As SLI is only available on NVIDIA chipsets, users who are inclined to adopt multi-GPU systems are always intrigued to find out just what they can expect from NVIDIA's chipset when it's teamed up with a couple of their midrange or top-end graphics cards. (There's also Intel's Skulltrail platform and mobile offerings, of course, which add nForce 100 bridge chips to get around the NVIDIA chipset requirement.) Over the next week, we're going to pit EVGA's reference design 780i motherboard against the custom design ASUS ROG board known as the Striker II Formula to see which is the better overall solution, or do they each perform well in certain usage scenarios? That's what we'll find out.

Things are certainly becoming interesting within the multi-GPU market, even with SLI licensing restrictions in place. There is something of a challenge to multi-GPU capable motherboard solutions, as both ATI and NVIDIA have dual-GPU graphics cards available now. This will provide users with flexibility of choice, allowing the use of virtually any current PCI-E motherboard/chipset whilst still enjoying a single card variant of SLI or CrossFire.

Much of the success of the dual-GPU cards rests upon comparative pricing and driver integration, just as it does with dual-card or even triple-card SLI. Our testing over the past few months has shown that there is definitely room for improvement when using any form of dual- or multi-GPU rendering in today's games. Having said that, even if we take driver level optimizations and multi-GPU frame rate gains into consideration, the demand for multi-GPU solutions is still apparent, further bolstered by games like Crysis, thus creating an avid interest in SLI capable platforms.


If NVIDIA has managed to get the 780i chipset "right", it may well offer users a viable alternative to Intel's own DDR2 chipset solutions. That's quite a mammoth task, especially since NVIDIA continues to use a chipset bus architecture that allows for either synchronous or asynchronous overclocking of the processor and memory.

Naturally, users of the older NVIDIA 680i based motherboards have aired concerns of issues pertaining to Front Side Bus and Memory Bus related "holes". They would also like to know just how stable the new NVIDIA boards are when overclocked using quad-core processors. NVIDIA has been working to improve these aspects on their 780i product, and we aim to put this to the test today.

Overall system performance is often marred by the additional chipset latency offset required to run the memory bus and FSB asynchronously. As with Intel chipsets, there are rules that determine just how tRD, memory dividers, and memory CAS (Column Address Strobe) must align to assure that the data transfer between the memory bus and FSB can take place. Users who wish to delve deeper into the technicalities and mathematics of tRD and CAS are encouraged to read this article. Although we are dealing with a different topology here, the concept of data transfer and timing is essentially the same, though additional delays and rules apply when both buses are out of sync with each other.

As there are so many similarities between the 680i and 780i, we'd expect and hope that some of the experience gained over the past 18 months by both NVIDIA and ASUS using the 680i chipset will carry through to the 780i motherboards. Moreover, what does opting for the custom solution from ASUS get you for the extra expenditure over the reference design? Let's take a first look at the ASUS Striker II Formula.

Board Layout and Features
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  • joex444 - Wednesday, March 19, 2008 - link

    "1500QFSB (350MHz)" 2nd to last page, last paragraph.

    Do you mean 1400QFSB or (375MHz)?
    Reply
  • Rajinder Gill - Wednesday, March 19, 2008 - link

    Sorry, 1400 is what it should read - corrected now..

    Thanks
    Raja
    Reply
  • Beenthere - Wednesday, March 19, 2008 - link

    Asus continues to produce half-baked CRAP for motherboards. They have been doing this for the past five years and people still buy their defective crap. When are consumers going to learn that a company will sell crap until people stop buying it and demand properly functioning products? People who are foolish enough to buy these defective products deserve exactly what they get. Reply
  • Margalus - Thursday, March 20, 2008 - link

    sounds like someoone is bitter because they didn't buy an Asus board and thinks nobody else should have a decent motherboard because of that. Asus makes very good, stable motherboards.. Better than most. I don't know a single person that has had a problem with Asus. I am currently using this Striker Formula because I wanted sli and an e8400. The thing is typical Asus. Quality from the ground up, and not a single problem with it, as usual. Reply
  • takumsawsherman - Wednesday, March 19, 2008 - link

    There's no point to this board anyway. $340 and you still don't get Firewire800? Even if it does work properly and doesn't fail prematurely, it's overpriced for any benefit you could possibly derive from using such a board. Reply
  • skinflickBOB - Thursday, March 20, 2008 - link

    If there were REAL demand for Firewire 800 on a board like this, it would probably be here. If it's such a big concern, have you thought about writing the big guns direct? I doubt anyone other than an old fart like me is really listening. Looking back at the review section (god it's been a long time since I last did), all I see is this comment about Firewire 800. Such a burning desire for an 'extra' should surely be chased down to where it matters.. But then, you would never buy a board for $300, so what's the issue?. I don't go down to the nearest Lamborghini garage and complain about the Murciélago using a 6.5 litre engine or being a low ride or whatever, cos I ain't buying the SOB. If it's such a big deal, buy yourself one of those budget 650i boards and spend the rest on a top notch Firewire card. there you go - job done.. Is that hard or something to think of?

    booyakasha..


    Reply
  • Bazoo - Wednesday, March 19, 2008 - link

    As a previous owner (and unhappy one) of striker extreme, I would say that's a total waste of money. I heard lot's of reports of 650 and 750 based motherboards being much better overclockers and still capable of sli for much less money. It seems the little brothers are not that buggy like the 680/780 and would be interesting if anandtech dwelve in to that. In any event, only time would restore (or not...) my confidence in nvidia chipsets, even the 790 one (could be a joy in the sky) but... I would take a wait and see attitude. Then again, with intel changing socket in 9 months, I rather will sticky with my trust and fas p35 mb. Reply
  • Lord 666 - Wednesday, March 19, 2008 - link

    While I agree with you on the defective piece as the only MB that has ever died on me is an ASUS, you are a little off base with your pointless rant.

    Only with the 790's is the price getting a little out of hand, but MB's aren't that expensive so you can just buy another one.
    Reply

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