Review Index:

ASUS M3N-HT Deluxe Review - nForce 780a SLI for Phenom Arrives

Author: Ryan Shrout
Subject: Motherboards
Manufacturer: NVIDIA

Hybrid Power and other Chipset Technologies

Hybrid SLI and Hybrid Power are the key new features that come to the nForce 700a-series of chipsets.  Hybrid Power works by allowing the integrated graphics core on the chipset to utilize the power of the discrete graphics cards installed to gain the benefits of both worlds: power efficiency and high performance. 

In this configuration one or more discrete GPUs can work together and pass its frame buffer information through the integrated GPU to be displayed while maintaining the performance levels of those one or more discrete cards. 

In the low-power configuration though the discrete graphics cards can be turned off, essentially cutting them off of power supply, in order to lower power consumption by a considerable amount in non-3D intensive applications.

The technology really starts with the mGPU included on the 780a SLI chipset; using it and specifically designed graphics cards (which today are only the 9800 GTX and 9800 GX2) the discrete cards actually perform and render games as they would in any other system.  But rather than taking the resulting frame buffer and outputting it through one of the card's DVI ports, it passes the data through the PCIe bus to the integrated GPU to be displayed on the monitor connected to it.  When not in a gaming mode, the chipset can actually send a power down command to the graphics card through the SMBus to physically shut all power to the device off - fan and all.

The technology itself is very impressive and it works quite well as you'll see in my testing further on.  It is not without complications though: there are potential performance degradations involved with transfer of data from the discrete GPU over the PCIe bus to the integrated GPU for display.  Another major issue is that the integrated GPU is only a single link capable system - that limits the on-board displays to a 1920x1200 resolution that will not meet many demanding users' requirements.

GeForce Boost

Though you won't see tests of GeForce Boost in this article today (we still need to get some of the appropriate GPUs) it is basically equivalent to the Hybrid CrossFire technology we saw earlier in the year from AMD.  With the 780a SLI chipset you'll be able to partner a discrete GeForce 8400 or 8500 card to improve integrated gaming performance. 

PureVideo HD

The full gamut of PureVideo HD technologies has been included on the integrated graphics core of the nForce 700a-series of chipsets. 

Enthusiast System Architecture

The ESA technology is only available on the 780a SLI chipset; we have previously reviewed and discussed our pleasant experiences with ESA several times. 

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