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Appeared on: Monday, April 30, 2007
EVGA 680i LT Motherboard


1. Introduction

EVGA, a well know graphics card manufacturer, recently entered the motherboard arena with the EVGA 680i for Socket 775. This model made quite an impact on users with its performance and overclocking capabilities. However, its high price probably put it in the too expensive category for ordinary users. With the release of the 680i LT, EVGA hopes to bridge that gap and provide a choice for entry level users, while still providing a highly overclockable motherboard and good performance compared with other solutions (Intel P965). In this review, we will examine the EVGA 680i LT SLI motherboard and we will be taking a look at the main differences compared with the EVGA 680i motherboard.

- EVGA nForce 680i LT SLI 775 A1

The EVGA nForce 680i LT SLI is based on Nvidia's 680i chipset, which supports the Intel®Core™2Extreme, Core™2Duo, Pentium®4EE, Pentium®D, Pentium®4, CeleronD processors for Socket (LGA775). It features 1066/800/533MHz(FSB), dual-channel un-buffered DDR2 800/667/533 x 4DIMMs with a maximum of 8GB.

- Main features

Engineered for the Extreme Gamer, NVIDIA nForce® 680i LT SLI™ MCPs deliver the same award-winning NVIDIA nForce 680i SLI performance at a great price. Featuring true dual x16 PCI Express slots, support for NVIDIA SLI™ technology, and substantial overclocking capabilities, the NVIDIA nForce 680i LT SLI is the ideal platform for an extreme gaming system. Unleash the underlying hardware. With comprehensive overclocking tools to push the limits on the front side bus (FSB) speed, the NVIDIA nForce 680i LT SLI MCP has ample headroom for overclocking.

Engineered for the Extreme Gamer

Maximizes performance for the gaming enthusiast

Features and Benefits:

Key Features

NVIDIA® SLI™ Technology: Dramatically scales performance by allowing two graphics cards to be run in parallel. Only available on select PCI-Express models.

NVIDIA Native Gigabit Ethernet: The industry’s fastest Gigabit Ethernet performance, eliminates network bottlenecks and improves overall system efficiency and performance.

NVIDIA RAID: NVIDIA RAID technology implements standard RAID 0, RAID 1, and RAID 0+1 techniques to maximize storage assets. NVIDIA RAID technology additionally introduces many innovations that simplify and optimize the management of RAID features and disk resources.

NVIDIA StreamThru Data Transport System: NVIDIA’s patent-pending isochronous data transport system, providing uninterrupted data streaming for superior networking and broadband communications. StreamThru assists in making streaming video and audio smoother and jitter-free.

Unified Driver Architecture (UDA): Part of the NVIDIA Forceware unified software environment (USE). The NVIDIA UDA guarantees forward and backward compatibility with software drivers. Simplifies upgrading to a new NVIDIA product because all NVIDIA products work with the same driver software.

NVIDIA nTune Performance Application: Enables the easiest, safest, and highest performing overclocking available for NVIDIA nForce-based PCs. Performance wizards allow automatic tuning for the best performance or the quietest operation. Previously known as the NVIDIA System Utility.

USB 2.0: A standard plug and play interface providing easy-to-use connectivity for USB devices.

NVIDIA Firewall Technology: A high-performance, hardware-optimized firewall, NVIDIA Firewall protects your PC from intruders by filtering unauthorized traffic. Integrated into NVIDIA nForce3 and nForce2 MCPs with NVIDIA Gigabit Ethernet, it provides professional-grade traffic inspection capabilities, advanced management features--remote access, configuration, and monitoring--and is easy to use and setup via a user-friendly wizard.

NVIDIA nForce Networking: NVIDIA networking delivers the highest throughput for network transfers and lower CPU utilization. The manageable and stable NVIDIA networking solution results in better networking performance and a lower total cost of ownership.

NVIDIA ForceWare Unified Software Environment (USE)
: Ensures the best out-of-box experience for every user by delivering industry-leading features for graphics, audio, video, communications, storage, and security; one driver for all products; and continual performance and feature updates over the life of the product.

Serial ATA: Next-generation storage technology enables easy-to-install, high-performance, low-power hard drives.

