Albatron 680i SLI mainboard review -
Some great features
We already touched the topic a little. A big feature for SLI gamers is the dual 8GB/s bandwidth on two graphics ports. I mean, two times x16 PCIe bandwidth here between the SPP, MCP and the GPU's is undoubtedly fantastic. Next to that, as we've already mentioned, there's another PCI-express 8x slot to be found in-between them ... which could be used for graphics cards.
Another great feature is the fact that you'll get two 1GBit Ethernet ports, which you can actually bind together as one 2 GBit/s connection. Agreed a little excessive and only 0.00001% of you will use it, but it might be a "neat" function to have on a LAN party as a server. Some other good features obviously is the support for 10 USB ports and the HDA multi-channel audio solution from Realtek.
With that being said, let's move onwards to the terminology you just read.
What is SLI (EPP) memory? DDR2 memory (actually pretty much any kind of memory) uses an SPD (Serial Presence Detect) chip to store its JEDEC certified timings and setup specifications on. Now a massive chunk of that SPD chip is being written as ZERO; meaning it's largely unused space. A couple of brainy guys figured... hmm, let's talk to some memory allies and see if we can do something with that extra space and utilize it for our new products to offer our buyers more options.
Since most memory is configured at JEDEC specifications, the standard timings are not exactly enthusiast presets, most of us know, we can do a heck lot more with memory timings and frequency wise then the rather safe JEDEC SPD settings tell the BIOS to fire off on your memory.
Once you overclock the system bus, your memory clock will run faster in MHz also. A higher FSB usually means that we'll need slower timings and/or different voltages, that kind of information could be stored into the SPD in several profiles.
So basically, additional non-JEDEC specified timings related towards a certain clock frequency or related to multipliers/dividers/voltages/drive strengths will be stored on that unused SPD space. This way that memory can be setup in a different way with the click of a button, or even better: Detected by your nForce 680i mainboard and set automatically.
So in short: you can tweak memory really easy, yet this is intended for the folks that have a hard time overclocking themselves. It's a reasonably fool proof method of getting the best out of your DDR2 memory with an NFORCE series 680 mainboard. Obviously you can manage memory timings and everything related to it manually as well. This is just an extra feature. Look out in the stores for memory with a "SLI Ready" logo and I honestly think this is a great feature!
Evidently you already noticed that the nFORCE series 680 can support six native SATA 3Gb/s drives, which previously was four. Why is that number six important you ask? Well, you can make a dual RAID 5 solution as RAID 5 requires a minimum of three drives. Obviously it is recommended that all drives on the system should be of the same size. The more drives you have on the server, the better RAID 5 will perform.
RAID 5 is the version most often recommended. Because the price of disk drives have drastically dropped, the cost of implementing RAID 5 is now within most enthusiast and companies budgets. The only time RAID 5 could fail is if two drives were to fail at the same time. The loss of disk space is basically 100 divided by the number of disk drives. With 3 drives, there is a 33% loss of disk space. With 5 drives, there is a 20% loss of disk space.
[Ed - RAID 5 takes n number of disks, stripes them together, and puts a parity section on each disk. Therefore if one drive went down, the information is still stored on another disk using parity. Performance is very close to RAID 0 / Striping]
Also I should mention the MediaShield 3.0 UI, the RAID unit/SATA connections are hot swappable, meaning you can pull out or insert the plug when the system is powered on. The minute a driver fails or will get unplugged the NVIDIA MediaShield sentinel will pop up and show you what drive/connection has gone bad.
The image shows the hard drive connector ports and provides a visual indication of the location and status of the drives as follows:
- Red rectanglered denotes a failed drive.
- Green rectanglegreen denotes a healthy hard drive.
- Yellow rectangleyellow denotes a member of a failed RAID array, but is not the cause of the failure.
- No color rectangleunconnected ports have no visual indication.
And now then there is the power of RAID 5... if one of the drives fails, the system can continue to run by just writing to one drive. Since you now have swappable drives, you could pull out the bad drive, plug in a new one and the system is back to its normal state. So you have the media shield alerting you what drive is broken, without disabling the system you swap the driver and bam, it's rebuilding the storage array.
Pretty cool stuff as you can now setup two RAID 5 units.
One of the most popular cards is the GeForce 8800 GTS 512MB version, and guess what .. Albatron just released theirs. Time for another Guru3D review !
Albatron 680i SLI mainboard review
The Albatron nForce based 680i SLI even since it's release is an amazing mainboard series. It's simple .. if you want to overclock your PC, chances are large that you at the very least are opting a 680i mainboard with Core 2 Duo processor and some good memory.
Albatron K8SLI mainboard
Albatron decided toe ease the pain a little. They introduced a mainstream SLI mainboard based on the NFORCE 4 SLI chipset that is quite affordable and offers a more than enough of functionality versus excellent performance. Being an affordable mainboard costs can be cut a little. Next to that one of my personal wishes finally was introduced .. as stated you need to enable SLI mode on the mainboard if you are using two GeForce graphics card in a SLI setup, which normally can be done with that little SLI card that sits securely on your mainboard and needs to be be flipped around. Some manufacturers ditched that SLI card and allow that change from the BIOS or even automatically. Albatron is such a company, and this mainboard has a digital switch, you seriously don't have to do a thing. Lovin' it!
Albatron PC6800 - Wise Fan III + Heat Pipe
When I was at the CeBIT 2005 earlier this year, a couple of things caught my attention, and I'm not 'just' talking about the beautiful booth babes here. We see a new trend in the industry, product differentiation , set yourself on another spot in the market to get more reputation and expand your diversity. Albatron, a good partner for Guru3D.com, has always been a trendsetter in that respect. This year when I walked by their booth something caught my attention. A GeForce 6800 with passive cooling ... yet it was not 100% passive. Weird yes ? Basically two cooling technologies combined.