Nvidia nForce 650i Ultra Chipset Launch
Nvidia based motherboards and SLI technology typically go hand in hand. In the past, SLI technology was only featured on high-end Nvidia platforms, although throughout the years Nvidia has moved this technology down to lower and lower price points. In years past, one would only purchase an SLI enabled motherboard if they had a specific need to run SLI graphics cards. Nowadays, with SLI boards so cheap, even those who don't need this feature will grab SLI-enabled motherboards, simply because there is a small price variance between SLI and non-SLI platforms and the future expansion options are attractive.
This was evident of Nvidia's nForce 600-series motherboards for Intel Core 2 processors. The first board to be released was the nForce 680i SLI, which had two PCI Express X16 PEG slots for SLI, which was followed up later with the low-cost nForce 650i SLI and featured 8 x 8 SLI. A few months later, Nvidia filled in the gap between them with the 680i LT SLI, that featured full 16 x 16 SLI, but a trimmed feature set. In all three cases, even if you didn't need SLI, it was a core feature which was built into every member of this family. Thus, even if you just wanted an nForce 600-class motherboard, you got SLI as well. Even with SLI across the board, Nvidia managed to hit all their target price points, as high-end 680i boards could be had for over $300, whereas budget-level 650i SLI boards can be had for around $125 today.
However, SLI still does add cost to a platform, and while that cost is shrinking, there is still a market out there that would rather save a few dollars than have an additional PCI Express X16 sized graphics card slot and SLI functionality. Thus, Nvidia is finally delivering an nForce 600-series platform sans SLI, called the nForce 650i Ultra. The nForce 650i Ultra is targeting cost conscious gamers and will be competing against Intel's popular 965-series platforms. The 650i is designed to be a platform which offers flexibility and overclockability, but does not have a lot of onboard extras that end users may or may not use. While the feature set may not be impressive compared to high-end 680i platforms, the price tag certainly is. Nvidia is targeting price points of $99 for 650i Ultra boards, and if the past is any indication, we'll be able to see final street prices under this level.
The release of the nForce 650i Ultra, along with the new nForce 680i LT, effectively mark the end of the 650i SLI on the market. While boards are still out there, Nvidia appears to be focusing their efforts into a three-tiered system for the nForce 600-series. nForce 650i Ultra on the low-end, 650i LT SLI for mid-range gamers, and 680i for high-end gamers. We're actually glad to see 8 x 8 SLI implementations, like the 650i SLI was equipped with, being phased out of the market. Half-bandwidth SLI implementations have never been extremely popular and didn't seem like they would last in the long run.
In any case, today we're looking at the latest "Designed By Nvidia" platform, equipped with the 650i Ultra chipset and manufactured by eVGA. The "Designed By Nvidia" nomenclature means that Nvidia is responsible for the board layout, and they hand it to a manufacturer like eVGA or XFX to produce. Thus, the eVGA platform we're looking at today will be similar in performance and features to other "Designed By Nvidia" 650i Ultra boards which are soon to hit the market.
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