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Asus Striker II Extreme

790i Ultra SLI Motherboards Compared
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We’ve already used Asus’ highest-end SLI motherboard for several months, beginning in May for our June System Builder Marathon. A recent BIOS update, however, has challenged many of our previous observations.

The most noticeable feature of Asus’ top “Republic of Gamers” models is the liquid-cooled Northbridge, which is supplemented by large sinks for those who choose air cooling. These models also include a supplemental VRM sink cooling fan, which cools the Northbridge via an elaborate heat pipe assembly.

The Striker II Extreme features the typical 3-way SLI supporting triple PCI Express x16 slots, but the chipset provides only two of them with PCI Express 2.0 transfer mode. Asus decided to forgo any optional fourth x16 slot, which would have further been limited to x8 transfers, instead routing most of its PCI Express pathways to onboard devices.

Two PCI slots support older low-bandwidth expansion, while two PCI Express x1 slots allow moderate bandwidth to modern cards such as TV tuners and Gigabit Ethernet cards. The top (black) x1 slot supports Asus’ SupremeFX II audio module, as well as PCI Express expansion cards up to seven inches long, while the remaining slots support full-length cards.

Space around the CPU socket is somewhat restricted by the previously-mentioned heat pipe and sink assemblies, making the installation of some oversized coolers difficult. We had no problem test-fitting a huge Zalman CNPS9700 cooler within this space, but Zalman has taken responsible measures to assure adequate hardware access.

Connector placement was chosen fairly well: the power connectors are positioned ideally for large traditional cases, but builders using a case with the power supply at the motherboard’s bottom edge will have some trouble reaching up to the top. Likewise, smaller chassis often have a hard drive cage at the bottom that blocks access to the forward-facing SATA ports.

Ultra ATA cables would have a better chance of reaching the top bays of tall cases had Asus moved the connector up, but there’s simply no room to do that. On the other hand, the floppy header is ideally located directly behind the 3.5” external bay of most mid-tower cases.

The only real difficulty we noticed was the bottom-rear location of the IEEE-1394 FireWire cable header. The cables of most cases will barely reach there, and we’ve seen several Thermaltake models that won’t. It would be easy to blame case manufacturers for this problem, but doing so would ignore the fact that front panels aren’t anywhere near a motherboard’s rear edge.

Asus adds power and reset buttons to the lower edge of its Striker II Extreme, along with a switch that enables or disables a rear panel CLR_CMOS button. The firm continues to ignore the fact that front-panel switch connectors have been standardized for several years, and instead uses its own layout.

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  • 1 Hide
    trainreks , July 31, 2008 7:17 AM
    FINNALY !!!! A Review on the 790i
  • 0 Hide
    doxicity , July 31, 2008 7:21 AM
    Mystery Motherboard = GA-N780Ultra-DQ6?
  • 1 Hide
    Crashman , July 31, 2008 7:42 AM
    This was ALL OF THE AVAILABLE 790i Ultra SLI MOTHERBOARDS: Other graphics brands with NVIDIA reference boards INCLUDING EVGA are selling the same unit as XFX, even with the same BIOS (except for the boot logo). XFX was the only one who cared to send one.
  • 1 Hide
    giovanni86 , July 31, 2008 7:45 AM
    Thats what i was going to say!!! Thank god. Well i guess i made the right choice. XFX 790i, exactly what i am going to buy in the coming month. Just need to save for it XD.
  • 3 Hide
    jaragon13 , July 31, 2008 8:39 AM
    Who would pay four hundred dollars,when you can just buy a P45 for 100-150 dollars which has roughly the same real world experience as an X48 or 790I?
    Nah,I'd rather buy better and more reliable parts-such as power supply,processor,GRAPHICS CARD,and maybe go buy a rifle :p 
  • 6 Hide
    kitsilencer , July 31, 2008 9:37 AM
    $400 for a motherboard? What the hell is wrong with the X48 Express that people would rather consider buying a 790i? And it can't be because of SLI. Makes more sense to buy the X48 and Crossfire.
  • 0 Hide
    Crashman , July 31, 2008 9:39 AM
    jaragon13Who would pay four hundred dollars,when you can just buy a P45 for 100-150 dollars which has roughly the same real world experience as an X48 or 790I?Nah,I'd rather buy better and more reliable parts-such as power supply,processor,GRAPHICS CARD,and maybe go buy a rifle


    If you want SLI you're going to need an SLI motherboard. The article specifically stated that the reference design motherboard was almost as good in many ways as the winning board, but far cheaper.

    The site only has two awards, one is for top value and the other is for "best of the best". It's hard to award a $350 motherboard for top value, but it's not so difficult awarding the "best of the best" even if the price is outrageous
  • -1 Hide
    Crashman , July 31, 2008 9:41 AM
    kitsilencer$400 for a motherboard? What the hell is wrong with the X48 Express that people would rather consider buying a 790i? And it can't be because of SLI. Makes more sense to buy the X48 and Crossfire.


