HP or Dell XEON Workstation costing two or three times as much. I could have pushed the RAM even further, and I would have if the computer was mine, but it's for a friend, and the performance benefit would not have been worth it.

    The extra money spent on this motherboard is well worth it. It's the foundation of your system. There's plenty of SATA and E-SATA ports, and very good, quality RAID onboard. All the features, build quality and even the accessories are all top notch. There's plenty of speed-controlled fan headers, unlike cheaper mobos where most of the fan headers are power-only, so you can make your machine as quiet as need be. That's worth the investment to me. All the slots and plugs are high quality - they feel solid, and the PCI slots have positive locks. The BIOS loads faster than my cheap MSI P35 NEO2, and the BIOS is much easier to use, and everything is available for configuration. Re-configuring after OC failures is also much quicker with this mobo, just 'cause you're back in the BIOS and out again with less waiting.

    Everything is just nicer with a top-notch board like this (or those from other brands), and it's a pleasure to use (and own).

    Cheers
    Reply
  • ger32 - Friday, August 10, 2012 - link

    Wongstein,

    I own the same 790i SLI FTW motherboard you own. and I have one question for you: Is it a 64 bit motherboard? In other words, can I install Windows 7 64-bit OS with this motherboard ? I have an Intel Core 2 Quad Q9550s processor and the packaging does indicate 64-bit architecture. Your reply would be most appreciated. Thank you.

    /Jerry
    Reply
  • Casper42 - Wednesday, November 05, 2008 - link

    nV RAID sucks butt, any changes there?

    I have a friend with a 680i and we put 5 x 640GB drives in his machine.
    Planned on creating a single large R5 Raid Group which would be approx 2.5TB. Then I wanted to carve this into 2 volumes. a 500GB boot/apps/games and a just barely less than 2TB storage volume.

    We chose 5 drives because I found an article that talked about how R5 performance on nVRaid sucks so badly UNLESS you use a 3 or 5 drive array and setup the RAID Stripe size the right way.

    Anyway, the nVRaid did not have a way to cut the single 2.5TB drive into 2 logicals to be presented to the OS.
    And since almost all PC mobos still use BIOS, you cannot see more than 2TB on a single volume if it will be part of the boot drive in the machine. So Windows XP and Vista both show only a 500GB drive visible (After 2TB it looped over and only showed what was >2TB)

    Had this been a Intel chipset, we would have had access to Matrix RAID and could have created a Striped OR R5 600/500 GB drive and then created a second Raid Group with a 2TB R5 volume and at the OS level they would have appeared to have been different drives. This would have allowed us to install on the 500 or 600 GB drive and then even if the other drive was > 2TB, I would have at least had the option in Windows to create the volume as a GPT Partition using Vista and it would still work.

    Stuff likes this make it clear that nVidia only seems to care about gamers and not Enthusiasts who also happen to game.

    I will be buying an X58 board myself because it will be the first board in a long time (excluding Skulltrail) that will have all the great Intel Chipset features AND support SLI.
    Reply
  • daniyarm - Wednesday, November 05, 2008 - link

    Doesn't matter how good the motherboard is, I still can't believe some people would pay over $300 for MB. Price/performance goes exponential after $150 for MB and $250 CPU. Better to get cheaper MB and CPU and get another GPU. Reply
  • kmmatney - Thursday, November 06, 2008 - link

    completely, totally, utterly agree. Heck, you can get a nice overlock with a $100 MB, and then get a MUCH better GPU. Reply
  • Bozo Galora - Wednesday, November 05, 2008 - link

    Oh, its the PCP&P power supply!!!!
    No wonder I could find nothing - heh
    Reply
  • cesthree - Wednesday, November 05, 2008 - link

    How is it that EVGA STILL finds it acceptable to release BETA BIOS releases on their products?

    This chipset is nearly a YEAR old!! It should be WTF, as in What The Flick is EVGA thinking?

    No product is free from issues. With the same CPU and RAM on a DFI UT LP X48-T3RS, I was finally able to ENJOY my equipment. One week to OC, been rock solid ever since. You'll notice DFI never actually marketed the 790i chipset, hmm I wonder why?

    No FSB holes, no data corruption at STOCK SPEEDS, no unexplainable SLI anomalies like graphic corruption or freeze-ups in games or while watching videos.

    EVGA is brave. They'll probably have to install new servers and hire another 100 techs to answer the 1000 pages of threads with the title "FREEZEING UP AT STOCK SPEEDS, HELPXOR M3!!!" or "WILL WE EVER GET AN ANSWER FROM YOU EVGA?"

    It'll be 6 months and EVGA will release a BIOS that should "smooth" everything out. Too bad the enthusiast world will already have forgotten about those shoddy Nvidia NB chipsets.

    I get sick even thinking about an X58 that get's infected by that Dinosaur of a chip NF200. Nvidia, stop being so proprietary and focus on just one thing, make your GPU's work, that's it, nothing else.
    Reply
  • sabuus - Thursday, November 06, 2008 - link

    Dont worry, x58 will not need the NF200 chip, MB makes will just have to pay a licencing fee to enable SLI on thier boards :) Reply
  • WT - Wednesday, November 05, 2008 - link

    LoL .. sounds like you've owned a few of those eVGA boards ?? Likewise. I'm on my second now, but my 750i FTW is bulletproof (knock on virtual wood). Reply
  • cesthree - Wednesday, November 05, 2008 - link

    Upgrade build this year was in FEB 2008. Last build was an A64 system back in 2005.

    Bought EVGA 780i, 790i Ultra was released so I "stepped-up" to it and picked up some DDR3.

    Both boards were somewhat stable with Q6600 and 2x2GB OCZ REAPERS up to 3.2 to 3.4 GHZ, but I could never use the FSB that I wanted due to the HUGE FREAKIN HOLES both of those NB's have.

    Tried an E8400 on the 790i Ultra, meh.

    SLI'd at the same time with an EVGA 8800GTS 320MB. Again, neither board like SLI. Games were very buggy, although excellent WHEN they worked. LOTS of freezes and crashes.

    Stepped up from that 8800GTS to a 9800GTX. Single GPU with my X48-T3RS has been a dream come true for the last 5 months or so. That's all I wanted to upgrade to. Now I can hit 3.6 Ghz on air with the same Q6600, and 4.0Ghz on air with the E8400.

    DFI's BIOS really shines, and I don't have to crank the FSB above 1700 Mhz to OC either. I can if I want to, but I'd rather drop it down a bit for my day to day computing needs. I don't benchmark for a living with my rig, but it's nice to use CMOS reloaded if I feel like tweaking a bit.

    4 months of trouble on what was supposed to be my "New Build" with relatively new "Technology"

    I know EVGA has "excellent" tech support, but Nvidia needs to at least apologize for their equipment being so hit or miss.

    I couldn't see spending the same amount that I did on the board in RMA shipping costs, so I ditched the Nvidia NB chipset all together.

    Great policy by EVGA, but in my opinion, they couldn't GIVE me one of there boards, unless I could immediately eBay for the cold hard cash!
    Reply

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