Way back in late 2006, NVIDIA simultaneously unveiled a new flagship GPU and desktop chipset that became the foundation of what NVIDIA was calling the "ultimate gaming platform". At the time, the combination of a pair of GeForce 8800 GTX graphics cards and an nForce 680i SLI-based motherboard was clearly the most powerful hardware combo available for gamers. And here we are, nearly a year and a half later in early 2008, and still that combo is tough to beat; truly a testament to NVIDIA's engineering abilities and execution.
Since the introduction of that version of NVIDIA's ultimate gaming platform, the company's product stack has changed quite a bit. New GPUs have hit the scene in all segments of the market and desktop chipsets for both Intel and AMD platforms have been released as well. But NVIDIA never went all out and released a full-on update to their proposed ultimate gaming platform, complete with a new flagship graphics card and nForce chipset - until today that is.
Rumors abound for the last few months regarding the GeForce 9800 GX2 and nForce 790i SLI Ultra, and today we can finally show you what all the fuss has been about. This is a big day for NVIDIA. A new desktop chipset complete with a DDR3-based memory controller is here, along with a dual-GPU powered monolith of a graphics card that is NVIDIA's most powerful to date. Together, the combination of a GeForce 9800 GX2 (or GX2s), with the nForce 790i SLI Ultra chipset, redefine the high-end of desktop PC gaming hardware. Read on for the details and to see just what 2008's version of the ultimate gaming platform can do...
Quad-SLI is Coming: The nForce 790i SLI Ultra with a pair of GeForce 9800 GX2 cards
First, let's talk a bit about the nForce 790i SLI Ultra. Although the main focus of this article will revolve around this chipset, NVIDIA is actually releasing a few others as well. The nForce 790i SLI and 750i SLI will also be debuting soon, with similar capabilities and feature sets. As has historically been the case with NVIDIA's desktop chipsets, as you move further down the product stack, prices go down, and a few high-end features are stripped away. In this case, the 750i SLI is a DDR2-based chipset, capable of 2-way SLI, with a single Gigabit Ethernet connector and PCI Express 2.0 support by way of the NF200 chip.
The nForce 790i SLI and 790i SLI Ultra, however, are more difficult to differentiate. Essentially, the two chipsets are identical. The Ultra version of the chipset is more vigorously binned and is capable of DDR3 memory speeds in excess of 2GHz. The non-Ultra 790i SLI is officially supports DDR3 memory speeds as high as 1333MHz. Other notable features to the 790i SLI chipset include 60 lanes of PCI Express connectivity with native gen 2 support, with 10 USB ports, ESA, Media Shield, and First Packet support, in addition to three-way and Quad-SLI support.