Examining the EP-9U1697 GLI
Like NVIDIA's nForce4 SLI chipset, the M1697 is pretty much fully featured as it is. The EP-9U1697 GLI motherboard comes with excellent storage features that include dual channel Ultra-ATA 133 support and four native SATA 3.0Gbps ports capable of eSATA, NCQ and RAID (0, 1, 0+1, 5, JBOD) operations. The board also comes with a standard array of USB 2.0 ports, with four available at the rear I/O panel and two more optional headers for a total of eight.
However, we feel that EPoX made a bad move to limit the motherboard onboard audio not only to a 6-channel solution, but also basing it on a regular AC'97 CODEC (Realtek ALC655). Since the support for HD Audio is actually one of the main highlights of the M1697 chipset, it is unfortunate that the motherboard is crippled in this sense. The EP-9U1697 GLI also features a single 10/100 LAN port through Realtek's RTL8201CL PHY, which again undermines the performance and value of the motherboard. Following tradition though, EPoX will be releasing the '-J' version of the board (EP-9U1697 GLI-J) that will come with a PCI Express Gigabit LAN and updated 8-channel audio, but to our knowledge, it will still be AC'97 only.
In the previous page, we briefly mentioned that the EP-9U1697 GLI can actually support SLI and this is true to a certain extent. The EP-9U1697 GLI can be made SLI compatible through ULi's PowerExpress Engine Enabling Driver. We performed some preliminary testing with the board and managed to have SLI running with various ForceWare revisions up to 81.98 and even some leaked betas like 82.12. However, we can confirm NVIDIA has disabled this functionality in the latest official ForceWare drivers (tested up to 84.21) and with its acquisition of ULi, we can more or less forget about new PowerExpress drivers being developed.
So, users of the EP-9U1697 GLI can force an SLI setup in two conditions: Firstly, you will need to use an older ForceWare driver and secondly, you have to go through unofficial sources for a copy ULi's PowerExpress Engine Enabling driver since neither EPoX or ULi will readily provide you with one.