Seven 650i SLI Motherboards Compared

ECS NF650iSLIT-A: Cheap Ride

Some parts are fast and cheap, others are simply cheap. The ECS NF650iSLIT-A isn’t just the least expensive board in this comparison, it’s also the least equipped.

Features Overview

The most impressive thing about the cheapest board in this 650i SLI motherboard comparison is that it includes three features lacking on at least one of the more expensive boards : A full seven expansion slots to ease upgrades, six analog audio connections to fulfill multi-channel audio capabilities and socket-mounted BIOS to ease chip replacement in the event of a bad flash.

ECS is very conscientious about including expected features in its low-cost 650i SLI motherboard, even if it skips nearly every add-in found on competing products. The NF650iSLIT-A doesn’t even have a PCI-Express mode selector card, and instead locks its users into x8 pathways for both slots even if only one is to be used. Anyone keeping an SLI pair of graphics cards from a previous configuration will note that other 650i SLI solutions will also force them into x8 mode when using two cards, but single card users will lose at least some graphics performance in the name of cost savings.

Slot placement is nearly ideal for upgrades too, since the majority of previous-generation graphics cards use single slot coolers and the majority of previous-generation accessory cards use the older PCI interface. Graphics cards that use dual-slot coolers on the other hand will be a little too close for comfort.

Traditional case designs will favor the upper front edge ATX connection, but the 4-pin ATX12V lead will need to be routed around or over the CPU cooler. Other connectors favoring traditional case designs include the floppy connector located just below the ATX connection, and the four Serial ATA connectors located low along the front edge.

More points against ECS’s layout decisions include Ultra ATA, USB, and Front Panel Audio connectors all placed at the bottom of the board. Most builders will need to stretch the wide Ultra ATA cable all the way from the bottom of the board to the top of their case to reach an optical drive, and cases with front panel audio jacks near the top will force builders to stretch the cable diagonally to the bottom rear corner of the board.

A final design oddity is DIMM placement approximately one-half inch lower than on most other board designs, which causes latches to crowd the back of graphics cards mounted in the upper x16 slot. Removing memory with a long graphics card installed is usually possible but often tedious.

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ECS NF650iSLIT-A (Revision 1.0)
NorthbridgeNVIDIA nForce 650i SLI (C55 SPP)
SouthbridgenF430 (MCP51)
Voltage RegulatorFour Phases
BIOS07/03/07 (03/07/2007)
266.7 MHz (FSB1066)266.7 MHz (+0.0%)
Connectors and Interfaces
Onboard2x PCIe x16 (both with x8 pathways)2x PCIe x13x PCI2x USB 2.0 (2 ports per connector)1x Floppy2x Ultra ATA4x Serial ATA 3.0Gb/s1x Front Panel Audio1x CD Audio In1x Fan 4 pins (CPU)3x Fan 3 pins (System)1x Clear CMOS Jumper
IO panel2x PS2 (keyboard + mouse)1x RJ-45 Network4x USB 2.01x Serial Communications Port2x Digital Audio Out (S/P-DIF coaxial + optical)6x Analog Audio (7.1 Channel + Mic-In + Line-In)
Mass Storage Controllers
MCP514x SATA 3.0Gb/s (RAID 0,1,5,10)2x Ultra ATA-133 (4-drives)
NVIDIA Gigabit Network1x Marvell 88E1116 PHY
HDA (Azalia) Controller InterfaceRealtek ALC883 7.1 Codec

An ordinary-looking panel selection is enhanced only by the presence of digital coaxial and digital optical S/P-DIF audio outputs. ECS provides twice the digital and twice the analog audio connections of at least one rival product, removing instead the Parallel port. Both the NF650iSLIT-A and the unnamed "competing product" leave bare solder points where the respective connectors were to be placed.

The NF650iSLIT-A retains a Serial port, PS/2 Keyboard and Mouse ports, with one RJ-45 network and four USB 2.0 connections filling remaining space.

Thomas Soderstrom
Thomas Soderstrom is a Senior Staff Editor at Tom's Hardware US. He tests and reviews cases, cooling, memory and motherboards.