XFX nForce 790i Ultra SLI Motherboard

XFX, one of NVIDIA's biggest partners has released its 790i Ultra SLI motherboard. We compare to MSI and ZOTAC variants.
| Jul 9, 2008 at 11:00 pm CDT
Rating: 91%Manufacturer: XFXforce

Introduction

XFX nForce 790i Ultra SLI Motherboard
IntroductionToday's adventure takes us back once again to NVIDIA, which seems to be getting a lot of press lately. The introduction of the GTX200 Series GPU has brought NVIDIA new fame with impressive scores. And with the option of SLI, NVIDIA has another ace up its sleeve; the only chipsets to support it.NVIDIA has held back licensing of SLI compatible chipsets from its competitors; namely Intel and AMD, especially since AMD now owns ATI Graphics. To this end, if you want an SLI setup, you either have to get an NVIDIA based chipset or get one of NVIDIA's GX2 graphics cards.Today we have been sent XFX's version of the 790i Ultra SLI based motherboard. Just about all of NVIDIA's graphics partners are now making motherboards based on these chipsets in order to get good pricing on the graphics chips. How well will the XFX board perform? Let's take a look and see.

Specifications

Specifications of the XFX nForce 790i Ultra SLICPUSupports Intel Core 2 Series (Extreme/Quad/Duo)Supports Intel Pentium Dual Core SeriesSupports Intel Pentium D SeriesSupports Intel Pentium 4 5xx/6xx SeriesSupports Intel Celeron D 3xx/4xx SeriesSupports Intel 45nm Series CPUChipsetNVIDIA nForce 790i SLI UltranForce 790i SPP NorthbridgenForce 790i MCP SouthbridgeHyper Transport @ 2GHzSystem Memory4 DDR3 SDRAM 240pin DIMM SocketsSupports DDR3-667/800/1066/1333/1600/2000MHz64/128Bit Dual ChannelSupports up to 8GB Total Memory (4x 2GB)Bus Frequency100/133/200/266/333/400MHz Internal400/533/800/1066/1333/1600MHz ExternalP4 Bus ArchitectureExpansion Slots3 PCI Express x162 PCI Express x12 PCIConnectivity1 Parallel ATA port supporting 2 IDE Drives7 Serial ATA ports1 e.SATA port2 Gigabit Ethernet PortExpansion Ports1 PS2 Keyboard Port1 PS2 Mouse Port10 USB 2.0 Ports (6 rear accessible, 4 via expansion bracket)6 Stereo Audio Ports1 RCA SPDIF Port1 Toslink SPDIF Port1 e.SATA Port2 RJ45 Ethernet Ports2 Firewire ports (1 rear accessible, 1 via expansion bracket)

The Box and What's Inside

Package and Contents
XFX nForce 790i Ultra SLI Motherboard
First off, we start with our package. XFX has gone with the green and black colour scheme for its box, that being NVIDIA's colour scheme for its company. Very little information is contained on the front of the box.
XFX nForce 790i Ultra SLI Motherboard
On the back however, there is quite a bit of info including a full colour photo of the board. From this photo we can see that the board is a direct NVIDIA reference board, so unless we have a unique package inside to surprise us, there isn't anything that stands out over what we've seen in the past.
XFX nForce 790i Ultra SLI Motherboard
Being the first board we have received from XFX, we can't gauge the usual reference material. However, the box did come with a very thick user manual and a unique door hanger for the serious gamers; nice idea.
XFX nForce 790i Ultra SLI Motherboard
XFX nForce 790i Ultra SLI Motherboard
XFX nForce 790i Ultra SLI Motherboard
Moving along; we come to the cables that are included for the onboard headers. XFX has gone for an extremely well rounded cable setup. For the mass storage controllers; out of the seven SATA ports the board is equipped with, six data cables are provided. A single IDE cable with two drive support and one FDD cable make up the data portion. For power adapters, there are three molex to 2-port SATA power cables, giving you a total of six drives supported out of the box. Great work XFX; even the ZOTAC reference board was a bit lacking in cables.
XFX nForce 790i Ultra SLI Motherboard
Lastly on the list are the PCI cover brackets, and there are two in total. One of them contains four USB 2.0 ports whilst the other contains an extra FireWire port.

