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- NVIDIA would try to recapture the magic of its Intel SLI Edition chipsets with the release of the nForce 700 series late last year but it was only in January 2008 that we saw the first of these, a ASUS P5N-T Deluxe based on the nForce 780i. The reasons for the upgrade were the usual, the nForce 600 series was getting long in the tooth and Intel's own chipsets were dominant, especially when it came to the Core 2 processors. The lack of PCI Express 2.0 and DDR3 support made the nForce look behind the times.
Unfortunately, there wasn't much that was groundbreaking in the new nForce 780i. It was more like a 680i in disguise. There were indeed more PCI Express lanes and 2.0 support, along with 3-way SLI and even support for 45nm processors. But these were hardly any changes in the North and Southbridge and new additions like the PCI Express 2.0 was actually enabled through a third chip, the nForce 200.
As we concluded at the end of our review, "the nForce 780i SLI is really a band-aid solution by NVIDIA to update their current offering with a product that can support PCIe 2.0 and their 3-Way SLI configuration before the nForce 790i SLI."
- This shift to the nForce 790i Ultra SLI chipset finally occurred in March and it basically brought NVIDIA back into the present era, with DDR3 memory support, native 45nm processor support and a FSB of 1600MHz. Two SKUs were available, the 790i Ultra SLI and 790i SLI, differing in only support for NVIDIA's enhanced memory standard (EPP 2.0).
The wait however was quite worthwhile and "NVIDIA nForce 790i Ultra SLI truly lives up to the hype." For those who needed SLI and wanted to get Intel's latest, the only answer would be NVIDIA and the 790i series looks to be just what the enthusiasts ordered.
- The high-end X38 would get a minor refresh too in 2008 with the X48, which had a very low profile, probably due to the fact that it was such a minor improvement (official support for native 1600MHz FSB being the only difference) that Intel was not too keen to trumpet that. We did get a look of that with the Gigabyte GA-X48-DQ6 in February.
- Finally, the middle of 2008, just like the previous year, saw the debut of Intel's mainstream chipset. This time, it was the Intel P45 chipset, which improved over the P35 by having PCI Express 2.0 support, a memory bump to DDR3-1333 and a newer ICH10/10R Southbridge. Also, CrossFireX, with up to 8x lanes for each PCIe graphics slot is now possible. We saw that with the ASUS P5Q3 Deluxe.
With a significant improvement over the competition, this new mainstream chipset looked set to stay for a while, especially as it is expected to be Intel's last LGA 775 chipset before the company moves to its next generation micro-architecture. Consumers however may not upgrade that soon. Additionally, some of ASUS' new features like Memory OC Charger and the older but still golden ExpressGate were around to make it quite the modern motherboard.
- The last quarter of the year also saw the introduction of Intel's new microarchitecture and as usual, a supporting chipset saw light. This was a high-end enthusiast oriented chipset using a new socket, the LGA 1366-based Intel X58, which was paired with a ICH10R Southbridge. DDR3 was the standard for this chipset, along with both SLI and CrossFireX support, making it a very versatile board for enthusiasts. However, the major change was the integration of the memory controller on the motherboard with triple channel DDR3 memory support. We managed to review some of these expensive new toys and here's what we found.
The exciting new Intel X58 is a fitting finale to our ten year coverage and there will no doubt be more changes in this field. We too will continue to keep you up to date on the latest developments.
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