It has been six months since NVIDIA announced their new 500 series chipsets. This past May the launch coincided with the release of AM2. Today NVIDIA launches a new chipset family, called the 600i family, with no mention at all of AMD and a launch date to coincide with the new Intel Core 2 Quad (Kentsfield).

Perhaps these two events, set just six months apart, best define the dramatic shifts that have occurred in the enthusiast market during this time. AMD was undisputed performance leader for the past couple of years, and enthusiasts didn't much care about Intel chipsets. With the launch of Core 2, however, the enthusiast world changed. Today Core 2 Duo and Quad are the undisputed performance leaders and AMD is once again the "value" chip. This will likely change again in the future, but for now Intel Core 2 is clearly the processor enthusiasts are demanding.

Of course, that has been the problem for NVIDIA. Where their 590/570/550 family was just great with AMD processors, their Intel variants left a lot to be desired. NVIDIA is a company that proclaims loudly its support of the enthusiast, and it had to be embarrassing that the NVIDIA chipsets for Intel were also the worst overclocking chipsets in the market. NVIDIA needs credibility as a provider of enthusiast chipsets in order to sell their top-end SLI to Intel buyers, since Intel has supported the competitor's ATI CrossFire as their multi-GPU standard. Features of nForce 590 looked great, but the overclocking performance, or rather the lack of it, kept enthusiasts away from the 500 series for Intel.

In addition, in the past 6 months AMD bought ATI, NVIDIA's major competitor in graphics. NVIDIA had become the leading supplier of chipsets for motherboards supporting the AMD processor, and with ATI moving to AMD that market position was now in jeopardy. ATI also had competent chipsets for AM2, and everyone expected AMD to make good use of those capabilities in the future.

What had been the minor annoyance of not having a good enthusiast chipset for Intel's Core 2 Duo quickly became a major problem for NVIDIA. The enthusiast was now buying Intel processors instead of AMD, their major competitor was now part of their largest customer in the chipset market, and the world's largest supplier of chipsets for Core 2 Duo - Intel themselves - was supporting the ATI CrossFire multi-GPU solution. NVIDIA needed a new product for the Intel Socket 775 that would excite the enthusiast enough to buy NVIDIA for Intel, increase NVIDIA's market share in the Intel chipset market, and provide a superior platform for SLI on Intel.

That product launches today in the NVIDIA 600i chipset family. The "i" is for Intel, and for now the 600 family is only available for the Intel Socket 775. (Future NVIDIA chipsets for the AMD platform will be named with a small "a" following the number.) The family will include some value boards and a top-end 680i that claims incredible overclocking on Core 2 Duo and Core 2 Quad processors. The new chipset also delivers dual x16 SLI to the Intel platform in a board NVIDIA is confident enthusiasts will want to own.

NVIDIA cut their teeth in the AMD market, but the Intel chipset market is a much more ambitious target. In the past AMD was only a minor player in the AMD chipset market, but Intel is the largest supplier of chipsets for their own socket 775 processors. Intel also has a long and impressive history of innovations in the chipset market. Intel chipsets are widely regarded as the top performers in almost any category supporting Intel processors. This is a very different market than the AMD platform NVIDIA targeted and conquered. With ATI now part of AMD, with current AMD chipsets moving toward the value category, and with the enthusiast buying Intel processors, the desire to target the Intel market is logical. However, as NVIDIA quickly found out with the 500 family for Intel, they must have the goods to persuade buyers to choose NVIDIA instead of Intel.

The real question then is whether the 680i and the 600i chipset family are the best available in the Intel market. If we believe NVIDIA marketing the answer is a resounding yes. Does the 680i live up to all the advance hype? We hope to provide answers to that question.

Features: nForce 600i Platform
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  • fenacv - Tuesday, January 8, 2008 - link">
    If you don't really care the prefermace, I found it's onsale just buy one only 138 bucks. It's cheap.
  • TheBeagle - Friday, December 8, 2006 - link

    I'm wondering if these touted new 680i boards are vaporware, especially the Gigabyte GA-N680SLI-DQ6 board. Ever since you first alerted us to the fact that the 680i chipset was replacing the 590 version, I've been waiting to see this whole new array of motherboards. However, aside from a few boards (ASUS and a few others) the major board manufacturers haven't been forthcoming with these products. Maybe this is just going to be some sort of a big Christmas present that Santa delivers on the holiday. If you guys at AnandTech have some info on this, I'd sure like to hear about. Thanks
  • mbf - Wednesday, November 29, 2006 - link

    I, for one, am going to seriously miss the native hardware firewall of the nForce3 and nForce4 chipsets, so I'm anything but "thankful" for seeing it "jettisoned into deep space." Actually, this was one of the coolest features of the nForce chipsets and truly innovative.

    nVidia's stance as to removing it because the functionality is built into Windows Vista doesn't ring true. A software solution can never work as efficiently and transparently as a hardware solution. And what of the people having no intention to switch to Windows Vista, and there are many reasons for not wanting to. They're practically left out in the cold.

    I second the opinion that nVidia probably botched the hardware in some form or other, although the hardware firewall works quite well on my nForce3 250gb based system, once you get familiar with its quirks. This actually doesn't bode well for nVidia's "inventiveness" and "forward-thinking" (think DualNet), since chances are nVidia will drop support completely rather than work out the bugs that inevitably will be there. Removing the hardware firewall is the best example of this.

    Also, and this is a bit off-topic in regard to the rest of this topic, wasn't there supposed to be ECC memory support in the new northbridge for the 680i chipset? I remember reading about the northbridge also being used in the new nForce Pro series chipsets. Another feature that has been removed in the mean time?
  • skrewler2 - Monday, November 13, 2006 - link

    How was the Tuniq Tower 120 on the board? I've heard lots of people complaining about backplates not fitting right on this board because the back of the mobo has lots of capacitors... Did you need to do any modding or did it just work?

  • Gary Key - Monday, November 13, 2006 - link

    I used the Scythe Infinity in my testing, Wes used the Tuniq. I did try the Tuniq and it was okay with an extra pad on the backplate that negated any damage to the capacitors.
  • mlau - Monday, November 13, 2006 - link

    Did you test a recent Linux kernel on this board?
    Which components are supported (I don't care about "raid"),
    and how buggy are the HPET, (IO-)APIC and ACPI implementations?
  • Governator - Saturday, November 11, 2006 - link

    First off, very well done article guys, but I've a question on the layouts with regards to PCI slots so far with the Asus and Evga; are we to expect similar layouts with upcoming boards from other manufacturers? I ask because I'm planning on a water cooled SLI setup upon a 680i and am planning on an X-Fi card but not sure if I'll be able to use the middle PCI slot, TIA...

  • Gary Key - Sunday, November 12, 2006 - link

    Most of the 680i boards have the same basic layout. On the Asus Striker board you should be able to use the X-FI with most watercooled SLI setups as an example. It will all depend on your setup but you can kiss the middle PCIe slot good-bye. ;)
  • Governator - Saturday, November 18, 2006 - link

    Hi Gary, sorry I meant to reply sooner but thanks for this. I'm hoping I'll be in good shape with the fact that I'll be using the new 8800GTX water block codeveloped by BFG Tech from Danger Den which appears that it'll only take up one slot allowing for that bottom PCI slot to go to the X-Fi card, thoughts? TIA ;)
  • deathwalker - Friday, November 10, 2006 - link

    I wonder if there are Matx mobo's in the future for the 600 series chipsets.

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