Motherboard Guide

Gigabyte GA-N680SLI-DQ6 review

Exclusive: Gigabyte GA-N680SLI-DQ6 (NVIDIA nForce 680i SLI)

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Competition has always been fierce in the PC component market and with core logic designs getting more and more advanced, it has become a battleground of outdoing the competition in terms of features. Gigabyte can be credited for bringing full solid capacitor designs into the mainstream, but their advantage only lasted a few months as every other major manufacturer is now switching to similar designs. The heat-pipe based silent chipset cooling has also been beaten to death, though we have seen much refinement in later designs. The GA-N680SLI-DQ6 itself sports a three-piece main ensemble that does its job well enough. The stand out portion is in the new Crazy Cool 2 back panel, which is also connected to its own heat-pipe. However, its practicality is questionable since it limits installation of exotic third party coolers that many enthusiasts would probably have.

So what other avenues of innovation is left? We've noticed that ASUS has been busy with customized motherboards tailored for specific usage models, such as their P5B/TeleSky, P5W DH Deluxe, Vista Editions and Republic of Gamers series. Gigabyte's answer is not to diversify into more subgroups, but to develop the mother of all motherboards, an overkill design with more features than you will ever need today, one motherboard to rule them all - and the GA-N680SLI-DQ6 is that board.

In terms of features, we've already said about as much on the subject that is needed and that should be enough. There isn't another board out there that can match the GA-N680SLI-DQ6 in this respect. However, after our round of though testing, what we would really love to commend Gigabyte on is their excellent implementation of the board's features. At its present state (with regards to our early sample), the board is stable enough to have all its onboard features enabled and have all three PCI slots loaded with legacy cards without any driver issues or conflicts in Windows. If you've ever had to deal with multiple device conflicts in Windows, you will also be extremely grateful when every device installs without problems.

There are still a few quirks that need to be sorted out though, as we have encountered slightly more frequent (than usual) BSODs and abrupt rebooting of the system, but left to the BIOS default settings, the board is completely stable. For an early board sample, we can't really complain.

Performance of the board falls within the accepted confines for the nForce 680i SLI chipset. The GA-N680SLI-DQ6 managed to perform just as well as the rest of the competition, though it does seem strange that Gigabyte locked out one of the timing controls. Gamers will find everything they need for a high-end performance platform, but hardcore overclockers on the other hand might want to give the board a miss. The GA-N680SLI-DQ6 doesn't overclock as well as the other nForce 680i SLI or P965 boards we've tested. Of course, 460MHz is still an extreme number for FSB overclocking, but if you want to push the limits, the GA-965P-DQ6 and the rest of Gigabyte's P965 series will still give you better mileage.

The Gigabyte GA- N680SLI-DQ6 is no doubt a very strong contender for the top enthusiast Core 2 Duo motherboard you can get today. It has multiple improvements over its Intel P965 cousin, the GA-965P-DQ6, but the nForce 680i SLI chipset isn't exactly cheap to implement. With all the added features, an educated guess would probably put the board in the range of US$280 to US$300. This is still very much cheaper than the ASUS Striker Extreme though, so if you are looking at an all-encompassing motherboard to build your ultimate rig, the GA-N680SLI-DQ6 may be it, but it may not be the best overclocker out there.