NVIDIA introduced the 790i product line just a few short weeks ago and ASUS is one of the first on the scene with their product offering. ASUS is taking a distinct twist on things, this time with their brand new 790i Ultra board, the ASUS Striker II Extreme. Truth be told, we had this board in our possession before the 790i launch, but decided to give it the full guide treatment during testing. Interestingly enough, we were just getting comfortable with the idea of crowning Intel's X48 the winner for the next generation of desktop chipsets when NVIDIA managed to reappear out of nowhere with their 790i (Ultra) MCP in tow.

Our first impressions, stemming from our time with an EVGA NVIDIA nForce 790i Ultra SLI motherboard, left us feeling as if Intel had some serious competition on their hands. We think it safe to say that for the first time in a long time NVIDIA is back in the enthusiast game, and in one fell swoop the 790i Ultra has been able to gobble up nearly every performance lead the X48 held and then some. This gives us hope for competition at the high-end for motherboards based on something other than the Intel X38 and X48.

One could argue up until the 790i release that the ability to run SLI - the technology that allows multi-GPU 3D graphics acceleration using two or more NVIDIA video cards installed in a single system - was the one and only reason for purchasing an NVIDIA-based motherboard. Earlier offerings based on NVIDIA chipsets, like the 680i and the 780i that followed, were expensive, ran hotter, consumed more power, and were generally considered second-rate choices when it came to overclocking Intel CPUs, especially the quad-cores. The boards that did make it to retail certainly experienced their fair share of problems - users either loved them or hated them, there was no middle ground. Fierce brand loyalties often had more to do with purchasing decisions than anything else did.

The ASUS Striker II Extreme is certainly one of the more attractive boards we have seen in awhile, but how does it perform? You'll find out soon enough.

From what we have seen, 790i has the ability to change all of this in the high-end market. The decision to design around DDR3 technology breathes new life into NVIDIA's once-aging product line, and the move to incorporate a native, on-die PCI Express 2.0 bus controller within the 790i SPP has added an attraction that 780i simply could not provide. CPU overclocking is also much improved with 790i claiming full compatibility right out of the box with Intel's newest 45nm processors, including official FSB 1600 support for desktop processors like the Core 2 Extreme QX9770. Regarding just how overclockable the chipset proved to be - we will let our results speak for themselves.

It's getting expensive…
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  • takumsawsherman - Saturday, April 12, 2008 - link

    But for $400, you only get Firewire 400. Is that like a key, or something? If we pay $800 for a board, will they finally feel as though they can afford to add Firewire800, as Gigabyte did on their $200 boards like 3 or 4 years ago?

    When they talk about adding firewire itself to a board, does it never occur to them that a faster variation has existed for 5 or 6 years now? How insulting.
  • Grandpa - Saturday, April 12, 2008 - link

    It doesn't matter what the price, performance, make, or model. If the board is unstable I don't want it! I had an Abit board once with a VIA chipset. It corrupted data when large files were transferred between drives. Several BIOS updates later, with the performance down to a crawl, it still corrupted data. Because of that ugly bad memory, stability is number one important for me. So this review is very relevant to others like myself.
  • Super Nade - Friday, April 11, 2008 - link

    As far as I know, the capacitors you mention are made by Fujitsu's Media division (FP-Cap series), not Fairchild semiconductor. Fujitsu did try to gobble up Fairchild in the 80's, but the US government killed the deal. Apart from this, I am not aware of any connection between these two companies.

    Here is the link--> http://jp.fujitsu.com/group/fmd/en/services/capaci...">http://jp.fujitsu.com/group/fmd/en/services/capaci...

  • Stele - Saturday, April 12, 2008 - link

    Super Nade's right. The vendor marking on the capacitors - which have been the same for almost all such solid electrolytic polymer caps used on Asus boards for some time now - is very much that of Fujitsu: a letter 'F' in Courier-esque font between two horizontal lines.

    Interestingly - and confusingly - however, once upon a time this logo was indeed that of Fairchild Semiconductor... the deal that almost happened in the 80s may have something to do with Fujitsu's current use of the said logo. Either way, Faichild Semi have long since changed to their current logo (a stylised italic 'f') so today, any current/new electronic/semiconductor component carrying the F-between-bars logo is almost certainly a Fujitsu product.
  • jojo29 - Friday, April 11, 2008 - link

    Just wondering how the Anandtech's Choice P5E3 Premium ( which i plan on buying) stacks up against this Striker? Any comments? Or did i miss something in the aricle as i was only able to skim through it, as im at work atm, and dontcoughwantcoughtogetcaughtbymybosscough...
  • kjboughton - Friday, April 11, 2008 - link

    We used one X48 motherboard in this review and it was the ASUS P5E3 Premium. Enjoy the full read when you make it home. ;)
  • ImmortalZ - Friday, April 11, 2008 - link

    You mention that overclocking the PCI-E bus provided tangible performance benefits on the EVGA board.

    Did you read about the rumblings around the net about some G92 based cards overclocking their GPU with the PCI-E bus? There are supposedly two clock sources for these type of cards - one on board and the other slaved to the PCI-E bus.

    Are you sure that the performance improvement is not because of this anomaly?
  • CrystalBay - Friday, April 11, 2008 - link

    Hi Kris, while UT3 does scale very well with multi-core. The game it self has no DX10 support as of yet. Hopefully EPIC will will enable it in a future update...
  • Glenn - Friday, April 11, 2008 - link

    All the benchies and comparisons are great, but how does it compare to a P35 board? A 965 or X38 board? I doubt you will convert those that already own an X48 and I (P35) have no point of reference within this article to see if I'm 5, 10 or 25% behind the preformance curve?
  • Rolphus - Friday, April 11, 2008 - link

    Interesting review... only one question though. Why use the 32-bit version of Crysis on Vista x64? Is there an issue with the 64-bit version that I don't know about?

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