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Gigabyte N680SLI-DQ6 - A Mother Of A Motherboard 291

Posted by Zonk
from the no-flux-capacitor-though dept.
MojoKid writes "Motherboards manufacturers seem to get more exotic in their designs, with each new chipset release. HotHardware has an evaluation posted looking at the Gigabyte GA-N680SLI-DQ6; a product that seemingly out does every other current desktop motherboard in a number of key areas. The board features four Gigabit LAN controllers, 10 SATA ports, a 12-phase power array, 100% solid-state capacitors, and a unique wrap-around, passive, cooling apparatus that cools both the top and underside of the chipset and CPU socket area. And because the board is based on NVIDIA's nForce 680i SLI chipset, it also has three full-length PCI Express x16 slots for multi-GPU support. It's a good overclocker and performed well throughout the benchmarks."
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Gigabyte N680SLI-DQ6 - A Mother Of A Motherboard

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  • But... (Score:5, Funny)

    by R2.0 (532027) on Friday July 13, 2007 @04:05PM (#19852551)
    ...does it go to Eleven?
  • by Shimdaddy2 (1110199) on Friday July 13, 2007 @04:09PM (#19852593)
    I recognize most of that stuff, but what is a 12-phase power array?
    • by hcdejong (561314) <hobbes@xmsnBLUEet.nl minus berry> on Friday July 13, 2007 @04:23PM (#19852737)
      This refers to the power regulator onboard - i.e. internal to the motherboard itself; it's nothing to do with the 240v PSU.

      The onboard power regulator is the part of the motherboard which converts the standard 3.3v to the exact voltages the CPU, RAM, etc require. The theory goes that the more phases, the cooler running, more efficient and more reliable the motherboard will be (but it's mostly about e-penis, rather than any genuine advantage).
      • Hey! (Score:5, Funny)

        by Jon.Laslow (809215) on Friday July 13, 2007 @04:36PM (#19852881) Homepage Journal
        rather than any genuine advantage).

        No need to turn this in to a Microsoft flame war! ^.^



        Good bye, sweet Karma....
      • That still doesn't explain how you get different phases [wikipedia.org] out of a DC signal.

        I'm assuming they mean something else. Or, more likely, its bullshit like audiophile cables designed to minimize the skin effect, cable burn in devices or power factor correction stuff for your house.
      • by geekoid (135745)
        There is real practical value in breaking it up into phases, not just theoretical.

        Note: I've done multi-phase power work, but it has been a while.
      • by RevRigel (90335) on Friday July 13, 2007 @05:26PM (#19853371)
        I have to take issue here. "n"-phase power supplies in motherboard parlance refer to different Buck-style switching regulator setups. A basic Buck regulator turns on a MOSFET (generally) to switch current into an inductor and capacitor, with a diode in parallel (you can google buck topology if you like). Thus, as the power drains out of the capacitor into the load, the switcher recharges it with little sips of current every couple of microseconds, resulting in a stable voltage from the point of view of the load. MOSFETs have a fairly hard limit on allowable pulse current and power dissipation that they can tolerate.
        In order to switch more power, you can put a whole bunch of MOSFETs in parallel, or use a really big one, but then you're switching a huge amount of current all at once through your poor little inductor and capacitor, each of which also have ripple current ratings you should not exceed.
        So, instead, you get a switcher IC capable of controlling multiple phases (for instance the 4-phase L6714 from ST Micro if you're interested in powering an AMD64 processor) and 4 different MOSFETs, and each time the load capacitor must be recharged (again, every 1-5 microseconds), the IC will switch on one MOSFET after the other in sequence, resulting in a more steady load voltage, and a lower ripple current on the inductors and capacitors. This has multiple advantages for voltage quality, heat dissipation, and component life.
        The fact that it's subject to silly marketing does not mean they'd be stupid enough to buy 12 MOSFETs and expensive power controllers if they didn't need to for technical reasons.
        • by smellsofbikes (890263) on Friday July 13, 2007 @05:54PM (#19853631) Journal
          Read frankschwab's link above about multiphase buck converters [wikipedia.org] -- I learned some stuff from it (and I help design buck converters...) These are synchronous buck converters, so they have a high and low side mosfet, no freewheeling diode, and by putting several in parallel and then running them in round-robin style, you can reduce your power supply output ripple. It's a pretty sophisticated technique, and it's possible that they need 12 to get both the efficiency they want and the ripple they need. (If you're working with a synch buck, an efficiency limitation is the equivalent series resistance of the output capacitor, which also determines your output ripple, so by going to parallel converters you can tolerate smaller output caps without increasing output ripple.)
    • by Petrushka (815171)
      Be careful! Even if you're seeing predictable phase arrays, you still might end up with a resonance cascade scenario.
      • Bah. I don't think I'll ever see a resonance cascade--

