Conclusions and Final ThoughtsFeatures
The XFX nForce 780i SLI motherboard, and the 780i SLI chipset in general, is chock full of interesting features. Though I glossed over most of it on the chipset description pages, because we had seen it all before, that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth noting here. The 780i SLI chipsets have an impressive array of storage and peripheral features including six SATA channels, all with RAID support, a legacy IDE connection for two devices as well as ten USB 2.0 connections. A pair of Gigabit networking connections rounds out the “standard” list of features. The on-board audio is the now pretty much standard Azalia 8-channel which should be enough for most users.
Support for 3-Way SLI, as well as standard dual-card SLI, makes the 780i SLI motherboard an ultimate gaming machine option even though most users won’t fully utilize it. After all, when you only offer the feature in $500+ GPUs, that’s what is going to happen. The added support for PCI Express Gen2 is nice, but somewhat of a check box feature since the implementation is non-native. In terms of performance though, it probably won’t matter. Just look at the Intel/AMD CPU battle to see if elegant solutions are always the winners.
One feature I don’t see here: support for 1600 MHz FSB processors from Intel down the line. Sure, only the QX9770 has been announced, but NVIDIA hasn’t been forth coming with information on compatibility and with the previous 680i-and-quad-core-CPUs issue, you may find yourself stuff with overclocked 1333 MHz CPUs for the life of the board.
The system performance of the XFX 780i SLI motherboard is great and exactly where we’d expect to find it. The 680i SLI and 780i SLI chipsets line up side by side, so the competition between them and the Intel chipsets has really not changed with this release. The one advantage that Intel has at this point is DDR3 memory support – something NVIDIA has admitted is behind but I don’t see the huge demand for it yet. In reality, in overall system performance and even in gaming, DDR3 isn’t going to get you much further unless you are hitting 1600 MHz+ frequencies and then you’ll be spending $600+ on a 2GB memory kit.
The overclocking performance of the 780i SLI chipset was a surprise – I actually expected it to be lower than that of the 680i chipset. That wasn’t the case though as with both quad-core and dual-core processors the new NVIDIA chipset performed exceptionally well. I was able to hit an overclocked front-side bus of 512 MHz with my E6750 processor, just a few MHz behind our top overclock on an X38 motherboard.
Pricing and Availability
The XFX, and all other brands for that matter, 780i SLI motherboards have spotty availability. In our pricing engine, only one reseller is showing up selling it. The price is reasonable at $260 or so, but the scarcity of the boards bothers me more than anything – what is the life span of this product and for how long will it be for sale and/or supported? I know companies like XFX and EVGA are going to continue to offer technical support, but updates and maintenance is done by NVIDIA and requires their attention on the product. NVIDIA has already stated that when the 790 chipset is released with DDR3 support that the 780i SLI chipset will continue in the product stack since both target different memory markets. We’ll have to see but for now we remain inquisitive.
Gaming and ‘roids don’t mix
As far as raw pricing goes, you can actually save a good amount of money going with the XFX nForce 780i motherboard and some high-performance DDR2 memory. You can easily get 4GB of DDR2-800 memory for under $100 but getting 4GB of even the most basic DDR3 memory is going to cost you more than $500!! That price difference is another 8800 GTX or maybe even a pair of AMD HD 3850s! Obviously the gamer on a budget is going to be in love with DDR2 for quite some time.
The XFX nForce 780i SLI motherboard isn’t offering a whole lot of new and exciting technology over the 680i SLI chipset that has been so popular over the last year or so. That being said, it is still a great motherboard for gamers and overclockers and the fact that it uses DDR2 memory instead of DDR3 might actually be a blessing in the current market. If you have a 680i board it’s probably not worth an upgrade to this platform but users still itching to get in on the Intel Core 2 bandwagon will find a lot to like about this board.
Be sure to use our pricing engine to find the best prices on 780i motherboards and anything else you might need: