|ASUS Striker II NSE nForce 790i SLI Motherboard|
|Reviews - Featured Reviews: Motherboards|
|Written by Olin Coles|
|Wednesday, 28 May 2008|
Page 14 of 14
nForce 790i SLI Final Thoughts
In many ways, I still see myself as an inexperienced consumer. Perhaps its the buzz generated inside enthusiast forums that has me expecting more than a product is capable, but when I was immediately excited by the possibilities of endless overclocks and better performance right out of the box. But as you might have detected from the first few pages of benchmarks, it seemed like my time was really wasted trying to find a performance advantage between the NF790i and X48 chipsets. But perhaps I was looking in the wrong places, because the added functionality of SLI paired to a more energy efficient architecture leave me less concerned about outperforming the competition head to head, and more about the what I can do with the added features.
So there comes a time when you have to stop yourself from buying into the madness. The NVIDIA nForce 790i SLI chipset is excellent for overclocking, thanks to a completely compartmentalized BIOS with a myriad of settings to configure, but it isn't going to beat the less expensive X48 chipset when everything else is equal. What it will do however is deliver an opportunity to access SLI graphics power, and operate on a more power-efficient level during operation. Obviously this is a purpose-driven chipset, and not a mainboard for the every-man.
With all of it's added functionality, I have to admit a small level of disappointment exists because of the missing HyridPower and Hybrid SLI Technology features introduced with the nForce 780a SLI, nForce 750a SLI, and nForce 730a MCPs (media and communication processors); but this is an issue I must take up with NVIDIA, since ASUS had nothing to do with the design. Still, wouldn't have made good sense to give a triple- or quad-SLI setup the opportunity to reduce low-power 2D consumption more than 100 Watts? That would be a true commitment to being 'Green'.
ASUS Striker II NSE Conclusion
Those who know me well, know me to be a very sharp-witted cynic. So it shouldn't surprise ASUS that I gave a chuckle when I first unboxed the Striker II NSE from the shipping material and saw a giant bullet-hole at the center of the retail package. I know, it's all about gaming. But after a decade of system building I find that bullet through my brand new (expensive) motherboard is as far from my Christmas list as it can get. But I digress... presentation is well done for the Republic of Gamers crowd that might enjoy such graphics. For me, it was the Company of Heroes: Opposing Fronts promotional artwork that caught my attention. But this is all just a prelude to the excellent depiction of key component when you lift the velcro-fastened cover. If you were to see this package on store shelves, it might not seal the deal... at least until you see what's inside the fold!
Appearance is key to selling enthusiast products, because once the performance and functionality have reached elite levels the manufacturers must ensure that their product looks the part of a top-shelf offering. ASUS has certainly nailed this objective, because the combination of black PCB with bright copper Fusion cooling components really forces you to take notice. The additional blue and white color combinations work together to enforce the ASUS brand as improve overall appeal. For those who need just a little more than color, ASUS has also included many key components with backlit logo's or LED arrays on the ASUS Striker II NSE motherboard.
NVIDIA has the advantage of having designed and produced generations of precision-built discrete graphics solutions, which is why the nForce 790i MCE is constructed with complete care and forethought. SMD Solid capacitors are an ASUS value-added premium feature, as well as BIOS reset buttons (jumper shunts are so last generation) and LCD panel, and improve the end-user experience. I do have fears of knocking one of these surface-mounted capacitors off of the motherboard during a cramped SLI installation, so perhaps ASUS can further expand their durability with heavy-duty surface soldiering in future versions.
Having a motherboard that scales with your demand is always a well-liked perk, but having that same motherboard also offer excellent energy efficiency and SLI all at once is probably as good as we can expect. But that's where ASUS likes to keep us in awe, and piles on other features like the liquid-cooling functionality of their Fusion waterblock. Even beyond this, you still have the high-definition audio capabilities of the SurpremeFX II PCI-Express 7.1 channel sound card. Not to call it quits after a handful of included premium-level features, ASUS also adds a clip-on cooling fan and Stack Cool 2 backplates. Functionality is something the Striker II NSE offers beyond the level of any X48 motherboard available.
Every action has an equal and opposite reaction; a principal that rings true in the enthusiast hardware industry as much as it does anywhere. What I mean by this, is that you can't have all these great feature amenities without paying the cost. That cost, by the way, scales as high as the motherboard does. Presently the ASUS Striker II NSE nForce 790i motherboard sells at NewEgg for $374.99. Priced at roughly sixty dollars more than the X48 we compared in this article, perhaps the price tag is appropriate for everything you get in the package. Of course, over time you should expect this price to fit the market, but for now this is a brand new premium product on the market.
In conclusion, experienced overclockers will sincerely appreciate the extra attention ASUS has given to the NF790i MCE. Heat-pipe Fusion cooling can also integrate into an existing liquid-cooling system, or can remain stable using air-cooling. The BIOS requires a little more knowledge of voltages than some enthusiasts might be used to, but it otherwise opens doors that competing products can't. Extreme gamers will fall over themselves for the ability to stack video cards into a triple- or quad-SLI array, which offers unprecedented graphical horsepower. The ASUS Striker II NSE isn't made for the entry-level hardware enthusiast, yet it still accommodates their needs and holds their hand for the first overclocking steps. If you're willing to pay the price of admission (which is plausible considering the price of DDR3), ASUS has assembled a motherboard with unparalleled functionality and features. I can recommend the Striker II NSE nForce 790i motherboard to the patient few hardware enthusiasts and overclockers who are willing to hone their settings through tedious trial and error, as well as the gamer who doesn't know the meaning of 'enough'. ASUS has pulled every top-shelf feature they have to their name, and put it all together in this premium Striker II masterpiece.
+ Supports Quad- and Triple-SLI graphics solution
- Expensive motherboard solution
Final Score: 9.0 out of 10.
Excellence Achievement: Benchmark Reviews Golden Tachometer Award.
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