- Full specifications


2. Comparison between 680i and 680i LT

This will be probably the most interesting part. So what are the main differences between Nvidia 680i and 680i LT chipset? Apart from the price range, there are several differences as illustrated in the following table:

Looking at the table closely, we find that:

  1. Price: There is a $50 difference. This means the final board would be cheaper.
  2. Cooling system: the 680i uses heatpipe with optional fan, whereas the 680i LT uses active (fan) cooling.
  3. PCB colour: the 680i uses black colour, whereas the 680i LT uses green
  4. PCI-E: the 680i is equipped with a 3rd PCI-E x16 for physics whereas the 680i LT has only two (2).
  5. LAN: the 680i has two Gibabit Ethernet, whereas the 680i LT has only one (1)
  6. USB ports: the 680i has 10 ports vs 8 ports on the 680i LT
  7. On board devices: the 680i is more complete with LED POST codes and power/reset buttons/speaker

We believe that most users will be covered with what the EVGA680i LT has to offer.


3. The Package

The EVGA 680i LT costs around US$210, making it still too expensive for the ordinary user. Enthusiast users will probably find the price very appealing, compared with other 680i based proposals:

All included accessories are well packaged:

Below is a list of what's in the retail package:

The EVGA 680i LT includes:

The board itself is well laid out and all parts can be easily identified:

Let's zoom in on the CPU area:

We can clearly see the active cooling solution (heatsink+fan) for the northbridge. The nearby components are low profile so there shouldn't be any problems if you decide to use any of the larger 3rd party cooling solutions. The motherboard has four banks for memory modules, providing up to a maximum of 8GB (4x2GB).

What's rather unusual and frankly, not well placed, is the on/off - reset switch connections that connect to the front of the case. They are placed next to the memory banks and if you add the additional power supply connection on the motherboard, it's very difficult to get access. So when your installing the motherboard, remember to connect the wiring from the front panel first, before installing any memory.

Using the Intel default fan, you will not have problems with the nearby northbridge fan. However, with larger coolers, it might be a squeeze. In our case, we tried the Arctic Cooling Freezer 7 Pro. In order to get everything to fit, we had to move the northbridge fan over a bit:

Moving to the south area of the board, we can see the air cooling system of the southbridge and the 2x SATA 2 connectors.:

The EVGA 680i LT SLI supports 2x PCI-E x16 slots. As we explained in a previous page, the EVGA 680i board has three (3) PCI-E lines for a future Physics card. There is enough room for large sized VGA cards so no complaints here:

There are several I/O internal slots available for extra USB, Front Panel connectors, etc. The back I/O panel has the usual connections:


4. BIOS

The BIOS is from Phoenix:

In the Advanced Chipset Features, we can control all the major configurations for the board:

First, let's take a look at the System Clocks:

Here you can set the CPU Multiplier and PCIe MHz speeds. Disabling Spread Spectrum will allow higher overclocking speeds. The next setting (FSB & Memory Config) is probably the most important, since from here you can control the FSB and memory speed/timings:

As with all 680i boards, the FSB and memory can work either linked or unlinked:

This allows very good control of overclocking, since for example, memory MHz could stay low (800MHz), while CPU FSB increases, independently. Auto mode usually selects "Safe" settings. You need to adjust them in order to get the maximum speed. If FSB and Memory work together, you can set the FSB:RAM ratio:

Each setting represents a different FSB:RAM ratio, so be careful what you select:

In the memory timings sub-screen, we can set all known settings. Here, there are two options "Optimal (auto)" and "Expert (manual)":

Passing to the "CPU Configuration" screen, we can disable C1E:

Lastly, system voltages can either be set Auto or manual:

Memory, CPU, FSB and SPP voltages can be set according to the following table.

BIOS Setting Feature:
CPU Clock Multiplier
Auto, 6x-11x in 1X increments
CPU bus frequency
Auto, 400 to 2500 QDR (100~625)
in 1MHz increments
CPU voltage
Auto, 0.80000V to 1.60000 in 0.00625V increments
DRAM voltage
Auto, 1.80V to 2.50 in .10V increments
PCI Express frequency
100MHz~200MHz in 1MHz Increments
NB voltage
Auto, 1.2V, 1.3V, 1.4V
FSB voltage
Auto, 1.2V, 1.3V, 1.4V

Compared to the standard 680i BIOS, the 680i LT cannot control HT and MCP voltages, while the FSB/NB voltages are limited to 1.4V. Hardware monitor is needed to see how hot your CPU runs:

What's rather inconvenient is the fact that the official EVGA flasher works only under DOS(!)


