For nvidia SLI enthusiasts, the nForce 700
series is the last opportunity to mate a 45nm Intel socket 775 processor
with multiple nVidia Geforce SLI-compatible videocards. This should make the
nForce 780i chipset, and motherboards built on it, a worthy upgrade
for existing nForce 680i users.
It's should, but it doesn't. Not that there's
anything wrong with the nForce 780i chipset, it's
just that nothing has really changed - yes, there's three-way SLI, and it
conforms to the Enthusiast System Architecture specification, but aside from
that there's no discernible difference in performance from the 680i chipsets
enthusiasts just installed a generation ago.
The introduction of three-way SLI, while neat from a
technophile standpoint, requires a disturbingly pricey investment. The cheapest
card capable of running three-way SLI is the 9800GTX+, which currently retails
for around $230, which means you have to buy $700 worth of video cards in order
to max out a $225 CDN ($210 USD, £100 GPB) motherboard.
This gets worse when you factor in the price of a 1200W power supply that can
power three power-hungry video cards - that's another $400 to get your system up
and running! Add in a case that can hold all those cards and keep them cool, and
you're looking at well over a thousand dollars as the minimum price for a
three-way SLI gaming system.
These ridiculous costs don't equal up to the performance
gains they bring - few videocards scale linearly in SLI mode, and the results
taper off even more when three videocards are trying to run at the same time.
Much like the quad-crossfire rigs PCSTATS has tested,
multiple GPUs can easily be bottlenecked and actually slow down system
performance when compared to a single GPU solution. While some games do show a
real benefit from more than two GPUs running together, the increase in
performance is far from consistent.
So that leaves the Asus P5N-T Deluxe motherboard in
a strange position. It's a well-designed, thoughtfully feature ladden
motherboard, as PCSTATS has come to expect from Asus. It's three PCI
Express x16 slots run in full x16/x16/x16 mode, though only
two of the tripplet are PCI Express 2.0 compliant. Overclocking
results with an Intel Core 2 Duo E6750 proved respectable, but not
However, since the ASUS P5N-T Deluxe's killer feature is three-way SLI is
realistically too expensive for most enthusiasts to consider, and limited
to too few videocards to make it a reasonable upgrade, it's hard to recommend
the going down the ASUS P5N-T Deluxe all guns blazing. And if you don't,
then its asking price of $225 compared against other dual-videocard SLI
solutions based on the less expensive nForce 650i, 680i and 750i chipsets
is a little hard to swallow. That, while coupled with the ASUS P5N-T
Deluxe's average overclocking abilities and benchmark performance scores, means
that nVidia SLI fans might do better for themselves by holding off till
Intel Core i7 motherboards that support both SLI and Crossfire arrive en
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