Today we are going to look at the latest enthusiast motherboard from NVIDIA. Specifically we will be checking out the XFX 790i Ultra. This board has tons of features and adds the first NVIDIA chipset support for DDR3 RAM. Read on for all the details on the XFX 790i Ultra.
To call the XFX 790i Ultra feature packed would be an understatement. When you pay $350 or so for a mainboard you can expect lots of features. The biggest change for the XFX 790i Ultra compared to the older 680i and 780i boards is the support for DDR3 RAM up to 2000MHz with EPP 2.0. The board can support six SATA drives and a pair of PATA drives and has dual gigabit Ethernet connections.
Another big feature of the XFX 790i Ultra is three PCI Express x16 slots that support SLI, 3-way SLI and Quad SLI. The board also supports Intel LGA775 processors with up to 16ooMHz FSB speeds. One of my favorite features is that the board is ESA compliant making it easy to get all sorts of detailed data on your system when ESA components are used.
Other expansion slots on the board include a pair of PCI Express x1 slots and two PCI slots. The way the board is designed though you give up many of these slots when your run SLI and nearly all of them when you run 3-way SLI. This has been a common issue with mainboards since video cards went dual slot.
Installing the board was easy and it uses standard ATX chassis screw holes. The heatpipe and heatsink arrangement around the CPU socket can interfere with some large cooling solutions, but it worked perfectly with the waterblock of the Cooler Master Aquagate Max I used. The board includes a fan to actively cool the chipset as well.
There are lots of fan headers built into the mainboard, but only four USB headers. This is perplexing since each ESA component you use in a system requires a USB header to communicate with the mainboard. In my case I used the ESA liquid cooling system and an ESA certified PSU leaving me with only one internal USB header. Had I used an ESA chassis I would have had no usable internal headers left. Thankfully the board has six rear USB ports to help make up for the lack of internal headers.
Once your system is ready the ESA functionality is very handy. In my case I could get details on the water cooling system from temperatures and pump speeds to PSU voltages and temps and detailed information about every component directly connected to the mainboard.
The ESA monitoring software also allows you to drag important information from the software and place it on the desktop. You can use this to monitor CPU temp, usage and liquid cooling temps as well as more data. The XFX 790i Ultra ESA data is perfect for the enthusiast looking to closely monitor their computer.
The system works very well when you use EPP RAM and simply setting the bios to auto for controlling the RAM takes compatible RAM up to 2000MHz. There is also a wealth of overclocking feature built into the bios, exactly what you would expect from an enthusiast board. I have also become a fan of the NVIDIA control panel where you can make changes to your system that would normally require you to go into the bios without having to reboot and hit the right key to get directly into bios.
- Tons of features
- Fantastic performance
- DDR3 support
- ESA capability
- Lacking internal USB headers
- Some large CPU coolers may not work
If you are an NVIDIA fan and plan on running an Intel LGA775 processor the XFX 790i Ultra is hands down the board to build your enthusiast system on. If DDR3 support isn’t a requirement you can save some loot and step down to the 790i, but for the extreme enthusiast the XFX 790i Ultra is what you want in your gaming rig.
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