As was the case with the majority of nForce 590 SLI and 570 SLI motherboards, users are paying about $100 more for the “faster & better” option. However, when put to the test the new nForce 680i SLI chipset fails to prove it is faster than the 650i SLI.
After seeing how faster the 680i SLI is compared to competing Intel chipsets, I honestly thought the 650i SLI was going to lag at least a little behind, but that was not the case. The Intel 965X is an amazing chipset, and because it was so well designed it stood the test of time. That said, the 680i SLI is superior in terms of overall performance throughput.
Despite sacrificing the majority of PCI Express lanes offered by the 680i SLI, the cheaper 650i is just as impressive when armed with dual GeForce 8800 GTX graphics cards. The recently reviewed ASUS P5N-E SLI motherboard is a fine example of a fantastic 650i SLI product. This motherboard is ~$100 cheaper than the ASUS P5N32-E SLI featuring the nForce 680i SLI chipset. Furthermore, the ASUS Striker Extreme (680i) costs a crazy $400, making it significantly more expensive than the P5N-E SLI.
Realistically what do you give up when saving $100 on the P5N-E SLI that might be worth keeping in mind? The P5N32-E SLI supports 8-channel audio while the P5N-E SLI offers just 6-channel. The P5N32-E SLI has an extra Gigabit Ethernet port, two more SATA300 ports and two more USB 2.0 ports. However, the P5N-E SLI actually has five SATA300 ports as one is external whereas the more expensive P5N32-E SLI does not offer external SATA. There are no other differences between the two boards worth mentioning. Motherboards supporting the nForce 680i SLI chipset are said to overclock better but this will most likely vary depending on the manufacturer you choose.
In our opinion the nForce 650i SLI packs all the essential features, offering gamers the ultimate in performance when coupled with a Core 2 Duo processor. With motherboards such as the P5N-E SLI available at just $130, it makes building a powerful gaming rig very affordable when you consider that an E6300 costs just $180. Combined with a GeForce 8800 GTS and a gigabyte or two of memory, you've got have yourself the foundation of an incredible system.
You can tell we are very excited about the performance offered by the nForce 650i SLI, however this is not to discredit the more expensive 680i SLI. Everything we have liked about the 650i SLI is present in the 680i, everything but the more accessible price. The 650i SLI is the perfect choice for building a performance oriented machine unless you don't care so much about budget. Many 680i SLI motherboards will come packed with features and overall fancier looks, if it's the case you need one of the specific features offered by the 680i, then certainly go for it.