DFI nForce 680i LT-T2R Overclocking Motherboard Review

Motherboards/Intel S775 by thorgal @ 2007-07-19

When DFI comes out with a new motherboard, the enthusiast community is always listening. And when DFI goes a step further and introduces their first NVIDIA based Intel motherboard, they´ve certainly got our attention as well. Is this the definitive 680i nVidia board that overclockers have been waiting for? We test the DFI 680i LT-T2R overclocking potential with Core 2 Duo and Core 2 Quad CPU to find out...

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Specifications and first look

The 680i Chipset

As we already mentioned on the first page, the chipset which sits at the heart of this mainboard is the 680i from nVIDIA. The 680i chipset is the successor of the 570i/590i chipsets which were introduced for AMD first, and for Intel a little later. To reiterate, while the 590/570 family was a great chipset for AMD processors; their Intel variants were far from superior. They were not only the worst performing chipset for Intel, but their OC capabilities were disastrous. Thus nVidia had to come with a new variant of its chipset, so they could keep their name as an enthusiast company intact. Enter the 680i chipset series, but to name the 680i a new chipset is stretching things a bit: the chipset is more evolutionary than revolutionary compared to the 570/590 series. Below you can find the block diagram for the 680i LT chipset:

Madshrimps (c)

To compare things, have a look at the diagram for the "full" 680i chipset and the older 590 chipset (click to open).

Madshrimps (c) Madshrimps (c)
nForce 680i and nForce 590i diagrams

As you will see, the nForce 590 diagram on the right mentions AMD processors instead of Intel CPU's, but NF590 for Intel is just not that different from the AMD version, and hence suffers from the same bottlenecks as the AMD counterpart, not in the least from a limited Front Side Bus (FSB) overclock capacity.

The difference between the 590 chipset and the 680 chipset lies entirely in the SPP (System Performance Processor) chip, which is the Northbridge. The Southbridge, called the MCP (Media and Communication Processor), is in fact the MCP55XE, exactly the same solution as is used in the 500 series. The SPP chip is entirely new though, and has an impressive feature list like 1333 FSB support, SLI/EPP memory support, and theoretical massive overclocking headroom. The full features of the 680i chipset are already well documented around the web, so I won't go into further detail.

One thing does deserve a little further explanation, and that is the difference between the full 680i chipset, and the so called "light" or LT chipset which is used on this DFI mainboard. As you might have guessed from the diagrams, differences are almost non existent. The main one is no doubt the 1200Mhz memory support which is not present in the 680i LT chipset, instead we'll be limited to 800Mhz SLi/EPP support. Another theoretical difference is the FSB scaling of the LT series, which should be "slightly inferior" to the full 680i, or so nVidia wants us to believe. Whether this is true or not, we'll know soon enough. Last but not least, the 680i LT reference design lacks the third PCIe x16 slot (with x8 bandwidth, connected to the MCP). eVGA and nVidia do not offer the third PCIe x16 slot, but as we'll see, it is theoretically there (as is mentioned in the diagram), and DFI has found and added it!

But enough now about theoretical diagrams, time for a first look after unpacking:

Madshrimps (c)

As you can see from the picture below, the Northbridge is still "naked", while the Southbridge carries the trusted fan ensemble which we got to know so well on the nForce 4 DFI boards and which was visible through the plastic of the external package. Most important, note the three PCIe x16 slots, where the third slot operates at x8 speed and is suited for a physics processor card, for example.


Let's have a look at the full specifications of the board now :

  • LGA 775 socket for Intel Core2 Quad, Intel Core2 Extreme, Intel Core2 Duo, Intel Pentium D or Intel Pentium 4
  • Intel Enhanced Memory 64 Technology (EMT64T)
  • Enhanced Intel SpeedStep Technology (EIST)
  • Intel Hyper-Threading Technology
  • 1333*/1066/800MHz FSB
    *Available on CPUs that support 1333MHz FSB

  • NVIDIA nForce 680i LT SLI MCP
    - Northbridge: NVIDIA 680i LT SLI
    - Southbridge: NVIDIA MCP55P

  • Four 240-pin DDR2 DIMM sockets
  • DDR2 533, DDR2 667 and DDR2 800 DIMMs
  • Dual channel (128-bit wide) memory interface
  • Up to 8GB system memory
  • Non-ECC x8 and x16 unbuffered DIMMs
  • NVIDIA SLI-Ready Memory with EPP

  • Award BIOS
  • CMOS Reloaded
  • CPU/DRAM overclocking
  • CPU/DRAM/Chipset overvoltage
  • 8Mbit flash memory

    Power Management
  • ACPI and OS Directed Power Management
  • ACPI STR (Suspend to RAM) function
  • Wake-On-PS/2 Keyboard/Mouse
  • Wake-On-LAN
  • RTC timer to power-on the system
  • AC power failure recovery

