Power Consumption and Conclusions

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Here is where some of that performance gain is coming from no doubt — the NVIDIA nForce 650i Ultra chipset uses quite a bit more power than these other two chipsets.  138 watts at idle isn’t too bad though, and it’s feasible that this chipset could be used in some SFF or HTPC scenarios. 

Conclusions

The EVGA nForce 650i Ultra motherboard is yet another great addition to the Intel Core 2 Duo mainboard market and will probably fill a gap in the pricing scheme of enthusiast level products nicely.

Performance

The performance of the NVIDIA nForce 650i Ultra chipset is right on par with what we expected to see from NVIDIA 600-series of products.  The majority of the benchmarks we showed you are mostly CPU and GPU based and in reality changing the motherboard platform between them is going to make little to no difference. 

The tests that do matter in this instance though are the SATA, USB and other subsystem tests that turned out very well for NVIDIA.  The SATA and USB storage performance were very good while the networking performance was above the levels of other low-cost chipsets for sure.  In the end, the performance on the 650i Ultra is not going to disappoint as long as it has all the features you are looking for. 

Features

And that is the real question — does the 650i Ultra offer everything that you want in a motherboard?  It lacks support for SLI / EPP memory, Firewire and SLI technology.  If you are planning just using a single PCIe graphics card and don’t really have any Firewire accessories, then the feature set is probably going to be enough for you.  If not though, you simply move past the 650i Ultra and look up towards the 680i LT SLI or full 680i SLI chipsets.

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Chart source: NVIDIA Corp

BIOS and Overclocking

The BIOS on the 650i Ultra is definitely a step up over what we are used to seeing on other $100 motherboards, but I couldn’t help but feel a little down with the lack of some items that I got really attached to on the 600-series motherboards.  Most notable was support for EPP (a.k.a. SLI memory) and BIOS profiles (to save you settings and restore them easily).  The SLI memory confuses me the most — this is a feature that NVIDIA helped pioneer and I would think they would put it in their product line from top to bottom. 

The overclocking on the 650i Ultra chipset was pretty good as well, though as you would expect not quite as good as we have seen on the 680i chipsets.  The reasoning for this more likely the fact that the BIOS doesn’t offer higher voltage settings like the 680i chipsets do and thus we can’t stress the chipset, CPU and memory quite as far.  These artificial limitations on the motherboard are mainly to do pricing and market targeting and are likely not technical in their purpose; I imagine that the 650i Ultra chipset could reach the same FSB speeds as our EVGA 680i SLI motherboard if it had the chance.

EVGA Motherboard Options and Support

One area that EVGA has really strived to improve for buyers of their cards is the after-purchase support.  First, EVGA offers a very good lifetime warranty on their motherboards and video cards as well as 24/7 technical support on the phone and also a great user support forum at their website.  After all the trouble we saw during the GeForce 7900 GTX, EVGA really stepped up to the plate and made sure all of their user’s got the support they needed and addressed the issues.  A great feature for users to go along with EVGA’s lifetime warranty is their Advanced RMA feature that allows for cross-shipping of replacement cards in many cases, minimizing the downtime that gamers will have to endure.

There are two EVGA 650i Ultra models floating around though: the 122-CK-NF66-A1 has the LIFETIME WARRANTY while the 122-CK-NF66-T1 only has a two year warranty.  Check the price differences and get the one that suits your needs!

Pricing and Availability

As of this writing, the EVGA nForce 650i Ultra motherboard can be found on the EVGA website for either $119 or $129, depending in the warranty coverage you require.  Unfortunately, they are on “back order” there and I haven’t been able to find these boards online anywhere today either.  Even though the NDA has been up on these boards for a couple weeks now, its not a good sign that they are not out in the wild yet, though NVIDIA did tell us they are starting a bundling promotion of some sort this week that may help the situation. 

Final Thoughts

The EVGA nForce 650i Ultra motherboard is a great option for performance users looking for a feature-filled and overclockable motherboard without a $200+ price tag.  The new 650i Ultra chipset won’t be able to replace the 680i motherboards as the top enthusiast platform but for users that can’t see spending more than $150 on a motherboard, the EVGA nForce 650i Ultra motherboard is definitely going to hit the spot.

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