It certainly seems that ULi is starting to show that with the right incentive and the proper R&D money, even a budget orientated chipset company can move its way into the high end market and start to try and take on the king of gaming chipsets right now, which is of course nVidia.
The M1697 showed an impressive performance curve. Not only this but some of the major features that were lacking in the M1695 chipset have been rectified like SLI and Crossfire support, SATA-3G controller and being based on a single chip allows for a cheaper overall cost to the consumer. ULi have hit the nail on the head with the M1697.
Our initial impression from even the reference board is that ULi has a winner - its now really up to the third party Taiwan manufacturers like ASUS, Gigabyte and various others to take up the ULI chipset. Hopefully we will see Crossfire and SLI motherboards with this chipset soon as it will definitely heat up the market and make things interesting.
We really like what ULi are doing lately but we just want to see more motherboard companies take on the chipset and build a real enthusiast motherboard based on the M1697 chipset!
SATA 2.5 controller
Single Chip (Like nForce 4 AMD)
Supports SLI and Crossfire
Cheaper than nForce 4
No Native Gigabit NIC
Rating - 9 out of 10