5. Installation

Using Everest Ultimate Edition 2007, we can get more information about the board:

Both North Bridge and South Bridge chipsets unveiled:

The latest BIOS was installed for all tests:

Let's now see how our CPU was identified by CPU-Z:

For comparison we post test results of the following motherboards:


6. Everest Ultimate Edition 2006 - SiSoft Sandra

Click for official website!EVEREST Ultimate Edition is an industry leading system diagnostics and benchmarking solution for enthusiasts PC users, based on the award-winning EVEREST Technology. During system optimizations and tweaking it provides essential system and overclock information, advanced hardware monitoring and diagnostics capabilities to check the effects of the applied settings. CPU, FPU and memory benchmarks are available to measure the actual system performance and compare it to previous states or other systems. Furthermore, complete software, operating system and security information makes EVEREST Ultimate Edition a comprehensive system diagnostics tool that offers a total of 100 pages of information about your PC. The software has several built-in tests for memory and CPU/FPU.

Looking at the test results, we can see that both the EVGA 680i LT has posted results very close to those of the Asus P5N32-E SLI, although in the Memory Read test, the Asus board is evidently faster. It is no secret that an Intel P965 based motherboard cannot compete in the memory tests against a 680i based motherboard.

In the CPU tests, only in the Photoworxx benchmark is there a marked difference where the Foxconn P9657AB was faster. In all other tests, there's very little between the motherboards.

SiSoftware Sandra (the System ANalyser, Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant) is an information & diagnostic utility. It should provide most of the information (including undocumented) you need to know about your hardware, software and other devices whether hardware or software. It works along the lines of other Windows utilities, however it tries to go beyond them and show you more of what's really going on. Giving the user the ability to draw comparisons at both a high and low-level. You can get information about the CPU, chipset, video adapter, ports, printers, sound card, memory, network, Windows internals, AGP, PCI, PCIe, ODBC Connections, USB2, 1394/Firewire, etc. Sisoft Sandra offers a variety of tests for Memory and CPU.

In Sisoft Sandra 2007 SP1 CPU tests, again there's very little difference.


7. PCMARK - 3DMARK

Click for homepage!PCMark®05 is everything you need to reliably and easily measure the performance of your PC and determine its strengths and weaknesses. With PCMark05, you will be able to select the optimal upgrades for your existing PC, or choose the right new PC that fits your specific needs. This easy-to-use product gives you the same tools and knowledge that virtually every professional tester in the industry uses. Below you can see the scores for the 3 motherboards for both the memory and CPU benchmarks.

Looking at the CPU score, the EVGA 680i LT produced the highest PCMark index score.

 

Click for homepage!3DMark®06 is the worldwide standard in advanced 3D game performance benchmarking. A fundamental tool for every company in the PC industry as well as PC users and gamers, 3DMark06 uses advanced real-time 3D game workloads to measure PC performance using a suite of DirectX 9 3D graphics tests, CPU tests, and 3D feature tests. 3DMark06 tests include all new HDR/SM3.0 graphics tests, SM2.0 graphics tests, AI and physics driven single and multiple cores or processor CPU tests and a collection of comprehensive feature tests to reliably measure next generation gaming performance today.

3D Mar06 tests both CPU and RAM as well as the VGA card. The EVGA 680i LT had the highest score with 2113 marks.


8. Science Mark - PovRay - Nero Digital

Science Mark 2.0 is an attempt to put the truth behind benchmarking. In an attempt to model real world demands and performance, SM2 is a suite of high-performance benchmarks that realistically stress system performance without architectural bias.  Science Mark 2.0 is comprised of 7 benchmarks, each of which measures a different aspect of real world system performance.

Pov-Ray s a high-quality, totally free tool for creating stunning three-dimensional graphics. It is available in official versions for Windows, Mac OS/Mac OS X and i86 Linux. The source code is available for those wanting to do their own ports. We used Pov-Ray 3.7beta15 for all tests, since it supports Dual Core CPUs. We used the built-in benchmark as suggested by the developers.

In ScienceMark, the Asus P5N32-E SLI had the best performance, while in Pov-Ray, the EVGA 680i LT notched up the highest score.

- Nero Digital

Nero Digital is one of the most well known Digital formats, offering both ASP and AVC encoder profiles.

For our tests, we used the latest version of Nero Recode v2.3.1.8 as packaged with Nero Reloaded v7.5.0.1. As a source we used a VOB file, of 5 mins duration. We encoded for each processor in two modes (ASP, AVC) with exactly the same preferences (Same bitrate and Dual pass). The encoding time displayed below is what Nero Recode reported. The lower the time taken, the better. All results are displayed in seconds.

