Today we have in our hands what is easily the most lethal SLI platform yet, as we bring you the ASUS Striker II Extreme motherboard, based on the new Nvidia nForce 790i Ultra SLI chipset.
Unlike the previous generation 780i, this new chipset has been completely redesigned to properly accommodate technologies such as PCI Express 2.0 and Triple-SLI. The nForce 790i adopts Nvidia's C73 north bridge and MCP55 south bridge, giving it proper 1600MHz FSB support for the latest Intel 45nm processors.
There is however one chink in the Striker II Extreme's armor, and that is its exclusive support for DDR3 memory. While this could be seen as both a positive or negative feature, at least for now we feel most consumers will look at this as a drawback. Currently DDR3-1333 costs roughly four times more than DDR2-800 memory, while offering next to none performance advantages. It is not until frequencies of 1600+ MHz are reached that DDR3 begins to come into its own.
The nForce 790i Ultra SLI chipset tries to make up for this supporting memory modules up to DDR3-2000 from scratch, which pushes it into a league of its own.
In fact, the 790i chipset will come in two flavors: the Ultra SLI used by the Striker II Extreme, and the (non-ultra) SLI. The 'Ultra' version is said to offer more overclocking options and support SLI memory up to DDR3-2000, but other than that there seem to be no other differences between the two. At this stage it remains to be seen how these will vary in price, and most likely it will ultimately come down to how manufacturer's implementations are brought to life.
In the case of the Striker II Extreme, ASUS has built it to be a no-compromises platform for those willing to pay the premium, in other words, it is set to dethrone their previous flagship, the Striker II Formula which is based on the nForce 780i SLI chipset.
This being the case, we wonder besides the obvious difference in memory support (DDR2 vs. DDR3), where does the new Striker II Extreme improve on? Clearly there has to be more to it, otherwise the older platform would be the most practical solution. We will move on to closely examine the ASUS Striker II Extreme and then to the test...