Nvidia's nForce 680i SLI chipset

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— 1:00 PM on November 8, 2006

FOR MONTHS, ENTHUSIASTS WAITED for a version of Nvidia's high-end nForce 590 SLI chipset compatible with Intel's Core 2 processors. That chipset finally arrived in October aboard Asus's P5N32-SLI Premium motherboard, but not before Nvidia hinted that a new nForce 680i SLI was just around the corner. Now, less than a month later, we've turned that corner to find the 680i SLI riding a motherboard built by Nvidia itself.

Chipset manufacturers usually produce a reference motherboard design to help their partners bring products to market. When the nForce 590 SLI chipset launched for Socket AM2, Nvidia worked with Foxconn to make its reference design a retail board. This time, Nvidia has taken things one step farther, designing and manufacturing its own nForce 680i SLI motherboards for sale to its partners. Some of those partners, including Biostar, BFG Tech, ECS, EVGA, and XFX, have been so impressed with the design that they'll be offering it as-is.

Of course, there's more to the nForce 680i SLI than Nvidia's swanky new motherboard. The chipset also features a new north bridge chip that's built using 90-nano process technology and features a completely redesigned memory controller. Nvidia has even rolled out an updated version of its nTune system utility for the occasion.

Rather than launching as a standalone chipset, the nForce 680i SLI is coming to market as a complete platform. I really hate to call the 680i a platform—that word is misused in far too many press releases these days—but that's really what it is: a complete platform, including the chipset, motherboard, BIOS, and software, built explicitly for PC enthusiasts. The question, of course, is whether it's the right platform for your next Core 2 Duo build. Read on to find the answer.

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