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ASUS Striker II NSE nVidia nForce 790i SLI Motherboard Review

ASUS Striker II NSE nVidia nForce 790i SLI Motherboard Review  - PCSTATS
Abstract: For enthusiasts seeking the highest performance, most fully featured motherboards that any Taiwanese motherboard manufacturer is able to produce, one need look no further than ASUS' Republic of Gamers brand. The ASUS Striker II NSE motherboard continues in this tradition.
 82% Rating:   
Filed under: Motherboards Published:  Author: 
External Mfg. Website: ASUS Mar 02 2009   Julian Apong  
Home > Reviews > Motherboards > ASUS Striker II NSE

NVIDIA 790i SLI Chipset & Power Draw Tests

For the Striker II NSE motherboard ASUS has selected Intel's Socket 775 processor and NVIDIA's nForce 790i SLI chipset. The nForce 790i SLI is NVIDIA's answer to Intel's X48 Express chipset, increasing the amount of PCI Express 2.0 bandwidth, adding support for DDR3 memory at 800/1066/1333/1600MHz speeds, and allowing as many three compatible NVIDIA video cards to operate together in Scalable Link Interface (SLI) mode.

This gaming oriented chipset also matches the Intel X48 Express chipset in terms of compatibility, with Front Side Bus (FSB) speeds of 800/1066/1333 and 1600 MHz supported, matching most of the high-end Intel Core 2 Duo and Core 2 Quad processors available on the market today. The biggest difference between this chipset and its slightly-older brother, the 780i SLI chipset, is the change to DDR3 memory and an increase in FSB speed from 1333MHz to 1600MHz.

The counterpart to the nForce 790i SLI System Platform Processor (SPP, called the "Northbridge" on other chipsets) is the 570 Media and Communications Processor (MCP, or "Southbridge"). The nForce 570 SLI MCP has been around for a very long time, but still gives support for six SATA II ports, enough bandwidth for a PCI Express (1.0) x16 slot, and an IDE controller for legacy PATA storage devices.

Socket 775 Chipset Comparison Chart
Intel X48 Express Intel X38 Express NVIDIA 790i SLI and 790i SLI ULTRA NVIDIA 780i NVIDIA 680i
CPU LGA775 Core 2 Quad LGA775 Core 2 Duo LGA775 Core 2 Duo LGA775 Core 2 Duo LGA775 Core 2 Duo
Front Side Bus (FSB) 1600/1333/1066/800 MHz 1333/1066/800 MHz 1600/1333/1066/800 MHz 1333/1066/800 MHz 1066/800/533 MHz
Memory Support Intel XMP Intel XMP SLI-Ready (SLI-Ready with EPP 2.0 on 790i Ultra chipset) SLI-Ready SLI-Ready
Dual Channel Memory Support DDR3 2000/1800/1600 (XMP)
1333/1066/800
DDR2 1066/800/667
DDR3 1333(unofficial)/1066/800
DDR3 2000 OC/1800 OC (790i Ultra Chipset) DDR3 1600 OC/1333/1066/800MHz (790i) DDR2 1200OC /1066OC /800MHz
DDR2 1200OC/800/667/533
Maximum Memory Capacity 8GB 8GB 8GB 8GB 8GB
Integrated Graphics - - - - -
PCI Express 2.0 x16 2 2 2 ( + 1 PCI Express 1.0 x16) 2 ( + 1 PCI Express x16 1.0) 3 PCI Express x16 1.0
Storage Intel Matrix Intel Matrix NVIDIA Media Shield NVIDIA Media Shield NVIDIA Media Shield
SATA/IDE HDD 6/0 6/0 6/2 6/2 6/2
SATA Speed 3Gb/s 3Gb/s 3Gb/s 3Gb/s 3Gb/s
RAID 0, 1, 5, 10 (with ICH9R) 0, 1, 5, 10 (with ICH9R) 0, 1, 5, 10 (with 570 MCP) 0, 1, 5, 10 (with 570 MCP) 0, 1, 5, 10 (with 570 MCP)
Audio High Definition Audio (Azalia) High Definition Audio (Azalia) High Definition Audio High Definition Audio High Definition Audio

The ASUS Striker II NSE differs slightly from the Striker II Extreme. The former is based on the NVIDIA 790i SLI chipset, while the latter uses the nForce 790i SLI Ultra chipset. The difference between the two chipsets is the adoption of Enhanced Performance Profiles revision 2.0 (EPP 2.0), which provides support for 1800 and 2000MHz DDR3 memory when overclocked. Aside from that the chipsets are identical.

Similar to the NVIDIA 780i SLI chipset, the 790i SLI and 790i SLI Ultra chipsets support three-way SLI. This is made possible by having the nForce 790i SLI SPP provide two PCI Express 2.0 x16 lanes, while the 790i SLI MCP (the southbridge) has another 16 lanes of PCI Express 1.0 bandwidth.

