Introduction and Specifications

NVIDIA is updating their Intel-platform chipset series with the nForce 780i SLI. It offers 3-Way SLI, ESA support, great overclockability but still uses DDR2 memory. This makes for a slightly less exciting platform, but definitely a cheaper one.
The NVIDIA nForce 780i Chipset

NVIDIA has been sitting pretty for quite some time in both the GPU world and chipset world.  Their 7-series and 8-series when of graphics boards went largely unchallenged while the nForce 600-series chipsets has done well in both the AMD and Intel ecosystems.  NVIDIA announced a new 700-series of chipsets for the Intel platform back in mid-December, but only now are we testing our first retail sample from XFX.

Let’s look at what makes the nForce 780i chipset an upgrade from the 680i chipset that is so well loved.

XFX nForce 780i SLI Motherboard Review - Motherboards 66

Despite the unique naming conventions of NVIDIA chipset division, you can clearly see that from a feature stand point not much has changed from the 680i block diagram we saw in 2006.  We are still connected to the Intel CPU with a 1333 MHz front-side bus while the two chips in the 780i communicate via a HyperTransport connection.  The chipset’s memory controller is still rated at DDR2-800 MHz memory though with SLI Memory it can automatically overclock as high as 1200 MHz. 

The new addition to the picture is the nForce 200 chip – what is essentially a PCI Express 1.0 to PCI Express 2.0 bridge that allows for two full x16 PCIe 2.0 connections for GPUs.  These PCIe 2.0 connections are then fed back to the north bridge (or 780i SPP) via a standard x16 PCIe 1.0 connection.  This has raised concerns that the PCIe 2.0 on the 780i isn’t “true” PCIe 2.0 and we tend to agree.  But in reality, the differences between the two technologies with today’s graphics boards are negligible. 

The third PCI Express slot is actually a PCIe 1.0 x16 path sourced from the 780i MCP, or south bridge.  Essentially what we are seeing is an identical picture that the 680i motherboards used to generate three PCIe connections for GPUs but now we have some pseudo-PCIe 2.0 in the mix. 

And…well that’s pretty much it.  When we first heard about the 780i SLI chipset, the main new features were PCIe 2.0 support, 3-Way SLI support and ESA support; both 3-Way SLI and ESA were introduced on the 680i chipset before we got our first 780i SLI motherboard sample making the launch less impressive and making us less than enthusiastic about it.

XFX Motherboard Specifications (from

XFX nForce 780i SLI Motherboard Review - Motherboards 67

Replacing the “7” with a “6” in the model number would hardly go noticed in my mind as the features on the 780i and 680i motherboards are obviously nearly identical.  The good news is that 780i SLI motherboards will have full support for 45nm Penryn-based processors; something that only the later revisions of the 680i SLI motherboards could claim.

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