All three tested motherboards displayed similar performance with Nero Recode.


9. CINEBENCH -SuperPI

CINEBENCH is the free benchmarking tool for Windows and Mac OS based on the powerful 3D software CINEMA 4D. Consequently, the results of tests conducted using CINEBENCH 9.5 carry significant weight when analyzing a computer’s performance in everyday use.

Especially a system’s CPU and the OpenGL capabilities of its graphics card are put through their paces (even multiprocessor systems with up to 16 dedicated CPUs or processor cores). During the testing procedure, all relevant data is ascertained with which the performance of different computers can subsequently be compared, regardless of operating system. All tests were done with the latest available build (R9.5), and the sum of each subtest is displayed at the following chart, except OpenGL Software & Hardware Lighting tests, since both depend on the installed VGA card.

In CineBench, there's only 2 points difference between the three motherboards.

SuperPI has become an utility to benchmark modern systems. In August 1995, the calculation of pi up to 4,294,960,000 decimal digits was succeeded by using a supercomputer at the University of Tokyo. The program was written by D.Takahashi and he collaborated with Dr. Y.Kanada at the computer center, the University of Tokyo. This record-breaking program was ported to personal computer environment such as Windows NT and Windows 95 and called Super PI.

The software offers up to 32M calculations of PI numbers. For all CPUs, we tested up to 8M calculations and summed them for a total score.

The Intel P965 chipset based motherboard offered best performance. The Foxconn P9657AB had the lowest 8M+4M+2M+1M time (mins).


10. F.E.A.R - Prey

The story begins as an unidentified paramilitary force infiltrates a multi-billion dollar aerospace compound. The government responds by sending in Special Forces, but loses contact as an eerie signal interrupts radio communications. When the interference subsides moments later, the team has been literally torn apart. As part of a classified strike team created to deal with threats no one else can handle, your mission is simple: Eliminate the intruders at any cost. Determine the origin of the signal. And contain this crisis before it spirals out of control.

The game offers up to 1280x960 resolution, which was used for all tests. We maxed all details for CPU and VGA card, except AA/AF and Soft Shadows which were enabled as shown in each graph. Below are the results after using the built-in benchmark test:

- Prey

Prey tells the story of Tommy, a Cherokee garage mechanic stuck on a reservation going nowhere. His life changes when an otherworldly crisis forces him to awaken spiritual powers from his long-forgotten birthright. Abducted along with his people to a menacing mothership orbiting Earth, he sets out to save himself and his girlfriend and eventually his planet.

Prey is serious, dark story, based on authentic Cherokee mythology. Themes of sacrifice, love and responsibility are explored and the story dives into emotional territory not yet explored by similar games. Prey is based on Quake 3 engine and for sure will keep you awake many nights...

For all tests, we used hocbench which offers all benchmarking options through a GUI. We used the built-in Guru3D timedemo and all results are posted below:

s


11. Splinter Cell Chaos Theory - Half Life

A Japanese Information Defense Force is formed to help face modern threats. Deemed a violation of international law and of the Japanese Post-War Constitution, Korea and China become outraged. Secretly, the head of the IDF begins launching information-warfare attacks against Japan and blaming the attacks on North Korea. When the U.S. intervenes, as they are obligated to under Article 9 of the Japanese Post-War Constitution, the U.S. is attacked as well, forcing North Korea to escalate the situation with a pre-emptive invasion of South Korea.

As war erupts on the Korean Peninsula, Sam Fisher must thwart the alliance between the Japanese Admiral, a neurotic computer hacker, and the head of an international paramilitary company in order to prevent the rekindling of a massive world war in the Pacific.

The graphics engine supports Pixel Shader 3 and HDR along with other new effects. We used hocbench which offers all benchmarking options through a GUI. We used the built-in "Guru3D 2" timedemo and all results are posted below:

 

- Half Life 2 Episode 1

The world of Half-Life 2 has amazed everyone with its great story, graphics and Valve's great support. Half-Life 2: Episode One is the first in a series of new adventures created by Valve that extend the Half-Life 2 single player experience. It details the aftermath of Half Life 2 and launches a journey beyond City 17.

