Conclusions and Final Thoughts
The performance of the new NVIDIA nForce 680i LT SLI chipset was impressive as we expected; it is basically identical to the existing 680i SLI chipset with a few features missing in order to lower the price. The chipset still performed at a very high level and all of our benchmarks showed little to no performance gaps between it and the more expensive version. This also means that that 680i LT SLI chipset is a strong contender against Intel’s own 975X and P965 chipsets that have been well received in the Core 2 excitement of the past year.
The only area in which the new chipset faltered in my testing slightly was with the USB and Firewire performance — it was good but just slower than the original 680i SLI chipset motherboards. Something to watch out for if you do a LOT of USB or Firewire transfers.
One area I know that many are going to disappointed in with the new 680i LT SLI motherboards is the use of active fan cooling instead of passive heat pipe cooling. Honestly, I am torn on the issue as I love the silence that heat pipes can bring but with some recent issues of heat pipes not working with mounted upside down (not on these 680i boards though) and the fact that the heat pipes can get hot enough to burn in some cases, having fans on the chipset may not be a big downer to some people. They will create noise and they will have a failure rate of some kind; but even the 680i SLI chipset uses a fan on the north bridge for “optimal” overclocking.
The rest of the board does well in the features department: full x16 SLI support, Gigabit Ethernet and 8 USB 2.0 connections. There are a couple of areas where the new 680i LT SLI chipset falls behind: the lack of a second GigE port and the lack of a third PCIe x16 slot might push you off again to the more expensive 680i SLI motherboards.
BIOS Features and Overclocking
The BIOS and overclocking performance on the 680i LT SLI chipset are just as impressive as they were on the first 680i SLI chipset launch. Being able to reach nearly a 2.0 GHz FSB with VERY minimal tweaking really sets the bar high for motherboard these days. There are tons of options in the BIOS for changing bus speeds, voltages and timings that should keep just about any enthusiast satiated for hours!
EVGA Warranty and Board Options
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.
One thing to keep in mind: EVGA is currently selling two models of the new 680i LT SLI motherboard. One of them has a lifetime warranty (EVGA 122-CK-NF67-A1) and sells for $174 after MIR at Newegg.com. The other model has a two-year warranty (EVGA 122-CK-NF67-T1) and sells for $159 after MIR at Newegg.com. In my opinion, that extra $15 is WELL worth it for the full warranty that it offers. If you were worried about those fans, this could easily take care of it.
Pricing and Availability
Here’s where things can get sticky: NVIDIA released the 680i LT SLI chipset in order to bring their 680i chipset into the sub-$200 price range. Did they do it? Obviously based on the prices of the EVGA motherboards listed below, they have!
Comparing the lifetime warranty models, the new 680i LT SLI chipset EVGA motherboard is selling for just about $200 at pretty much anywhere on the web. The original, full featured EVGA 680i SLI motherboard is selling for about $245 across the web. That brings the price difference to nearly $50, depending on the rebates and freebies available at the time. Is that price difference enough to sell you on the newer, slightly crippled LT version of the 680i or push you towards the only slightly-more-expensive full 680i chipset?
The way I see it, the new EVGA nForce 680i LT SLI chipset is a success — it brings the features and performance of the 680i chipset to a lower price range and to the sub-$200 motherboard level. If you can live with a two-year warranty instead of the lifetime, you can even find this board for $160 if you look hard enough. NVIDIA and their motherboard partners have done a good job in recently years attacking both the AMD and Intel platforms with chipsets no one has been able to quite match and the 680i LT SLI chipset is no exception. This should definitely be a consideration for any budget-minded enthusiast platform.
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