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Seven 650i SLI Motherboards Compared

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  • Motherboards
  • Chipsets
  • Benchmark
  • SLI
  • Nvidia
Last response: in Motherboards
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May 24, 2007 7:08:17 PM

The 650i SLI chipset is Nvidia's solution for buyers who want SLI on the cheap. We benchmark several 650i boards against the high-priced 680i SLI reference mobo.

More about : 650i sli motherboards compared

May 24, 2007 7:40:19 PM

All of the pictures are broken....
May 24, 2007 9:04:43 PM

Thanks for the reviews but I cant see any of the benchmark pics.
Related resources
May 24, 2007 9:34:39 PM

We got hosed on the picture end of things, BUT I will say that all of these boards except the overpriced Asus P5N32-E SLI Plus and the way too cheap ECS board interest me alot.

I've been waiting for the Intel P35 stuff to get a new board but I can't find out whether or not the NVidia chipset will accept the 45nm processors or if the 680i boards need to be in SLI to use their physics processor slot(the 8x slot in the middle).

Anyway all of these boards look pretty sweet to me even if they don't run 16x, 16x. Most cards don't saturate all 16 lanes anyway so 8x, 8x is good enough. I know I'm probably not going to go SLI anyway, but since the 650i ULTRA boards are within 20 bucks of these anyway I might as well get something that's more upgradeable.
May 25, 2007 5:30:32 AM

Quote:
We got hosed on the picture end of things, BUT I will say that all of these boards except the overpriced Asus P5N32-E SLI Plus and the way too cheap ECS board interest me alot.

I've been waiting for the Intel P35 stuff to get a new board but I can't find out whether or not the NVidia chipset will accept the 45nm processors or if the 680i boards need to be in SLI to use their physics processor slot(the 8x slot in the middle).

Anyway all of these boards look pretty sweet to me even if they don't run 16x, 16x. Most cards don't saturate all 16 lanes anyway so 8x, 8x is good enough. I know I'm probably not going to go SLI anyway, but since the 650i ULTRA boards are within 20 bucks of these anyway I might as well get something that's more upgradeable.


As far as I know, any 680i-based board has all slots/lanes active all the time, so no need to be in SLI mode to use the 8x slot.

For 650i-based boards, there are ONLY 18 PCI-E electrical lanes available, so when the primary vga slot is in 16x mode, the secondary slot gets nothing (it's non-functional). As noted in the review, the exception(s) to this are the ECS board, which is hard-wired to 8x8 always (you never get 16x) and the ASUS Plus board, which is not a 650i-chipset board at all (not sure why it was included in the review). For all the other boards, you have to flip the paddle over and split the 16 PCI-E lanes into two 8x lanes in order to use that other slot.

The 650i Ultra chipset is basically identical to the 650i chipset (total of 18 PCI-E lanes)... the difference is in the implementation - the second 16x physical PCI-E slot is just left off the board entirely, so it can't support SLI or any other card that needs more than 1x PCI-E.
May 25, 2007 5:40:00 AM

BTW, nice review (aside from all the images missing :)  ). Overall very fair. I may have missed it (I'll go re-read it), but there were a few things not mentioned...

- in addition to it's other cost-cutting measures, the ASUS P5N-E board is 'narrow' and only has 6 board mounting holes (instead of 9). This might be usefull in smaller cases, but it also leave the board 'unsupported' (and springy) in places like where you need to press down to install memory, etc.

- the MSI P6N Platinum (and I assume SLI-FI) has some small SMD chips on the underside of the board, right where you would put a HSF backplate. You need to make sure that you don't crush these with your HSF. (I don't know if other brands have this issue or not, so someone who had all of them available to them (hint-hint) could check :)  ).

- I'm not sure why the ASUS 'Plus' board was included in the roundup, but I appreciate that you did at least explain that it doesn't use a 650i chipset.
a b V Motherboard
May 25, 2007 6:30:15 AM

Quote:
BTW, nice review (aside from all the images missing :)  ). Overall very fair. I may have missed it (I'll go re-read it), but there were a few things not mentioned...

- in addition to it's other cost-cutting measures, the ASUS P5N-E board is 'narrow' and only has 6 board mounting holes (instead of 9). This might be usefull in smaller cases, but it also leave the board 'unsupported' (and springy) in places like where you need to press down to install memory, etc.


