nVidia's nForce 680i LT SLI in detail
Initially you'll be able to buy the new 680i LT SLI motherboards for around $199 USD (they are currently retailing on US sites for $200 USD compared to around $230 - $300+ USD for the fully fledged 680i SLI boards) that are "Designed by nVidia" - this simply means that non-manufacturing motherboard and VGA companies are given the board designed and engineered by nVidia, manufactured by another company, and then finally put into a nice looking retail package with some fancy stickers and cables by companies such as eVGA and BFG.
First off nVidia has done a bit of remodelling with the latest chipset by changing a few of the major features of the 680i series. The Northbridge of SPP as nVidia calls it has been redesigned, it generates less heat but still requires active cooling, no heat pipes are recommended in the reference design of the board which will help reduce costs, unlike the 680i SLI. Being designed for mainstream society, nVidia has naturally stripped down on features.
nVidia has removed the SLI ready memory 1200 support from the 680i LT series and only recommends up to 800MHz SLI ready memory. While this may seem like a downward step, overclocking is still supported, and SLI 1200 memory should still work. It's just not validated for this board, however being nVidia ready memory, it should work without any problems. A full PCI Express x16 lane system remains on the SPP to control the first graphics card slot.
Overclocking wise the 680i LT SLI uses the same bus system as the 680i, no changes have been made so it should overclock just the same as the 680i chipset, unfortunately we don't have a board at this time to test, so we can't validate these claims but we will soon.
Most of the changes to the 680i LT SLI have been made on the MCP or Southbridge for those of us who still refer to it old school. First off nVidia has placed the second PCI Express x16 slot for SLI setup on the MCP like all of its full speed SLI setups. One of the main features that make the 680i unique is not included and that is Link Boost Technology. When you install two GeForce PCI Express graphics cards into a full-speed x16 system on 680 chipsets, the PCI Express clocks that control the graphics cards are raised 25% as is the Hyper Transport Link that connects the SPP to the MCP to increase the data transfer rates.
Where we get to the differences between the 680i and 680i LT is what's physically missing. First off no physics here (not that it's even available yet anyway) - on the 680i SLI, nVidia provisions for a third PCI Express x16 slot that runs at x8 speeds which is added for a third graphics card. With the third card you can either have it run as a physics engine or for two additional monitors. If you don't want to run a third graphics card you can use this slot to run PCI Express cards that require a x4 or x8 bus such as Highpoint's high-end Rocket RAID controller cards.
Next on the missing list is dual Gigabit networking. The 680i SLI MCP has two Gigabit Ethernet controllers built in. The 680i LT only supports a single Gigabit LAN chip, for most this is more than enough - I can honestly say I have never found the need for a second Gigabit LAN connection on a single system but some may miss it.
Last on the missing list are USB ports. 680i SLI runs with 10 USB port support out of the factory. 680i LT only has 8 ports, which I personally would find a bit constricting - all 10 ports on my current system are all used and I require a 4 port USB hub to run all of my USB devices. For the audiophile your in luck as the Azalia HD audio standard remains for 7.1 audio support and quite a good job nVidia has done of it on the 680i SLI. You're also missing some other basically onboard features such as LED post codes, onboard power and reset buttons and error message speaker.
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