Reference board examination
A very brief look at the reference NVIDIA nForce 590 SLI Intel Edition motherboard. We expect motherboard manufacturers to fine-tune their efforts a little, but you may well see this incarnation adopted by smaller motherboard IHVs who, unlike ASUS, don't have huge amounts to spend on board engineering and tweaking.
The two-chip design, NVIDIA deems, runs hot enough for it to use fan assistance on both counts. Either that or it's playing it ultra safe. Again, we expect retail deluxe models to use heatpipe-based cooling and fan-free running. NVIDIA's left plenty of space around the CPU socket, and installing a reference heatsink was a cinch.
There's also thoughtful design with respect to the placement of the main 24-pin and 8-pin power connectors, which line the edge of the board. The same cannot be said for the floppy and auxillary molex power connectors, though, as they're placed in hard-to-reach places.
The 590 model supports DDR2-800 memory with processors operating at either 200 and 266MHz. That, as we've pointed out, is a potential 12.8GB/s of bandwidth to the CPU.
The six SATA2 ports all run off the MCP55 ASIC. No modern chipset supports FireWire natively, so NVIDIA uses a two-chip solution from Texas Instruments, with support for both 1394a and 1394b. Performance, however, was extremely poor. More on that later. We'll expect motherboard manufacturers to complement this enthusiast-class core-logic with an integrated LED POST monitor.
As is the norm these days, the secondary x16 PCIe slot is situated right next to the first PCI slot. Any double-height card will block the latter off. That's important to note as the chipset supports multi-card SLI technology.
NVIDIA has routed the high-definition audio through a proven Realtek ALC880D codec that supports Dolby Digital Live.
It's always nice to see both optical and coaxial S/PDIF connections on the I/O section. Dual RJ45 ports feed the board's dual Gigabit Ethernet controllers that can be teamed up under DualNet to provide, under ideal conditions, a 2Gigabit external connection.
As far as reference motherboards go, the nForce 590 SLI Intel Edition is presented in close to retail form. Hazarding an educated guess, deluxe motherboards based on this chipset will cost between £120-£150, and are most likely to be paired up with a couple of GeForce 7900-class GPUs and Intel's E6600/6700/X6800 CPUs.