ECS NF650iSLIT-A Motherboard Review - High Features for a Low Cost
Layout and Features
NVIDIA's nForce 680i series of chipsets has been getting all the attention lately; the 680i SLI and 680i LT options have been seen in motherboards from guys like Asus, EVGA, BFG and others with overclocking features and abilities above pretty much any other chipset on the market. For enthusiasts, if they wanted the best Intel-platform chipset for them, the NVIDIA 680i was the way to go.
But maybe that's not the only option on the table. Another chipset that didn't get a whole of attention at its launch time is NVIDIA's nForce 650i SLI. As the name implies, this is a low cost SLI-capable chipset. Want to see the basic features? Here you go:
This table, compiled by NVIDIA some time ago, compares the 650i SLI to the Intel 965 chipset but also leaves one of their own features unlisted. The nForce 650i SLI chipset supports 1333 MHz FSB processors as well as upcoming Penryn processors even though the FSB is listed at 1066 MHz. SLI support is built on a dual x8 PCIe connection, there is a single Gigabit Ethernet connection, four SATA connections with RAID built in and HD audio too.
In fact, the only features that the 650i SLI chipset lacks when compared to the more expensive 680i chipset is x16 PCIe SLI support or optional third PCIe slot, SLI memory technology, a pair of USB and SATA ports and an additional Gigabit Ethernet port. The 680i does have a total of 46 lanes of PCIe available to it while the 650i is limited to 18 lanes, forcing either an x8, x8, x1, x1 configuration or x16, x1, x1 configuration.
The ECS NF650iSLIT-A Motherboard
Our first retail board using this chipset arrived a while ago, though with all the GPU madness happening lately, we unfortunately had to push this article back. I say "unfortunately" because it turns out the board is a good performer and overclocking with a surprisingly cheap cost.
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This is a full ATX motherboard that has a solid design and feature set despite its low cost and just a couple nagging issues.
The area around the processor socket is very clean and with the low rise capacitors that ECS used here most cooling solutions should fit on it without an issue. The closest component is probably the north bridge heatsink in terms of spacing but all the clearances seemed to be standard to me.
The four colorful DIMM slots on the board support DDR2 memory up to 800 MHz officially though overclocking the system will obviously move the speeds up into the 1000 MHz speed without much of an issue. The nForce 680i chipsets have a feature called "SLI Memory" that supports modules up to 1200 MHz directly in the BIOS but in my experience this is simply a shortcut for what the chipset can do with some manual tweaking anyway.
Close by the external connectors on ECS NF650iSLIT-A are a pair of auxiliary power connectors; one 4-pin Molex for additional juice going to the SLI graphics system and the 4-pin ATX 12v connection. The only issue I have here is that the 4-pin ATX connector doesn't have enough space to plug in an 8-pin ATX connector if that is what your power supply shipped with. I had to use an included 8-pin to 4-pin adaptor to solve the problem so hopefully your PSU included one as well.
The expansion configuration on the motherboard consists of dual x8 PCIe slots for graphics cards and SLI support, two x1 PCIe connections for other devices as well as three legacy PCI slots. Keep in mind if you use the secondary PCIe x8 slot that your top PCI slot will NOT be usable.
Here we see the south bridge covered by a very small heatsink surrounded by the features it supports. First up, we have four SATA 3.0 Gb/s connections that support RAID 0, 1, 0+1 and 5 modes. There are two included IDE channels which is an improvement over the current P35 and 975X chipsets from Intel that will only support a single IDE channel thus limiting your number of devices to two.
The board has risers for additional USB 2.0 ports (up to 8) but no Firewire.
The external connectors on the board include the standard PS2 ports, a serial port, four USB 2.0 ports and the Gigabit Ethernet jack. Audio support is actually pretty impressive with analog output for all 8-channels as well as both coaxial and optical digital audio outputs.
The included extras might leave a lot to be desired, though for many, the lightness of the packaging might be seen as simply one less pile of junk to store. ECS has included a single IDE cable and a single SATA cable, a case back panel, SLI bridge, SLI bridge retention arm and basic installation instructions. All this does is help ECS keep the cost of this board down for the consumer in the hopes that you will already have the cables and accessories you need.