Both Ultra ATA connectors are found near the bottom of the board facing forward to provide clearance for long graphics cards. These are typically used for optical drives in the upper bays of most cases, so cable management will be slightly impaired.

The P5N-E SLI chipset and memory locations actually would have left room to move these upward on the board, but Asus chopped off the section of PCB that would have supported rerouting these connections in another cost-savings move that makes the board approximately one-half inch narrower than competing designs. That same move leaves the front 2.5" unsupported by case standoffs because the board doesn't quite reach the next row of them.



Quote:
- I'm not sure why the ASUS 'Plus' board was included in the roundup, but I appreciate that you did at least explain that it doesn't use a 650i chipset.


Asus sent it as a 650i board, they ran it with the explaination.
May 25, 2007 6:56:03 AM

Thanks - I guess I skimmed over that ASUS physical board size part. Good job.

As for the Plus board... I understand that ASUS might want folks to believe that it's the most kick-ass 650i-based board on the planet, but that's marketing hype - the fact is, it's not a 650i-chipset, so why bend to marketing hype?

Unless someone from nVidia corrects me on my understanding of this, ALL of the 600-series "chipsets" use the exact same C55 northbridge chip (SPP). So the "chipset" is defined by both the southbridge chip being used, as well as the "board implementation" (in some cases, like the 650i Ultra vs 650i mentioned above).

In this context, you 'could' say that every 680i-chipset board "uses a 650 northbridge", but that doesn't 'mean' anything - the chipset is defined by the southbridge.
May 25, 2007 7:02:44 AM

Quote:
The 650i SLI chipset is Nvidia's solution for buyers who want SLI on the cheap. We benchmark several 650i boards against the high-priced 680i SLI reference mobo.


Why would I want to buy a 650i mobo over a P965 mobo? What are it's virtues? How is 8x times 2 better than 16x once? Is it worth having to buy a second vid card for SLI over the performance I get from my P965?
a b V Motherboard
May 25, 2007 7:45:17 AM

It's just a cheap way to get SLI support. You can't do SLI on an Intel chipset without cracking drivers, and even with the crack the 16x/4x split for dual-slot P965 boards wouldn't support it properly.
May 25, 2007 8:15:23 AM

I am planning on getting the abit fatal1ty FP-IN9 board so this guide really helped me out with me questions. In australia the abit is the cheapest i can get...
May 25, 2007 8:34:41 AM

Why is this not on the site main page? The newest headline is the review of the Dell XPS system.

Andy

P.S. I'm in the UK, does that make a difference?

Edit: Clicked on the link and the article isn't there. Has it been pulled?
a b V Motherboard
May 25, 2007 8:53:56 AM

It's probably not on the front page for the UK site yet. As for the link, it was probably taken down for a moment while they fixed the missing photos.

WE HAVE PHOTOS, WEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!

Thanks Fredi!
May 25, 2007 10:27:36 AM

Don't these boards make the 650i ULTRA seems pretty pointless though? I know it's only $100 but for $10 or so you could get one with SLI capabilities.

I actually just built a system using the MSI P6N SLI-FI board and put the Zalman 9700NT on it and lemme tell ya that little board is sweet. I picked it up for $109 on the egg 2 weeks ago. I thought it was a great buy, and no it doesn't have anything to get in the way of any HSF mounts other than a few soldering points.
May 25, 2007 10:31:31 AM

"Other dubious cost cutting measures include soldering a traditional BIOS IC directly to the motherboard, which prevents it from being replaced in the event of a bad flash."

- err, you do realise that this isn't actually necessary with an Asus crashfree bios? It's always possible to recover, even after a bad flash, so therefore isn't really an issue at all.
May 25, 2007 10:34:02 AM

I personally think the more expensive Asus board is a waste of money considering you can get a 680i board for $160 right now.
May 25, 2007 11:05:00 AM

Nope, still can't get there. I actually can't get to www.tomshardware.com! I keep on getting redirected back to the UK site. Any ideas how I can stop the redirection?

Thanks

Andy
May 25, 2007 12:07:45 PM

I bought the Asus Plus "non-650i" a few months ago for the 2 true 16x slots and because forums were filled with people complaining about the new 680i's crashing and burning. I have no regrets; the board is rock solid (and beautiful to look at).

