Final Words

Russian novelists used to be compensated by the weight of their manuscripts, which is one reason why Tolstoy's War and Peace is so incredibly long. If we weigh NVIDIA's launch by the reams of marketing information and public relations materials from the company, the nForce 600i product family is an impressive product release. We said something similar in our review of the launch of the nForce 500 chipset family just 6 short months ago, and then concluded that the release was more evolutionary than revolutionary. Is this a similar case of much ado about less than you first think?

There are many innovations, reintroductions, and refinements with the new NVIDIA 600i family chipsets, and this review would have been hundreds of pages long had we explored all of the features in detail. No matter the marketing spin or the positive light on innovation, the bottom line is the answer to the question we asked in the beginning of this article. Is the nForce 680i the best chipset for the Intel Core 2?

This time around our answer has to be a resounding YES. NVIDIA has finally got it right on the Intel platform and the 680i is definitely worthy of being called the Hard-Core Enthusiast chipset. We still have questions about why some Core 2 Duo processors overclock to 525 FSB and others can barely reach 450 FSB on this chipset, but we have seen similar behavior with the same CPUs on Intel P965 platforms. Since we were able to personally test an X6800 Extreme 4MB Cache chip at 2100 FSB (525 quad pumped), we lean toward NVIDIA's explanation that different processors are capable of different maximum FSB, regardless of their base overclocking capabilities.

We found one X6800 which maxed out at 1900 FSB, and another that reached 2100 FSB, even though both overclocked with the right combination of multiplier and FSB to around 4GHz. There was no easy answer of the Revision or Stepping to explain these differences. It was also interesting that every 2MB Cache chip we tested reached over 2000 FSB, with our two E6300 reaching 2100 FSB.

The point is we can't tell you, as much as we would like to, why some Core 2 processors reach above 2000 FSB and why others won't go beyond 1800 at any multiplier - no matter how low. We wish we could, and when we do find answers to the question of which processors will do the magic 2000+ we will share them with you.

While we can't answer the processor issue, we are confident that the seriously reworked 680i chipset can take you wherever you want to go as an Intel Core 2 enthusiast. If you want a fast system that does most of the thinking for you, you have only to buy a 680i and SLI certified components. You can let the hardware make all your decisions for you and overclock the video card and memory. This can happen even at stock speed, or you can also overclock the CPU. For those "wannabee" enthusiasts this will be very appealing.

Hard Core enthusiasts often want to do it all themselves, and you can also do this with the 680i. In our own benchmarking we were able to turn off all the automatic overclocks generated by the 680i and dial in our own choices. Using this approach, performance was the most satisfying we have yet found with a Core 2 processor.

NVIDIA has made dramatic improvements in overclocking abilities with 680i. They have effectively moved the new chipset from the embarrassment of mediocre overclocking that characterized the 590 chipset to the 680i evolving into the best overclocking platform you can buy for Intel. When you add to this the proven features like dual x16 SLI video, FirstPacket, dual Gigabit Ethernet with Teaming, HD audio, and the full MediaShield storage array with dual RAID 5, you have a solid product that stands out from the crowd. The added option to run a physics video card with SLI is just delicious icing on the cake.

NVIDIA should also be congratulated for keeping one very significant feature, namely IDE. Intel may have been trying to drive the market to SATA in the 965+ICH8 chipset by leaving out IDE. The problem, of course, is you simply can't find the SATA optical drives you are supposed to buy to use on the 965 boards. Instead manufacturers are forced to add a chipset to support IDE devices on their 965 boards. Thank you, NVIDIA, for avoiding this same pitfall.

The NVIDIA 680i is the chipset we would choose for our own purchase right now. It is the best chipset for the Core 2 platform that we have tested. If you don't need or want all the high end features, the 600i family also offers the lower priced 650i SLI and 650i Ultra aimed at those looking for a more economical motherboard. We still expect ATI to release RD600 in the next few weeks - at least in limited release. It will feature dual x16 CrossFire for Intel Core 2. We are looking forward to reviewing those boards, but it will take some truly revolutionary performance to top the NVIDIA 680i motherboards. If you got the clear message we like the 680i, you would be reading us correctly.

nForce 680i Overclocking
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  • fenacv - Tuesday, January 08, 2008 - link

    http://www.pricebat.ca/EVGA-122-CK-NF67-T1-LGA-775...">http://www.pricebat.ca/EVGA-122-CK-NF67...-SLI-ATX...
    If you don't really care the prefermace, I found it's onsale just buy one only 138 bucks. It's cheap.
    Reply
  • TheBeagle - Friday, December 08, 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 Reply
  • 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?
    Reply
  • 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?

    Reply
  • 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. Reply
  • 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?
    Reply
  • 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...

    Gov
    Reply
  • 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. ;) Reply
  • 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 ;) Reply
  • deathwalker - Friday, November 10, 2006 - link

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

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