Nvidia's nForce 680i SLI is the best chipset for Core 2 Duo or Core 2 Quad systems, but only for real enthusiasts and hardcore gamers. The performance differences between the Intel chipsets and Nvidia's high-flyer are only noticeable if you're willing to spend a lot of money on premium components for your nForce 680i SLI platform; this will allow you to exploit its amazing overclocking features and use it to its full potential.
Others can save a lot of money by going after a more economic Intel P965 solution, unless you're interested in state-of the art features. In this case, the Nvidia chipset will also be the better choice, as it comes with some benefits compared to the 975X and P965. There are two feature-rich Gigabit Ethernet ports instead of a plain single interface; better PCI Express resources (true dual x16 PCIe graphics); an UltraATA/133 channel for optical drives or older hard drives (which Intel removed from ICH8 and the 965 family); and the fancy nTune overclocking software assistant.
nForce 680i's downside is its relatively high cost - this also applies to the 975X - and increased power consumption when compared to the Intel chipsets. Gamers with a fondness for either ATI or Nvidia have to make their choice based on dual graphics support: nForce 680i SLI is incapable of supporting an ATI Crossfire dual graphics setup, which requires an Intel 975X or an ATI chipset. Conversely, those won't support Nvidia's SLI.
Our recommendation is simple: Go with the nForce 680i SLI if you want the best platform for Core 2, or stick to the P965 if price/performance is your priority.
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- Graphics & Displays Section