This was a great article. I do wonder though why people refuse to give up on the ancient floppy drive. Just let it go, man. It's okay.
May 25, 2007 2:00:29 PM

I just didn't like how you slammed the ASUS board for the IDE and floppy connector locations, then no the Abit when they were nearly identical. Otherwise, pretty good article on budget SLI boards. You should do crossfire for the people that care...
May 25, 2007 3:12:10 PM

what the hell?

i dont see how you only got 345 fsb on the p5n-e sli?
i have one myself ans i can easily reach 420 on fsb without voltage changes (i have a e6300).
you didnt mention the main problem with this board, which is heat.
the large heatsink gets very hot, and can barely keep it cool on warm-ish days (i have a fan blowing on it now after several overheats).
the lack of heatsink on the other one (cant remember if its south or north lol) is really a bigger design fault than all the cost cutting that you raved about, as if i touch mine when its on i burn my fingers.....

not a bad board imo and i dont see why it got slammed for cost cutting when you can find it for £80 if you look areound carefully?
http://www.novatech.co.uk/novatech/specpage.html?ASU-P5...
edit: also i forgot to mention that you can ''unlink'' the fsb and ram frequencies and oc them separately in the bios (not shure if this is possible on the other boards?)
lol
just my 2 cents
May 25, 2007 4:59:23 PM

Quote:
It's just a cheap way to get SLI support. You can't do SLI on an Intel chipset without cracking drivers, and even with the crack the 16x/4x split for dual-slot P965 boards wouldn't support it properly.


But am I going to see any appreciable FPS gains in getting 2 cheaper SLI capable vid cards versus one better card close to the same price as the 2? I'm still wondering what the benefits are in getting a half-speed SLI setup over a P965 chipset that I can easily hit 450 mhz with?
May 25, 2007 5:25:18 PM

Depending on the cards you use SLI can be great or it can suck. For example 2 8600GTS cards isn't much better than a single 8800GTS not to mention more expensive. Sometimes programs don't allow SLI so that's a downfall and some games just aren't that good in SLI. The benefit of SLI is you can potentially double your graphical power.

Why would someone choose an SLI board compared to a single card board? The Nvidia 6** chipsets are about 6 months old and the 965 chipset for example is over a year old and typically costs about the same. Don't grill me on that, I know some 680i boards are ~300, but most 6** are around $150.

8x, 8x is better than a single 16x because most cards now days can't even saturate 8x bandwidth. However 8800GTX and above probably do saturate all 8x, but not by much. That's what are 680i boards are for since they have 16x times 2 plus another 8x for a PPU.

To me anything over 60 FPS is really kind of a waste since my monitor at it's standard resolution won't do more than 60 FPS. Another thing I think about is the minimum FPS a card produces in a game should be above 30 FPS since the human eye can't see much more than 20 FPS anyway.

The best way to go is to get the best card you can afford along with an SLI board, because when you get the best you can afford it'll be good enough for now. As time presses on, that card won't have enough power to play your games at your desired FPS so then you can get a 2nd one for a much reduced price. For example last year the 7950GT was not cheap when it came out and now it's at a pretty decent price and since it's performance isn't all that great compared to the G80's you could always get another 7950GT and essetially double your FPS. Typically we never really experience twice the FPS but it's still a boost.
May 25, 2007 7:27:13 PM

Well, like my situation for example. The x1950 PRo is a good card, but it isn't cutting it at a few games. My board is crossfire capable so I have 2 options. Get an 8800GTS for $250 or more, or get another x1950 for $130. 2 x1950 Pros score on average 12FPS less then the GTS 320... which makes more sense at the current time?
May 25, 2007 7:43:25 PM

Quote:
Well, like my situation for example. The x1950 PRo is a good card, but it isn't cutting it at a few games. My board is crossfire capable so I have 2 options. Get an 8800GTS for $250 or more, or get another x1950 for $130. 2 x1950 Pros score on average 12FPS less then the GTS 320... which makes more sense at the current time?

that would depend on whether or not 1 FPS is worth $10 to you (GTS = $120 more and 12 FPS better).

if it were me, id opt for the 2nd x1950 now and then opt for a single 8800 at my next upgrade (when it will be much cheaper). then id buy a 2nd 8800 at my next upgrade (for less than half the price by then). rinse and repeat unendingly.
May 25, 2007 7:49:18 PM

Yeah I'd probably just go for that 2nd card, your PSU is able to handle that for sure. The only thing I'd wonder is if you're planning to move to DX10 content anytime within the next year or so. If that's the case I might just hold out till the 8800GTS 320mb is ~$200. That way you can have your cake and eat it too, and maybe even have some room for more.
a b V Motherboard
May 25, 2007 8:27:11 PM

Quote:
what the hell?

i dont see how you only got 345 fsb on the p5n-e sli?
i have one myself ans i can easily reach 420 on fsb without voltage changes (i have a e6300).


