Of all the BIOSes I have used over the years, I'm pretty sure the nForce 680i LT is my all-time favorite. The ASUS P5N32-SLI Premium nForce 590 has a feature-rich BIOS, as does the 680i LT, but the 680i LT's layout just feels more right. It's something that isn't easily put into words, but just by using navigating it, the attention to detail and time invested in layout is obvious.
NVIDIA has a top notch BIOS with all the power and features of any other board I've used and it's all together in a way that makes perfect sense. The main screen is pretty standard, but once you get into the power-user areas, the difference is noticeable.
BIOS Main Screen
Underneath the "Advanced Chipset Features" menu of the BIOS, the following menu is given, breaking down overclocking and other advanced options in a way that feels very smart.
BIOS Advanced Chipset Features Screen
Apart from the System Voltages menu – which has the voltages for the CPU (adjustable in 0.00625v increments), RAM and PCIe bus among others – most users will likely spend the majority of their time on the System Clocks screen pictured below (sorry about the fuzziness).
BIOS System Clocks Screen
This screen is where the front-side bus and memory speeds are set. There is a choice of keeping the CPU/RAM linked and a number of ratios including 1:1, 3:2 and 5:4 are available for choosing. There is an unlinked mode that allows users to adjust the FSB and affect the CPU speed independently of the RAM speed (but still adjust the RAM speed, also independently of the FSB). Each is available for adjustment in 1MHz increments and board takes care of any fractions.
Well, it’s official: my overclocking drought is officially OVER! Since the MSI nForce 570 SLI I had for my Athlon 64 X2 4600+ to the ASUS P5N32-SLI Premium nForce 590 for this same Core 2 Duo E6600, I have not been able to successfully overclock my CPU or RAM.
This EVGA 680i LT has alleviated my worries of never being able to overclock again. And boy did it allow for a spectacular show. The board is touted as supporting a 1333MHz FSB (333MHz quad-pumped) and so I thought I would push my CPU up to that to see if the board would in fact run at advertised speeds.
My CPU is running comfortably at 3.0GHz – a 600MHz overclock – at stock voltages. I finally understand the extreme excitement everyone was experiencing with the Core 2 Duo CPUs. I’m using the stock Intel heatsink/fan that came with the CPU as well and while it’s idling a tad warm for my liking (46C-51C), under a full-load from Prime95, the temperatures never exceeded 60°C! I recently acquired a Zalman CNPS9500 and will be installing it once my new case arrives. I expect the temperatures to drop significantly.
CPU-Z CPU at 3.0GHz
Not only was I able to successfully overclock my CPU, but this amazing Super Talent memory has finally shown its true capabilities. With stock speeds of 800MHz effective at CAS 4-4-3-8 1T timings, this RAM definitely has the potential to scream along at higher speeds.
Look at Super Talent’s list of available RAM modules, their speeds and CAS settings, I decided to shoot for the moon and try to achieve the same speeds as their 1066MHz memory.
With the motherboard’s FSB set for 333MHz, I set the CPU/RAM ratio at 5:4 and the RAM was bumped to 1066MHz and the vdimm was set to 2.1v (up from 1.8v for 800MHz speeds, just to make sure there was enough juice). The timings were incredibly loose at 5-8-8-22 2T, but I figured it was better to be safe than sorry at first.
I had no problems booting, getting into Windows or running Prime95 for a few hours. While I didn’t give a completely thorough Prime95 testing, the fact it was able to run with the CPU at 3GHz and the RAM at 1066MHz with those loose timings was enough for me to attempt the more aggressive timings Super Talent’s 1066MHz RAM advertises.
Back in the BIOS, I set the timings to 5-5-5-15 2T and again was able to boot.
CPU-Z RAM at 1066MHz
I ran Prime95 overnight and all day at work and there was nary a problem after almost 18 hours of straight stress testing. Restarting again, I put the RAM at 1T timings but the board wouldn’t POST. Upping the vdimm to 2.2v had no effect so the RAM was set back to 2T timings @ 2.1v and again Windows booted. I was wary to even put the RAM at 2.2v and any higher I just cannot bring myself to do without better cooling.
To say I’m pleased with these results would be a massive understatement. I'd forgotten how much fun and how rewarding overclocking can be and I have no doubt that I'll be able to push the CPU even further once the Zalman has been installed.
The embargo on this review was pushed from the original date of 3/15 to today, 3/26, which allowed me some extra time to get a Zalman CNPS9500 installed on my CPU and move my entire computer to a new Lian-Li G70 full-tower ATX case on the evening of Thursday 3/22. The results of that migration are on the next page!