Our Summary and Conclusion
Performance Summary: Overall, the new nForce 780i SLI chipset performs right on par with or slightly better than the nForce 680i SLI. All three of the platforms we tested traded top benchmark scores however and by all rights, can be considered evenly matched. In some benchmarks, the additional memory bandwidth afforded by the X38's higher-clocked DDR3 RAM gave it an edge over the competition, but in other tests the lower-latency DDR2 used on the nForce systems put them in the lead. Ultimately, the performance between the platforms is very similar.
In the end, the nForce 780i SLI isn't much different than the nForce 680i SLI. But changes to the nForce 780i SLI's motherboard design, which make it compatible with Intel's latest processors and the addition of the NF200 chip, make it a more attractive product overall. Of course, we would have preferred to see a new SPP with native PCI Express 2.0 support instead of a third major chipset component, but power consumption was only up slightly over the 680i SLI and performance was similar; so there's only so much nitpicking we'll do. A new SPP with DDR3 memory support will likely arrive in the not too distant future anyway, that will probably not require the NF200 for PCI Express 2.0 support. That product will be the true next-gen nForce. Until that time comes though, the nForce 780i SLI is NVIDIA's top of the line currently.
The nForce 780i SLI is what it is - an evolutionary update to an existing platform technology that adds new features like ESA, PCI Express 2.0, and increases compatibility. The nForce 780i SLI's performance was good throughout testing and our test system was rock-solid and stable until we overclocked it well beyond factory specs. If you're looking to build a high-end SLI-capable rig around one of Intel's latest 45nm processors, the nForce 780i SLI is the answer for now.