Because you have an E6300. The best speed for the processor they used was 3460MHz at 1.50V. The P5N-E only did 3450. Other boards went much higher because they could force a lower multiplier, where the P5N-E multiplier adjustment wasn't working properly.

Quote:

not a bad board imo and i dont see why it got slammed for cost cutting when you can find it for £80 if you look areound carefully?


Take a look at how much more Gigabyte gives the buyer, for the same price. Twice the power phases, twice the audio connectors, etc.

Quote:

edit: also i forgot to mention that you can ''unlink'' the fsb and ram frequencies and oc them separately in the bios (not shure if this is possible on the other boards?)
You can do that with all modern nVidia chipset boards.
a b V Motherboard
May 25, 2007 8:31:52 PM

Quote:
I just didn't like how you slammed the ASUS board for the IDE and floppy connector locations, then no the Abit when they were nearly identical. Otherwise, pretty good article on budget SLI boards. You should do crossfire for the people that care...


Abit's excuse for moving its IDE connector was to get it out of the way for an "optimized" memory trace layout. Asus' excuse for moving its IDE connectors was so they could chop half an inch off the edge of the board to make the board cheaper, even though that left the end of the board hanging free with no support for inserting DIMMs, etc.

Which excuse do you find more offensive?

Abit gets slammed for putting the floppy connector on the bottom, so does Asus. That sounds fair to me.
a b V Motherboard
May 25, 2007 8:36:27 PM

Quote:
I do wonder though why people refuse to give up on the ancient floppy drive. Just let it go, man. It's okay.


It's not OK if you're installing Windows XP on a RAID array. You have two choices: Creat a new XP installation CD with the needed drivers "slipstreamed" or use a floppy disk. Floppy is easier. You can instal Windows XP then remove the floppy.
May 25, 2007 8:38:24 PM

Just out of curiosity, why wasn't the EVGA 122-CK-NF68 compared?

It was one of the [if not the] best 680i motherboards available two months ago.
a b V Motherboard
May 25, 2007 8:51:45 PM

ECS, EVGA, BFG, and Biostar all used the same board, purchased from nVidia rather than built independantly by the various brands. EVGA later updated its board, so the others are the same as EVGA's first revision.
May 25, 2007 9:13:01 PM

Quote:
Yeah I'd probably just go for that 2nd card, your PSU is able to handle that for sure. The only thing I'd wonder is if you're planning to move to DX10 content anytime within the next year or so. If that's the case I might just hold out till the 8800GTS 320mb is ~$200. That way you can have your cake and eat it too, and maybe even have some room for more.


I know that was my dilemma. I decided to just hold off. I am just the type of person that hates to turn the settings down. It F.E.A.R and Oblivion are the only 2 that bother me right now. Everything else I play is fantastic. I have always wanted to try dual cards just to be in the know, but with DX10 around the corner, it doesn't seem to practical. Of course, the x850s are still holding their ground even with SM2.0...sooo..... it makes it so difficult.

I'll agree, single cards make much more sense for the initial buy... but as crossfire and sli improve (adding a second pro can add up to 80% in a lot of benchies) starts to make sense.....

I think people are willing to pay to have the option most of the time though.
May 25, 2007 9:16:44 PM

Quote:
I think people are willing to pay to have the option most of the time though.


The word "option" is the key.
May 25, 2007 9:24:14 PM

I'd still like to know if the new 45nm chips are compatible with these NV boards.
May 25, 2007 9:36:13 PM

Quote:
"Other dubious cost cutting measures include soldering a traditional BIOS IC directly to the motherboard, which prevents it from being replaced in the event of a bad flash."

- err, you do realise that this isn't actually necessary with an Asus crashfree bios? It's always possible to recover, even after a bad flash, so therefore isn't really an issue at all.