The Motherboard

The Board
XFX nForce 790i Ultra SLI Motherboard
XFX nForce 790i Ultra SLI Motherboard
As we stated from the picture on the back of the board, XFX has done nothing unique to its board to distinguish it from the NVIDIA reference design. When compared to the ZOTAC board, it looks like a clone; this is because both come direct from NVIDIA's reference platform; nothing more, nothing less. The board is produced on a 6-layer full ATX PCB measuring 24x30cm. The placement of the power and onboard connectors corresponds to the reference design. The 24-pin power connector along with the IDE port are both located at the top right hand edge behind the four DDR3 memory slots. The 4/8 pin power connector is located between the CPU Mosfets and the PS/2 port header at the top left hand corner of the board.
XFX nForce 790i Ultra SLI Motherboard
Like all of the reference 790i boards, the XFX comes equipped with a 6-phase voltage regulation system. The heat-pipe assembly that cools the Mosfets, SPP and MCP does make it a little tight around the CPU area for larger aftermarket coolers, but not impossible. We managed to get our OCZ Vanquisher installed and removed; it did take a bit of extra fiddling around, but it is possible.
XFX nForce 790i Ultra SLI Motherboard
At the back of the board, the I/O ports are arranged how NVIDIA specifies its reference boards, including a single eSATA port. Thank god NVIDIA is supporting eSATA, even on its reference boards.
XFX nForce 790i Ultra SLI Motherboard
Last on the agenda are the expansion possibilities this board offers. First off, there are three PCI Express x16 slots coloured green. The top and middle slots run on the SPP and are PCI-E 2.0 compliant. The bottom slot is run off the 790i MCP and is only PCI-E 1.1 spec'd. However, all three slots are full speed rated at x16. Two PCI Express x1 slots sit above and below the first PCI Express x16 slot. However, if you plan to use an SLI setup or even some of the dual slot cards, the PCI-E slot between the top and middle PCI-E x16 slots becomes useless. Lastly, we have two PCI legacy slots. In the way of additional controllers, the board is fitted with a Marvell PCI Express SATA controller running the red SATA port near the rear I/O ports as well as the eSATA port and a Texas Instruments PCI controller giving the board its FireWire support.

BIOS and Overclocking

BIOS
XFX nForce 790i Ultra SLI Motherboard
When it comes to the BIOS, XFX has gone the exact same design, look and features as the ZOTAC board; no surprises here as they are both direct reference designs.
XFX nForce 790i Ultra SLI Motherboard
BusesFSB (QDR): 400 - 2800 in 1MHz IncrementsMem (DDR): 400 - 2500 in 1MHz IncrementsPCIe x16_1 & x16_1: 100MHz to 200MHz in 1MHz IncrementsPCIe x16_3: 100MHz to 200MHz in 1MHz IncrementsSPP to MCP Ref Clock: 200MHz to 500MHz in 1MHz IncrementsVoltagesCPU Core: 0.5125v to 2.0v in 0.0125v incrementsCPU FSB: 1.2v to 1.55v in 0.05v incrementsMemory: 1.5v to 2.275v in 0.025v IncrementsnForce SPP: 1.3v to 1.55v in 0.05v incrementsnForce MCP: 1.5v to 1.75v in 0.05v incrementsGLTVRef Lane 0: -155mV to +155mV in 0.05mv incrementsGLTVRef Lane 1: -155mV to +155mV in 0.05mv incrementsGLTVRef Lane 2: -155mV to +155mV in 0.05mv incrementsGLTVRef Lane 3: -155mV to +155mV in 0.05mv incrementsOverclocking
XFX nForce 790i Ultra SLI Motherboard
With all the overclocking options in the BIOS available to us, we managed to hit a healthy 558MHz FSB which is a mere 2MHz higher than our ZOTAC motherboard. So, nothing exceptional here; we had to tweak all the voltages to get this speed out of the system, so it's running as high as it could do. Even with more time we doubt we would see much if any increase from the FSB on this board.Important Editor Note: Our maximum overclocking result is the best result we managed in our limited time of testing the motherboard. Due to time constraints we weren't able to tweak the motherboard to the absolute maximum and find the highest possible FSB, as this could take days to find properly. We do however spend at least a few hours overclocking every motherboard to try and find the highest possible overclock in that time frame. You may or may not be able to overclock higher if you spend more time tweaking, or as new BIOS updates are released. "Burn-in" time might also come into play if you believe in that.