    Hardware Monitor
  • Monitors CPU/system/chipset temperature
  • Monitors 12V/5V/3.3V/Vcore/Vbat/5Vsb/Vdimm/Vchip voltages
  • Monitors the speed of the cooling fans
  • CPU Overheat Protection function monitors CPU temperature during system boot-up

  • Karajan audio module
    - Realtek ALC885 8-channel High Definition Audio CODEC
    - 6 audio jacks
    - 1 CD-in connector
    - 1 front audio connector
  • DAC SNR/ADC SNR of 106dB/101dB
  • Full-rate lossless content protection technology
  • S/PDIF-in/out interface

  • NVIDIA MCP55P integrated with Gigabit MAC (Media Access Control) technology
  • Two Vitesse VSC8601 Gigabit Phy chips
  • Fully compliant to IEEE 802.3 (10BASE-T), 802.3u (100BASE-TX) and 802.3ab (1000BASE-T) standards
  • NVIDIA DualNetĀ® technology

  • One IDE connector allows connecting up to two UltraDMA 133Mbps hard drives

    Serial ATA with RAID
  • Six Serial ATA ports supported by NVIDIA MCP55P
    - SATA speed up to 3Gb/s
    - RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 0+1 and RAID 5
  • Two Serial ATA ports supported by Silicon Image SiI 3132
    - SATA speed up to 3Gb/s
    - RAID 0, RAID 1 and RAID 0+1

    IEEE 1394
  • VIA VT6307
  • Supports two 100/200/400 Mb/sec ports

    Rear Panel I/O Ports
  • 1 mini-DIN-6 PS/2 mouse port
  • 1 mini-DIN-6 PS/2 keyboard port
  • 2 S/PDIF RCA jacks (S/PDIF-in and S/PDIF-out)
  • Karajan audio module (6 audio jacks)
  • 1 IEEE 1394 port
  • 2 RJ45 LAN ports
  • 6 USB 2.0/1.1 ports

    I/O Connectors
  • 2 connectors for 4 additional external USB 2.0/1.1 ports
  • 1 connector for 1 external IEEE 1394 port
  • 1 connector for 1 external serial port
  • 1 connector for the Karajan audio module
  • 1 front audio connector (on the Karajan audio module)
  • 1 CD-in internal audio connector (on the Karajan audio module)
  • 1 S/PDIF connector for optical cable connection
  • 1 IrDA connector
  • 1 CIR connector
  • 8 Serial ATA connectors
  • 1 IDE connector
  • 1 floppy connector
  • 1 24-pin ATX power connector
  • 1 8-pin 12V power connector
  • 2 4-pin 5V/12V power connectors (FDD type)
  • 1 front panel connector and 6 fan connectors
  • 1 diagnostic LED
  • EZ touch switches (power switch and reset switch)

    Expansion Slots
  • 3 PCI Express x16 slots
    - SLI technology - 2 x16 slots both operate at full-bandwidth 16 lanes
    - 3rd x16 slot for Physics card operates at x8 bandwidth
  • 1 PCI Express x4 slot
  • 3 PCI slots

  • ATX form factor
  • 24.4cm (9.6") x 30.5cm (12")

    As you can see, as complete as it possibly can be. Now that we have that out of the way, let's have a real close look at the board itself -->
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    Comment from Rutar @ 2007/07/19
    once again DFI is LATE with their board
    Comment from thorgal @ 2007/07/19
    Originally Posted by Rutar View Post
    once again DFI is LATE with their board
    I couldn't agree more.

    However, I must say it, it's a great board to play with. Certainly not the easiest, but a great board for the enthusiast nonetheless.
    Comment from Sidney @ 2007/07/20
    Better late than never
    Comment from Rutar @ 2007/07/20
    Originally Posted by lazyman View Post
    Better late than never
    not if even the engineering monkeys from MSI get 500 FSB for everyone boards with the P35 chipsets for less money
    Comment from thorgal @ 2007/07/20
    Originally Posted by Rutar View Post
    not if even the engineering monkeys from MSI get 500 FSB for everyone boards with the P35 chipsets for less money
    Uhm, yes and no. P35 is not an SLI motherboard, and will never be. But P35 is a great chipset, no doubt about that. Anyway, most of this is in the article's conclusions already
    Comment from jmke @ 2007/07/20
    sli :d

    edit: you were a few seconds earlier
    Comment from thorgal @ 2007/07/20
    Info : Added some extra everest screenshots for reference memory scores
    Comment from jmke @ 2007/07/20
    default 7500mb/s read, with OC over 11000mb/s, 46% increase, not bad
    Comment from geoffrey @ 2007/07/21
    Great review T
    Comment from blind_ripper @ 2007/07/21
    nice review thorgal (big daddy)
    say are u comming to lanscape , wanted to talk over msn but evry time no awnser
    Comment from jmke @ 2007/07/22
    this is not the place to contact him for off-topic matters PM or email the big daddy