    It does! Well, sorta. If you want the absolute fastest rig on the planet, you're going to need at least two, possibly three, GTX280's. But if you can wait a few days or maybe a couple weeks, you might be surprised at how well a Crossfire set of HD4870X2's can perform using an X48 motherboard.
  • 0 Hide
    jaragon13 , July 31, 2008 12:59 PM
    My point is that,even though you could theoritically have 3/4 GPU's all at once,you won't get nearly as much performance as you'd want.A simple 750I or P45 chipset will do nearly the same job.
  • 0 Hide
    zer00000 , July 31, 2008 1:13 PM
    It is a foxconn board i bet.I just read a review elsewhere with same stuff except it had an x48 chipset."All manner of goodies are bundled with the Black Ops: a 120MM fan, a plastic dry ice cooling pot for the Northbridge, and a Plexiglas "benching table" for open-air use."
  • 3 Hide
    ovaltineplease , July 31, 2008 2:02 PM
    For anyone thinking of grabbing these boards - confirm that the manufacturer has a bios fix for drive corruption if you intend to use RAID; its a known issue.
  • 0 Hide
    sirrell , July 31, 2008 2:22 PM
    Hey i just bought an EVGA's nForce 790i Ultra SLI 775 A1 Version Motherboard can you test this against them please?
    I wanna see how my motherboard performs against these. :) 
  • 0 Hide
    theLaminator , July 31, 2008 2:38 PM
    Why buy a 790i? Just wait for Nehalem and get a mobo with the x58 chipset. It supports SLI and CrossFire. Seems like the way to go to me. http://www.custompc.co.uk/news/604443/intel_x58_chipset_to_support_sli_and_crossfire.html
  • 1 Hide
    Crashman , July 31, 2008 3:42 PM
    sirrellHey i just bought an EVGA's nForce 790i Ultra SLI 775 A1 Version Motherboard can you test this against them please?I wanna see how my motherboard performs against these.


    The EVGA motherboard WAS tested. It's the same motherboard as XFX sells. EVGA has never made a motherboard, it buys them from other companies, and in this case XFX and EVGA buy the SAME motherboard from the SAME company. Even the BIOS is the same, which you'd probably know if you read a little more of the article.

    XFX wants your business more than EVGA, which is why XFX sent a motherboard when EVGA did not. In fact, EVGA wouldn't even respond to the request.
  • -1 Hide
    Crashman , July 31, 2008 3:45 PM
    theLaminatorWhy buy a 790i? Just wait for Nehalem and get a mobo with the x58 chipset. It supports SLI and CrossFire. Seems like the way to go to me. http://www.custompc.co.uk/news/604 [...] sfire.html


    X58 DOES NOT support SLI any more than the X48 did. Either motherboard could use the nForce 200 bridge to let NVIDIA's graphics driver SEE the "Compatibility". It's all driver tricks, as Intel chipsets supported SLI until NVIDIA locked Intel out in the graphics driver.

    So, we might see some X58 motherboards with an nForce 200, and we might also see some that don't have it. All that is well and fine if you're interested in waiting for the "next big thing". But if you want to buy now and instead wait for the next big thing...perhaps you'll see something else on the horizon by then, and never buy anything.
  • 0 Hide
    efranchi , July 31, 2008 4:09 PM
    mmhh...I would like if asus make a "ready-watercooled" motherboard. For someone who want a silent PC, watercooled, is there a motherboard better than evga 790 ultra black pearl?
  • 0 Hide
    surfbum , July 31, 2008 4:17 PM
    just so everyone knows, the "mystery motherboard" is a foxconn board. i was just on their website the other day and they had some information on this board which is no longer there. any they are the only company that has a LN2 cooling solution for the chipset
  • 0 Hide
    Niva , July 31, 2008 4:25 PM
    Looks like both nVidia and Intel are guilty of not providing information to each other. Intel for not giving the specs to run the 45nm chips and nVidia for restricting the driver on Intel chips... that second move by nVidia sounds borderline monopolistic. Surprised they haven't ended up in courts, no wonder tensions are so high between these companies.
  • -1 Hide
    Crashman , July 31, 2008 4:34 PM
    NivaLooks like both nVidia and Intel are guilty of not providing information to each other. Intel for not giving the specs to run the 45nm chips and nVidia for restricting the driver on Intel chips... that second move by nVidia sounds borderline monopolistic. Surprised they haven't ended up in courts, no wonder tensions are so high between these companies.


    Both moves are monopolistic, but you could say NVIDIA delivered the first shot in this war since SLI has been restricted for so long.

    I was surprised about the news that Intel had traded "permission to use the nForce 200 on Intel chipsets" for its new CPU interface: That would mean Intel gets nothing (still has to buy an nVidia chipset component) while NVIDIA keeps on rolling.
  • 0 Hide
    anartik , July 31, 2008 4:56 PM
    Yup... all it took was the mention of the liquid nitrogen tower to know it had to be a 790i version of the Foxconn Blackops. If it does come out I hope it's considerably better and more reliable than their disaster of an X48 board. Hmmm... maybe thats why this board is delayed or cancelled. Just having a notable overclocker jump ship from DFI to Foxconn does not turn a traditional junk maker into a shining star.
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