NVIDIA nForce 680i SLI Preview
Features and Benefits: MediaShield and LinkBoost
NVIDIA also updated the storage capabilities of the nForce 600 family of chipsets. The nForce 680i SLI in particular has six native SATA ports capable of 3.0Gb/s transfer rates. The nForce 650i SLI and 650i Ultra however, have only four.
Having six SATA ports all under the control of NVIDIA's MediaShield gives these 680i SLI chipset a couple of new capabilities. Having six SATA ports gives users the ability to configure multiple independent RAID arrays, like dual 3-disk RAID 5 arrays, for example, or even large six-disk RAID arrays. The MediaShield 3.0 application itself has even gotten a bit of a facelift to unify its look with NVIDIA's graphics, networking, and nTune interfaces. NVIDIA also plans to incorporate drive specific tuning into MediaShield, which should offer performance enhancements to those with supported drives. As of now Western Digital's WD1500 appears to be the first and only drive that NVIDIA has specifically optimized for. Lastly, to simplify the installation and configuration of RAID arrays, Microsoft's upcoming Windows Vista should ship with drivers and support for MediaShield.
Another feature incorporated into the 680i SLI is called LinkBoost. With LinkBoost, key interfaces between the SPP, MCP and PCI Express graphics cards are clocked higher than normal, which then increases the bandwidth between the components. We hesitate to call LinkBoost sanctioned overclocking, because the higher clocks have been certified by NVIDIA and there is still headroom for overclocking available when LinkBoost is enabled. For now, LinkBoost is only supported on the nForce 590 SLI and 680i SLI when used in conjunction with GeForce 7900 and 8800 GTX/GTS graphics cards. The HT link between the SPP and MCP, and the PCI Express links between the graphics cards and the chipset are increased by 25% with LinkBoost, for effective clock speeds of 1250MHz and 125MHz, respectively. The higher clocks result in an increase of available bandwidth from 8GB/s to 10GB/s. We should note, however, that the HT link between the CPU and the chipset is NOT affected by LinkBoost, so the CPU and its HT link are not affected in any way. LinkBoost is designed to offer more bandwidth between the chipset and graphics cards autonomously.