Test System Setup and Memory Performance

Test System Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo E8500 @ 3.16GHz (9.5x333MHz)Memory: 2x 1GB DDR3-1600XMP OCZ (Supplied by OCZ)Hard Disk: 500GB Western Digital SE16 (Supplied by Western Digital)Graphics Card: MSI GeForce 8800GTS 640MB (Supplied by MSI) Cooling: GIGABYTE 3D Galaxy II (Supplied by GIGABYTE)Operating System: Microsoft Windows Vista SP1Drivers: nForce Driver 15.17, Forceware 175.16Now we move into our benchmarking tests. Today we have the 790i SLI trio in the form of the ZOTAC 790i SLI, MSI P7N2 Diamond and of course the XFX 790i. Both ZOTAC and XFX are reference clones, where MSI has made some changes with pleasing results.Our stock tests were done with the memory set to 1333MHz which is the highest JEDEC recognised settings. When we ran our overclocked setups, the MSI P7N2 Diamond was at 561MHz, ZOTAC at 556MHz and the XFX at 558MHz. The memory as always is set to 1:1 to prevent it being the bottleneck.EVEREST Ultimate EditionVersion and / or Patch Used: 2006Developer Homepage: http://www.lavalys.com Product Homepage: http://www.lavalys.comBuy It Here
EVEREST Ultimate Edition is an industry leading system diagnostics and benchmarking solution for enthusiasts PC users, based on the award-winning EVEREST Technology. During system optimizations and tweaking it provides essential system and overclock information, advanced hardware monitoring and diagnostics capabilities to check the effects of the applied settings. CPU, FPU and memory benchmarks are available to measure the actual system performance and compare it to previous states or other systems.
XFX nForce 790i Ultra SLI Motherboard
XFX nForce 790i Ultra SLI Motherboard
First, we start with the memory performance. Here the ZOTAC and XFX tie it up; no discernable differences at stock or when overclocked. MSI only gets a couple of extra marks here, but nothing to really say it's a clear winner.

Benchmarks - PCMark Vantage

PCMark VantageVersion and / or Patch Used: UnpatchedDeveloper Homepage: http://www.futuremark.comProduct Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/benchmarks/pcmark-vantage//Buy It Here
PCMark Vantage is the first objective hardware performance benchmark for PCs running 32 and 64 bit versions of Microsoft Windows Vista. PCMark Vantage is perfectly suited for benchmarking any type of Microsoft Windows Vista PC from multimedia home entertainment systems and laptops to dedicated workstations and high-end gaming rigs. Regardless of whether the benchmarker is an artist or an IT Professional, PCMark Vantage shows the user where their system soars or falls flat, and how to get the most performance possible out of their hardware. PCMark Vantage is easy enough for even the most casual enthusiast to use yet supports in-depth, professional industry grade testing.
XFX nForce 790i Ultra SLI Motherboard
PCMark puts all three setups dead even at both stock and overclocked settings; so, there's no real advantage to anyone here.

Benchmarks - SYSmark 2007 Preview

SYSmark 2007Version and / or Patch Used: 1.04Developer Homepage: http://www.bapco.com/ Product Homepage: http://www.bapco.com/products/sysmark2007preview/>
SYSmark 2007 Preview is the latest version of the premier performance metric that measures and compares PC performance based on real world applications.SYSmark 2007 Preview extends the SYSmark family, which has been widely accepted by IT Managers, PC OEMs, press and analysts worldwide to support Windows Vista™. SYSmark 2007 Preview allows users to directly compare platforms based on Windows Vista™ to those based on Windows XP Professional and Home.The new release also incorporates numerous new features and enhancements such as an improved GUI allowing streamlined start-up and run along with a heads-up-display (HUD) and automated error reporting.SYSmark 2007 Preview is an application-based benchmark that reflects usage patterns of business users in the areas of Video creation, E-learning, 3D Modeling and Office Productivity. This new release includes a robust and refreshed set of applications.
XFX nForce 790i Ultra SLI Motherboard
SYSmark once again doesn't show us any difference between the three platforms. It's making us hard to recommend any one reference board over the other here, as they are all one and the same it seems.

Benchmarks - Adobe Premiere Elements 3.0

Adobe Premiere Elements 3.0Version and / or Patch Used: 3.0Developer Homepage: http://www.adobe.com Product Homepage: http://www.adobe.com/products/premiereel/Buy It Here
Our test with Adobe Premiere Elements 3.0 is performed with a raw two hour AVI file. It is then compressed into DivX format using the latest version codec. We measure the time it takes to encode and then record CPU usage.
XFX nForce 790i Ultra SLI Motherboard
Premiere Elements also locks it up. MSI gets a small shaving off the encode time, but nothing spectacular.

Benchmarks - HDD Performance

HD TachVersion and / or Patch Used: 3.0.1.0Developer Homepage: http://www.simplisoftware.comProduct Homepage: http://www.simplisoftware.com/Public/index.php?request=HdTach

Last updated: Apr 7, 2020 at 12:27 pm CDT

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