EVGA 790i SLI FTW Reviewccokeman - September 28, 2008
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The EVGA 790i SLI FTW edition motherboard is an ATX form factor board featuring the Nvidia 790i SLI SPP (northbridge) and MCP (southbridge) for use with Intel socket 775 processors up to and including the 45nm QX series CPUs. The 790i SLI FTW supports up to eight gigabytes of DDR3 memory in a dual channel configuration with speeds ranging from 1066 to 2000MHz. To take care of your graphics needs, EVGA and Nvidia have included three x16 PCIe slots for use with up to three video cards in an SLI (Scalable Link Interface) configuration. EVGA has used a massive cooling system to keep a lid on the notoriously hot northbridge temperatures. This system of heatsinks is connected via heat pipes to help dissipate the heat generated by the motherboard components. Instead of using push pins to mount the cooling assembly EVGA has used screws to provide a more secure solution to the problem of loose underperforming heatsinks.
You have to start somewhere, so let's start with the I/O side of the board. The EVGA 790i SLI FTW has an I/O panel that is chock full of connections to allow you to maximize the usefullness of the board. PS/2 connections for the mouse and keyboard are still in use. Left to right from the PS/2 ports there are the Coax and Optical SPDIF digital sound outputs, an e-SATA connection for that external storage drive, a total of six USB 2.0 ports, one 1394 Firewire port that supports hot plug ins, the 8-channel sound connections and two RJ45 Ethernet ports. Some of the connections will be seen on just about every motherboard out on the market but some are reserved for the better boards, e-SATA being one of those highline features. Seen just behind the I/O connections is part of the cooling system.
Expansion capabilities have been addressed with the EVGA NF 790i SLI FTW in the way of three x16 PCI-E slots that support both a dual card or three card graphics setup. The top two are PCI-E 2.0 compliant and run at x16 speeds while the bottom x16 slot is a PCI-E 1.0 based slot. Additionally, there are two PCI-E x1 slots that can be used for sound cards or any other low bandwidth intensive add-in cards. Two standard PCI slots round out the expansion capabilities. Additional expansion needs are met via the included expansion ports that include an additional 1394 Firewire port, four USB ports to make a total of ten and a serial port. All of these additional devices connect to the pin outs on the bottom edge of the board.
At the bottom edge of the board you will find added connectivity as well as some additional features that make life easier for the enthusiast. From left to right there are the front panel audio connection, the on-board speaker, the reset and power buttons with LED indicators, two SATA connections, the 1394 firewire header, two USB 2.0 headers, the on-board CMOS reset switch, serial port connection and the front panel connections. Just above the CMOS reset switch is the BIOS chip that includes the Phoenix BIOS. The on-board CMOS reset switch, on-board power and reset switches really make life easier for the enthusiast and hardcore bencher. No more getting out the little screwdriver to jump the pins for a startup.
The right side of the board contains most of the drive connectivity. Some of the SATA ports are spread across the board but the majority are on this side of the board. Starting at the bottom, there are two SATA ports pointing off the board to offer clearance to any video cards when run in SLI. Next is the on-board POST code display, or better known as the debug LED, followed by the floppy drive connection. Further up the board you will find the IDE connection as well as the 24-pin ATX power connection and the balance of the SATA connections. Six of the SATA connections are controlled by the 790i MCP and the additional three are controlled by the JMicron controller. The MCP offers up support for Raid 0, 1, 0+1, 5 and JBOD. Between the power connection and CPU socket are the DIMM slots. The 790I SLI FTW supports up to eight gigabytes of DDR3 system memory and officially supports up to DDR3 2000MHz.
While the cooling for the 790i SLI FTW may look like overkill to the average Joe, it is far from overkill. Each of the main heat generating components on the board are covered with a heatsink to provide additional stability and longevity to the board. Since this board falls squarely in the enthusiast class of motherboards, stability when overclocking is paramount. The SPP (northbridge) heatsink uses a fan to draw additional heat from the chip underneath the heatsink while the rest of the heatsinks rely on case airflow to keep the components cool. The MCP heatsink is small in comparison to the reast of the ones on the board. But there is really not much romm to make it bigger with the Tri SLI capabilities of the board, it would just cause interference with the video card. Initially, the heatsinks around the socket give the impression that fitting a large air cooled heatsink into the socket area may prove a little daunting. In reality, there is plenty of room even with a large bolt down heatsink.
Now that we have an idea of what's under the hood, it's time to get this board installed and see just what it has to offer!