Conclusions and Final Thoughts
My initial impressions after having used this ESA system for a few weeks are very positive.  The various new software components that NVIDIA has provided with its updated control panel are strong and the praise that AMD’s Overdrive utility has been getting will surely also find its way to NVIDIA’s latest software update.

The System Monitor tool is useful and informative, if a little over the top with its design of a 3D wheel of components.  Some people have complained about the “whole screen” design method but as we showed in our review the information that you want to access full-time is able to be shrunk down and kept on screen taking up very little desktop space.  The ability to see real-time graphs of the temperatures, fan speeds and voltages is helpful and the ability to log them is even more so. 

The Performance section of the control panel, that allows you to overclock your components as well as setup rues and profiles, looks to be incredibly useful.  NVIDIA has told us that the current software’s UI is still in Beta stage and that changes to it, but not the feature set, will definitely be here soon.  While it still needs some polish in some UI areas that I mentioned on previous pages, the ability to setup custom rules for fan speeds, clock rates and more in relation to other traits is unique and allows for a very granular control of your system.    The ability to create various profiles with rules for enable them takes this granularity an order of magnitude better as you can setup new rules for each profiles and situation your system will be in.  Now NVIDIA better make sure they add a BACKUP profiles/rules option for users so they don’t have to redo these time consuming tricks. 

The Dynamic BIOS Access and Update pages are also great additions to the software suite – while the BIOS access has been around for a while, it’s good to see it continue to exist though its interface really appears outdated when compared to the new Performance section.  The Update section for drivers, BIOS and ESA firmware is also good as it allows a single point of contact for the user and their ESA hardware though the ability to check for updates in the software would have been appreciated. 

Upcoming ESA Hardware

The real struggle for ESA in the short-term will be user and manufacturer adoption rates.  Here is a table of the hardware that is currently available or will be available in the February/March time frame.

NVIDIA ESA: Enthusiast System Architecture Review - Cases and Cooling 54
Table provided by NVIDIA

Power supplies from Tagan, Thermaltake, Cooler Master and PC Power and Cooling all have the same feature set and are all high-end components.  The three chassis are similar in features with the exception of Thermaltake and the ability to control the LEDs from the NVIDIA software.  The water cooling devices from CoolIT, Thermaltake and Cooler Master are also very similar and offer a surprising amount of options for fan and pump control. 

One problem potential ESA users might have is that different components might have very different features.  Part of NVIDIA’s certification process does require minimum functionality for chassis, water coolers, etc but manufacturers can of course go above that.  So it’s possible that similar chassis will have very different features, for example, and it’s up to the buyer and manufacturer to search out/display that information.  Obviously in places like our PC Perspective forums and other websites these components will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis to see if they live up to the potential that ESA is providing them.

NVIDIA ESA: Enthusiast System Architecture Review - Cases and Cooling 55
Click here for NVIDIA-created Flash Preview of ESA – Marketing fluff, but some useful info

As for motherboards and graphics cards: some or most features will be available on anything with the NVIDIA name on it, as long as its a 680i or 780i motherboard.  Of course, getting the NVIDIA-built motherboards from the likes of EVGA and XFX will allow you to get the most of out the Performance and overclocking sections of the software as you are virtually guaranteed the BIOS hooks will be in there for software-based control. 

Final Thoughts

NVIDIA is on the right track with the Enthusiast System Architecture and I think that once users actually try out and use the new software, they’ll see just as much benefit as we do for the consumer.  The software still has some issues to iron out, but for the most part it is solid and provides just about anything we could ask for in terms of system control.  ESA still has an uphill battle on its hands before it can claim to be a successful technology but I think it has all the traits to get there.

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