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SBM 3: High-End System

Motherboard: Asus Striker Extreme

We retained the nForce 680i SLI powered Striker Extreme for this month's high-end build, mostly because we needed SLI capability. Intel's upcoming X38 may eventually challenge the 680i SLI for single-card or crossfire-mode enthusiast markets, but neither Intel nor NVidia has announced any agreement that would allow SLI to function on non-NVidia chipsets. As it stands, NVidia's graphics drivers are intentionally crippled to prevent SLI from working on competing chipsets, and the firm's next high-end SLI chipset is still a few months away from its expected release date.

The 680i SLI features the full 16 lane pathways on two of its three PCI-Express x16 slots, for the ultimate bandwidth needed to get the highest performance from our graphics cards. Other chipsets typically provide only x8 mode when dual graphics cards are used, and even if NVidia were to allow SLI mode on Intel's highly-overclockable P35 Express chipset it would suffer from an x4-pathway slot on the second card!

One of the most feature-packed models from an elite crowd of 680i SLI motherboards, the Striker Extreme was also the highest overclocker of our 680i comparisons Part 1 and Part 2. The combination of a top overclocking board and the best-available processor should allow this high-end build to slaughter the competition in tomorrow's overclocking shootout, but it shouldn't have any problem impressing most builders even at its standard speed.

Once disparaged by value-overclockers as a bloated $400 board, the Striker Extreme is now available for a far more reasonable $300.