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Review: eVGA nForce 680i SLI LGA775 motherboard

by Ryszard Sommefeldt on 20 November 2006, 00:30

Tags: EVGA nForce 680i SLI motherboard, EVGA, Intel (NASDAQ:INTC), NVIDIA (NASDAQ:NVDA)

Quick Link: HEXUS.net/qahcz

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eVGA nForce 680i SLI

Specification

eVGA nForce 680i SLI Specification
Item Specification
Processor Support All Intel LGA775 processors, including Core 2 Duo, Quad and Extreme
Northbridge NVIDIA nForce 680i SPP
Southbridge NVIDIA nForce 680i MCP
Memory Support 4 DIMMs, DDR2, 533/667/800+, 8GiB max
Graphics 3 x PCI Express Graphics 16X
PCI Express 2 x PCIe 1x; 680i
PCI Conventional 2 slots, PCI2.2
ATA 1 port, 680i MCP
SATA 6 ports SATA2 AHCI, 680i MCP
RAID 0/1/5, 680i MCP, MediaShield
LAN 2 x 10/100/1000, Marvell 88E1116-NNC1 PHYs, 680i
Audio HD Audio, 8-channel, Realtek ALC885, 680i
Floppy 1 port, Winbond W83627DHG
FireWire Texas Instruments TSB43AB22A, FireWire 400, 2 ports
USB 10 ports, USB2.0, 680i

Discussion

680i clearly doesn't skimp on features in terms of what it provides off its own silicon back. Everything bar the FireWire and floppy controllers is a product of hardware support in the 680i and 680i MCP, with the ALC885 doing the CODEC work for the HD Audio support in the MCP, and the Marvell PHYs presenting the physical Ethernet interfaces that 680i does the heavy lifting for.

However, when compared to what you can find provided by other IC vendors and augmented on a modern mainboard, the official NVIDIA implementation of 680i, on sale in this eVGA-branded form, is a little lacking. 8 SATA2 ports is somewhat the norm even on some mid-range boards, the dual GigE ports aren't anything special on the face of it, FireWire is provided by the same Ti chip on many other boards, the audio isn't a cut above anything else and the processor support is matched by all manner of other products.

You have to look a little deeper at 680i to see its actual appeal. The SATA and IDE controllers support NVIDIA MediaShield, offering hardware RAID acceleration across any and all disks connected to either controller, support for on-the-fly array rebuilds and reconfiguration, hot-swap SATA and more. Driverless booting of RAID arrays apparently made it into 680i, too. So the port count might be 2 short compared to some other very high-end (and some mid-range) boards, but the per-port features and software support are mostly a cut above the norm.

As far as Ethernet goes, the two hardware MACs can be teamed, creating a 2Gib/sec connection from both 1Gib/sec ports (or 200 from 100Mib, etc). The hardware takes care of packet order on both interfaces and transparent failover, in case one port goes down, is supported with no data loss.

Further, the hardware and mainboard provide a triplet of PCIe x16 slots, two of them x16 physically and electrically, with the third x8 electrically, with NVIDIA pushing the use of that third port for a board doing physics acceleration, or simply the provision of extra display ports depending on your display configuration.

Finally, some major 680i appeal lies outside of its hardware specs, so we'll focus on that a bit later. Thus the hardware spec seems a little underwhelming on the surface, with port counts and the like matched elsewhere, so we dig deeper....