The USB headers have more room, but they're still fiddly to connect - but even that pales into insignificance when you look at the area outboard of the memory slots. Although the six SATA connectors are positioned to clear the graphics cards, the main block of four connectors is packed in tightly with the single IDE connector and the supplementary Molex power plug while the front panel headers are so poorly located that it's beyond a joke.
EVGA's nForce 680i LT SLI from the back
The 680i SLI model also comes with three brackets. One has a serial port, one has a Firewire connector, and one has four USB ports. We benchmarked both the 680i SLI and the LT version with a 2.67GHz Core 2 Duo E6700, 2GB of Corsair XMS PC-9136 memory, an Asus GeForce 7950GT running the 93.71 driver, a Western Digital Raptor 150 hard drive and Windows XP SP2.
We used a single graphics card because we didn't have a pair of suitable high-end cards to run in SLI, but let's be clear that you shouldn't be considering either model of motherboard if you don't want to run SLI. If you have a single graphics card then buy an Intel 965P motherboard for £75 and you can also bet you'll get a decent overclock on your CPU.
We started our testing by visiting the EVGA website to check for BIOS updates as you don't get a utility on the installation CD to help in this respect. We found an update that extracts a DOS flashing utility and BIN file to a floppy. Boot into DOS and you can update the BIOS, this on a £167 motherboard. We tried to run the same BIOS update on the LT as the file was listed for the 680 family of chipsets, rather than a specific model, but the Award flasher told us that it was incompatible with the LT.
We then installed drivers, followed by nTune v5.05.11 from the CD, however it seemed incapable of identifying the 680i chipset and reported that it can "only run on nForce 2 or later". So we downloaded v5.05.25 from Nvidia's website, which worked correctly. This is more than an annoyance as support for nTune is one of the features that the 680i LT SLI offers and the 650i SLI doesn't, yet the software that's supplied was useless.
To add to the fun, Nvidia released nTune v5.05.38 on 28 April so we had to do some re-testing but as you'll see from the figures on the next few pages this newer version of nTune actually slowed the performance of the LT by a small margin and made it restart during 3DMark06 runs.
We did, we just kept the results to ourselves as they were a bit dull
We tried a quick and dirty manual overclock of the FSB with both EVGA boards and got nowhere which is a bit grim when both the Abit 650i SLI and Asus 680i SLI yielded an easy overclock.
Also, the performance charts were already plenty confused so adding any more lines seemed like a bad idea.
A few extra points:
1- I (that's Leo rather than The Reg) won't entertain overclocking unless it is 100percent stable and reliable with a minimal risk of fritzing hardware, so I stay clear of voltage changes if humanly possible.
2- The 680i LT has very little in its favour if you discount nTune. I feel that the test results show that you CAN discount nTune in which case you can forget about the LT and plump for a 650i SLI.
3- Perhaps it's coincidence but if you go here
there's no 'further information' on the 650i SLI
buy now while stocks last
Excellent review, though for the reference boards why didn't you try a manual overclock aswell as the ntune?
Ntune is pants at overclocking.