Stepping into the hazard suit of Dr. Gordon Freeman, you face the immediate repercussions of your actions in City 17 and the Citadel. Rejoin Alyx Vance and her robot, Dog, to once again aid the human resistance in their desperate battle against the totalitarian alien menace of the Combine.

Episode One exposes Alyx's combat skills and knowledge of City 17. Battle side-by-side with her through Valve's first episodic game, a four-to-six hour adventure of greater density and detail than non-episodic releases.

We recorded a timedemo and used the console to run each motherboard with different visual quality settings. For all tests, we set 1280x1024 resolution with HDR shadows fully enabled.


12. Overclocking

EVGA advertises the 680i LT as an overclocking champion, and to be honest we couldn't disagree with that statement. The BIOS includes all the needed settings to boost the CPU's overall speed, either by increasing the FSB or RAM frequency, synced or not. Without making any special preparations and leaving all voltages at auto, we got a nice overclock increase of 1GHz from our Intel E6600 CPU:

Yes that is correct! The motherboard made the correct option changes and we had a stable system at 3.465GHz. However, note that you need a better cooling system than Intel's default in order to keep CPU temperatures low. We could boot the PC at 3.8GHz with the Auto settings, but couldn't boot Windows. Perhaps with a different cooling system, we could go even higher.

Passing on to the highest FSB we could get, we had some issues. The system wasn't very stable above 415MHz (FSB), with memory un-synced. That troubled us since we had seen reports of other reviewers getting up to 500MHz FSB, perhaps it was our system setup (CPU+memory).

The good news is that most of the EVGA 680i LT motherboard settings can be set from Windows with the Nvidia nTune application:

Click To Enlarge!

Users can set on-the-fly the system FSB and memory timings, and test the stability of the system. Intel doesn't offer such an application for their chipsets, so we can say its an advantage for Nvidia users.


13. Conclusion

Testing for the first time an nVidia 680i LT based motherboard from EVGA, I was very curious to see how its performance would be compared with the Asus P5N32-E SLI, the only non-Nvidia designed 680i motherboard. As the results showed, the performance was very close to that of the P5N32-E SLI in our tests, and in some cases surpassed it. Very good news...

The EVGA 680i LT has some design differences with the EVGA 680i motherboard, which are described earlier in this review. For around $50 less, you get several fewer components (1x LAN, 8x USB2.0), less motherboard LEDs/buttons/cooling system and a different board colour. We didn't have any problem with the "reduced" features, although there are users complaining about the fewer overclocking features (less voltage settings). Of course, this is why Nvidia describes the 680i LT overclocking capabilities as "Great" vs the 680i as "Best". We haven't tested the EVGA 680i so we can't be sure about the difference in performance levels, but they should be close. This board supports all currently sold Intel processors for the 775 socket, Intel® Core™ 2 Duo/ Intel® Pentium® D/Intel® Pentium® 4/ Intel® Celeron® D processors.

The overall design of the board is good. There is plenty of free space around the CPU area, allowing you to install a larger fan. If you do decide to install a really big CPU heatsink (like Arctic Cooling Freezer 7 Pro), the Northbridge fan could be a problem. We had to unscrew it and move it over a bit so that the large fan could fit.

IDE, floppy and SATA connectors are present for HDD and optical storage devices. What we didn't like was the unusual placement of the front panel connections (on/off - reset, etc switches). We had to look for several minutes before we found them huddled close to the memory bank slots. In fact, it is a good idea to make the connections before inserting the memory modules.

The additional power input on the board will help system stability in case of a SLI setup.

The board proved to be very overclockable, with auto settings. We managed to get and additional 1GHz when overclocking our stock Intel E6600 (2.4GHz), without modifying any options in the BIOS. The Auto settings worked very well, but remember you need a better cooling system to keep your system stable at those high speeds. We reached a top roof of FSB 415MHz but other reviewers have reported up to ~500FSB, so you shouldn't have any complains when it comes to the overclocking capabilities. There are several BIOS settings missing, mainly in the voltage settings, that could further help stability...

Ending our presentation, we can say that this board is a good choice for medium level users who want to overclock C2D processors. With auto settings, everything will work beautifully and with the proper cooling system, you could reach high CPU speeds. The retail price of US$210 is not that low, since for the same amount you can buy an Asus P5N32-E SLI, which offers better on-board ports/features and similar performance. Of course, if you can spend the additional $50, you could always get the EVGA 680i board which is more ideal for a power user's needs.

- The Good

- The Bad



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