Nvidia nForce 650i Ultra Chipset Launch

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Design and Features

Design and Features

As we've mentioned before, the eVGA nForce 650i Ultra we tested is designed by Nvidia and manufactured by eVGA, therefore making it a "reference design" board. Reference designs aren't typically the flashiest or most innovative, but they tend to be very stable and typically have fewer problems out of the gate. The eVGA board we're looking at today is based on a very simple, plain, but efficient design.

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eVGA 650i Motherboard - Angle

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eVGA 650i Motherboard - Another Angle

The board is built on a standard ATX form factor and will fit in any ATX chassis on the market today. The board requires a 24-pin primary ATX connector and an 8-pin secondary ATX connector to run, so this may mean that upgraders will have to purchase a new PSU. These connectors are typically equipped on dual-processor boards, although with single-chip quad-core CPUs becoming more mainstream, having an 8-pin secondary ATX connector on even budget-level boards is common.

The board supports all manners of Socket-775 processors, all the way from the Celeron/Pentium to the latest Core 2 dual and quad-core processors. The board also supports bus speeds up to 1333 MHz, so you're covered for Intel's new FSB speed bump later this year. The area around the CPU socket is amazingly clean and empty, as eVGA does not use any kind of cooling on the VRM modules and keeps the area clear of resistors.

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CPU Socket and Northbridge

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Passive Cooler Closeup

The 650i Northbridge is covered by a passive, anodized aluminum alloy cooler, which is surprisingly effective. Even with passive cooling, we measured the chipset level temperature only rising to about 125F in testing, which is quite moderate for an nForce chipset. However, the Southbridge of this motherboard is left completely un-cooled, and gets surprisingly hot (around 145F max), even within a matter of minutes. Once it hit this level, it did not get any higher, but we would feel slightly more comfortable if there was a small chipset cooler on the Southbridge as well.

The Northbridge cooler isn't completely independent for its cooling abilities though. While a passively cooled chipset is attractive from a silent PC builder's point of view, this cooler is dependent on airflow from the main CPU cooler to keep temperatures in check. In order to keep some amount of airflow, the BIOS of this motherboard forces CPU fan speeds at 75% at a minimum. If you put in a high-end dual core (2.93 GHz or higher), a quad-core processor, or overclock the board, the BIOS will force the CPU cooler to run at full speed at all times, in order to help keep the chipset cool as well. Unfortunately, this means that if you're running a higher-powered system or tweaking it, you'll have to put up with loud fan speeds in order to keep the chipset in check. Of course, if you use third party fans/coolers, you can avoid this issue, but this does tell us that the chipset could likely overheat unless it receives some sort of ambient airflow.

The nForce 650i's memory controller allows for up to 8 GB of DDR2-800 memory over 4 x DDR2 DIMM slots, fairly standard fare. The chipset supports dual-channel memory, but does not support clock speeds over 800 MHz (officially) and does not support EPP memory module auto-configuration (the modules will still work, you will just need to configure them yourself in the BIOS). We would have liked to see the board sport official support for 1066 MHz memory modules, but as the budget market is still using DDR2-667 modules for the most part, having a soft limit of DDR2-800 seems like a reasonable compromise.


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