That would be true if it worked 100% but it doesn't.
Many people have had to RMA P5N-E SLIs because they couldn't recover a borked BIOS.
May 26, 2007 4:20:34 AM

Quote:
The race got tighter in applications benchmarks because graphics performance isn't a factor. Correcting for the P5N32-E SLI Plus' extra clock speed gives it only a 100.6% lead over the slowest board, identical to the P6N SLI Platinum and Abit Fatal1ty FP-IN9 SLI.


Not to be a dick, but your words contradict the graph. From the text, you claim the Asus is twice as fast as the slowest board since it has a 100% lead (ie, 100% faster <=> 200% as fast). You also do this on the next graph but correct yourself on the third. Anyways, please fix that since it is misleading.

Just to THG in general: Mobo reviews for a chipset like this are somewhat pointless. They all perform about the same, except for the ECS which has a DESIGN FLAW since it doesnt have PCIe x16. They only use for them is overclocking. That's all we care about. We already know that every board based on the same chipset with a PCIe x16 slot will run FEAR at the same setting on the same CPU with the same RAM and GPU within 1.5% of each other. It's negligible and unnoticeable. It's a waste of your time. 101 or 101.8fps. Who cares, you could make it up after you test one board and be waving your hands. You could be tweaking the OC settings and ensuring stability instead. Also useful are comparisons of chipsets on the same CPU, RAM, GPU config, especially at max stable OC. Here, the chipset will directly affect CPU speed through OC, same for RAM speed.
May 26, 2007 4:48:30 AM

I don't think you meant that as a reply to me did you?

Also I appreciate reviews like this because they might help me decide what board to get even though they all perform similarly I still like to know what's in the box, what kind of performance gain is there with 4 phase compared to 6 phase, are 16 lanes even saturated or are 8 good enough. I know you don't care but you're not the only person on the planet. No offense of course, because I someone agree with you that they'll all perform very similar.
May 26, 2007 7:15:35 PM

I've been trying to pick between the Asus P5N-E and the Gigabyte GA-N650 with A C2D 6420. I've been happy with my old Asus A7V333 (AMD) board but have heard that the P5N-E gets really hot and the heat sink isn't sufficient for the Nvida chipset; plus having the heat sink so very close to the ram can't be good. On the other hand the Gigabyte seems good but from the review it would appear the heat sink also gets very hot. I don't plan on overclocking and most likely will only use an Nvidia 8600 GT card (non SLI) but need to have 2 IDE controllers as I have 2 IDE hard drives and 2 DVD Drives. Any suggestions on which board to get? I’ve only dealt with Via chipsets in the past so these chipsets are all new to me. Any other recommendations? I'd like to get something that has a 1333 FSB to be compatible with the newer Intel C2D chips when they become available for future upgradability.

Thanks
Nick
May 27, 2007 3:48:26 AM

between the ASUS and Gigagbyte I'd choose the gigabyte since it has 6 phase not 4 phase voltage regulators, meaning more stability. Although it may conflict with many aftermarket coolers it's easy to change.
a b V Motherboard
May 27, 2007 4:04:57 AM

Quote:
between the ASUS and Gigagbyte I'd choose the gigabyte since it has 6 phase not 4 phase voltage regulators, meaning more stability. Although it may conflict with many aftermarket coolers it's easy to change.


Asus doesn't even use a 4-phase. That would be ECS. Asus uses a 3-phase.
May 27, 2007 4:11:54 AM

Thanks for the information, I've been out of the loop of this topic; so if I get the Gigabyte am I still going to have problems with a PSU? I'm not planning to overclocking. The PSU that I'm looking at is a Thermaltake 600W.

Thanks,
Nick
May 27, 2007 10:59:17 AM

That PSU should be fine but if you plan to SLI your stuff you'll want more, but you could always get a 5.25" booster later on.
July 19, 2007 12:19:38 AM

I bought the MSI P6N Platinum and have zero regrets. The board is rock-solid, is stable with light overclocking (with an Intel 6700 dual-core and 2GB Corsair 6400 DDR2) and does not seem to run as hot as any of my P4 systems. It comes with more connectors than I can use, takes my inventory of Ultra PATA HDs as well as SATAs and also accepts 1394 and eSATA external drives. I am in heaven. I am not a gamer, but I do a lot of heavy-duty video & sound-track editing with two wide screens and need a fast, stable environment I can depend on. The MSI delivers!
In past systems I had to become an ASUS expert and also tolerated touchy (power) Gigabyte boards - a thing of the past!
!