Once compatible NVIDIA video cards are placed into all three slots and SLI mode is activated, they can then split up rendering duties between them, with each card rendering a portion of the overall graphics information sent to them, and then combining that information together into the final graphics you see on your screen.

Having more than one GPU work in tandem is always a tricky proposition, since splitting the workload between two cards involves GPUs either rendering alternate frames between them, or each GPU rendering a portion of the screen at a time. Neither of these solutions allows multiple GPUs to balance the entire graphics workload evenly, which is the cause of imperfect performance scaling.

To further keep the load balanced between cards, NVIDIA cards have to share the same architecture, clock speed and memory size in order to be placed in SLI mode, meaning users must pair the same model of card together.

Finally, there's the actual practicality and cost of triple SLI to consider. The cheapest three-way SLI compatible videocard is the Geforce 9800GTX, which costs around $200 CDN ($160 USD, 120 GBP ). A power supply of 1100W or greater is recommended by NVIDIA, which means another $300, and that's not counting the costs of the ASUS Striker II NSE itself, which is another $320.

All told, be prepared to spend at least $1000 CDN to get three videocards rendering in SLI mode. It's also important to have a case that will keep three large and powerful videocards cool enough for you to do any gaming on. These are pretty common caveats of any killer gaming rig, but it's important to keep them in mind before you start building a new system.

Power Draw Comparisons

Here's how the ASUS Striker II NSE motherboard stacks up in real life against a couple different motherboards. We have no way of directly measuring motherboard power draw, so PCSTATS measures total system power draw and compares that in CPU-loaded (max value recorded in Prime95) and idle states (at Windows Vista desktop). An Extech 380803 AC Power Analyzer and A-PFC compliant PC Power and Cooling 750W power supply were used for these tests.

PCSTATS Benchmark ReportSystem Power Draw Tests: (PCPower 750W PSU)
Desktop Idle (W) Points Ranking
ASUS Striker II NSE (NF 790i SLI 333/1066 GF 8800GTS 320MB) 138
ASUS P5E3 Premium/wifi (X48 333/1333) 140
Gigabyte GA-X48DS5 (X48 333/1066) 151
Gigabyte GA-EP45-DQ6 (P45 333/1066) 145.5
ECS P45T-A (P45 333/800) 146
Biostar TPower I45 (P45 333/1066) 126.6
ASUS P5Q-EM (Intel G45 200/800 C2D E6750 GF 8800GTS 320MB) 131
Prime95 Stressed (W) Points Ranking
ASUS Striker II NSE (NF 790i SLI 333/1066 GF 8800GTS 320MB) 176
ASUS P5E3 Premium/wifi (X48 333/1333) 187
Gigabyte GA-X48DS5 (X48 333/1066) 197
Gigabyte GA-EP45-DQ6 (P45 333/1066) 197.7
ECS P45T-A (P45 333/800) 196
Biostar TPower I45 (P45 333/1066) 183.8
ASUS P5Q-EM (Intel G45 200/800 C2D E6750 GF 8800GTS 320MB) 182

[*This figure represents total system power consumption in Watts, either with the system at idle, or the peak value recorded while running Prime95.]

We were expecting the ASUS Striker II NSE to be a bit of a power hog, but it's actually one of the most power-efficient motherboards that PCSTATS has tested in a while. While idling this system stays under other premium motherboards, like the ASUS P5E3 Premium, and when the processor load gets cranked up the Striker II NSE is actually the most efficient motherboard in terms of power draw.

Let's go in for a closer look at the ASUS Striker II NSE motherboard, fully exposed and ready to be tweaked, then it's time for overclocking.

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Contents of Article: ASUS Striker II NSE
 Pg 1.  ASUS Striker II NSE nVidia nForce 790i SLI Motherboard Review
 Pg 2.  Motherboard Layout and features
 Pg 3.  Enthusiast Friendly Accessories
 Pg 4.  — NVIDIA 790i SLI Chipset & Power Draw Tests
 Pg 5.  Motherboard Highlights Photo Gallery
 Pg 6.  Overclocking Test Report & Test System Specs
 Pg 7.  Motherboard Benchmarks: Sysmark 2007
 Pg 8.  Motherboard Benchmarks: Sandra 2008 Processor
 Pg 9.  Motherboard Benchmarks: Sandra 2008 Memory
 Pg 10.  Motherboard Benchmarks: PCMark Vantage
 Pg 11.  Motherboard Benchmarks: 3DMark Vantage, 3DMark06, FEAR
 Pg 12.  Striker II NSE Enough for Enthusiasts?

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