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More Than Just a 'Paper Launch': 680i Motherboard Comparison, Part 1

BFG nForce 680i SLI

BFG is the flavor of the day for Nvidia reference platform brands. Each reference platform partner is responsible for specifying its own warranty and price policy, and can change the accessory kit to meet the specific demands of its perceived market.

Features Overview

Nvidia wanted a large number of 680i boards to be available at launch and couldn't wait for partners to design their own, so it standardized. With its reputation on the line, Nvidia had to go the extra mile to make sure its reference design was a good one. Strategically placed decals set the BFG nForce 680i SLI apart from other reference boards, but peeling them back reveals the standard Nvidia logo beneath.

Yes, the BFG nForce 680i SLI includes two PCI-Express x16 slots for ultimate SLI performance, plus one x16 slot with x8 pathways to support a third graphics card. Thankfully, it also utilizes the four remaining slot positions to support two PCI and two PCI-Express x1 cards, since all those high-bandwidth x16 slots might otherwise take away from non-graphics expansion needs.

Nvidia's reference design is the best of the three for fitting into snug chassis, as only the floppy header and two of the SATA ports would be blocked by the lower drive cage of such problematic case designs. ATX and ATX12V connectors are in the ideal front and top locations, and the Ultra ATA port is positioned for easy cable management.

While we're doling out praises, we should note that the front panel USB ports are an easy reach for front-panel connector cables, which are located next to the Port 80 diagnostics display. On the other hand, the front-panel FireWire port is located towards the rear of the board between slots five and six, and the front-panel audio header is horrifically located in the lower-rear corner, which is a cabling nightmare for users of top-panel ports. The front-panel switch/LED connector is also oddly located between the Ultra ATA connector and fourth DIMM slot.

The BFG nForce 680i SLI features power and reset buttons on the bottom edge similar to competing designs, which, however, are located even farther back on the board directly beneath the lowest PCI slot. This location proves just as functional for bench testing, but even harder to reach once the board is mounted compared to competing designs.

BFG NFORCE 680i SLI (First Revision)
NorthbridgeNvidia 680i SLI (C55XE)
SouthbridgeMCP55XE
Voltage RegulatorSix Phases
BIOSP21 (11/29/2006)
266.6 MHz (FSB1066)266.6 MHz (+0.0%)
Connectors and Interfaces
Onboard3x PCIe x16 (1 with x8 pathways)2x PCIe x12x PCI2x USB 2.0 (2 ports per connector)1x IEEE-1394 FireWire1x Floppy1x IDE6x SATA 3.0Gb/s1x Front Panel Audio1x S/P-DIF Out1x Fan 4 pins (CPU)6x Fan 3 pins (System)1x Clear CMOS Jumper1x LED "Port 80" Display1x Power Button1x Reset Button
IO panel2x PS2 (keyboard + mouse)2x Network6x USB 2.01x IEEE-1394 FireWire2x Digital Audio In (optical + coaxial)6x Analog Audio (7.1 Channel, Mic-In, Line-In)
Mass Storage Controllers
MCP55XE6x SATA 3.0Gb/s (RAID 0,1,5,10)1x Ultra ATA-133 (2-drives)
Network
Dual NVIDIA Gigabit Network2x Marvell 88E1118-MNC1 PHY
Audio
HDA (Azalia) Controller InterfaceRealtek ALC885 7.1 Codec
FireWire
Texas Instruments TSB43AB22A2x IEEE-1394a (400 Mbit/s)

The BFG nForce 680i SLI places one of its two IEEE-1394 FireWire 400 ports on the back panel, along with a digital optical audio output and full 7.1-channel analog audio outputs and inputs. Like competing designs, it does away with serial and parallel ports, but differentiates itself by also lacking an external SATA add-in controller.

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