        --you'll have to excuse me. I have to go wait for someone...in the test chamber.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Fozzyuw (950608)

      I recognize most of that stuff, but what is a 12-phase power array?

      It's next to the deflector dish and is usually the 2nd thing to be re-aligned when trying to solve some complex, physically impossible, life threatening problem.

      "In four hours the ship blows up" -- Scotty (The Savage Curtain)

    • by Andy_R (114137) on Friday July 13, 2007 @04:52PM (#19853039) Homepage Journal
      You are too stupid to understand nature's simultaneous 12-phase powercube! Cubic Creation of 4 corner separate simultaneous 12 phase Days within 1 Earth rotation - transcends and contradicts the 1 Day rotation and all ONEism / Singularity religions - proving them to constitute Evil on Earth for the parallel Opposites. No god equals 4 corner stages of metamorphic rotating humanity - as a baby, child, parent and grandparent evolution of motherboards! I offer you $10,000.00 to disprove math that 1 rotation of 4 Earth quadrants within the 4 quarter Harmonic Time Cube does create 12 simultaneous 24 hr power phases!
    • by Alwin Henseler (640539) on Friday July 13, 2007 @05:21PM (#19853323) Homepage

      I recognize most of that stuff, but what is a 12-phase power array?

      Plz. ignore that nutcase below that refers to Wikipedia on 3-phase power, that's about something totally different. I suspect many /.'ers will have some understanding of electronics, but maybe less detailed than I assume. So I'll give it a go in layman's terms:

      What you're looking at is a DC step-down switching regulator circuit (look that up if you want). On most mobo's, it converts 12V to around 1,5V, at many, many Amperes (fist rule: power = voltage x amps).

      In it's most basic form, it consists of a coil, a (fast) switch, and a diode. The coil(s) are the thick copperwire/ceramic thingies on the board. As a switch, electronic versions known as power MOSFETs (usually black, square plastic thingies) are used. Because diodes have a small, but significant voltage drop when current passes through, this would give unacceptable losses (heat) at the high currents we have here. Therefore, another power MOSFET is used to replace the diode.

      Such a pair of MOSFETs is switched on and off quickly (10s or 100s thousands of times a second), with 1 in conducting (low resistance), and 1 in non-conducting (high resistance) state at any given moment. BUT: when switching over, there is some overlap, where both are somewhat conducting, causing a momentary 'short circuit' (=losses, waste heat). Enter 3-state: switch one off, wait very short to make sure the MOSFET goes fully into non-conducting state, and only THEN switch on the other MOSFET.

      My guess is this 'Quad-Triple Phase power' is a similar construction, but then 4 times, working in parallel (for more current), or alternating (to lengthen cooling periods between on-states). Basically: a high-current, energy-efficient 12V-to-CPU-voltage converter.

  • Why? (Score:5, Funny)

    by danbert8 (1024253) on Friday July 13, 2007 @04:10PM (#19852597)
    Is this really neccesary?
     
    (Before someone else replies, I have the most likely response, "Necessary? Is it necessary that I drink my own urine? No, but I do it anyways because it's sterile and I like the taste." -Patches O'Houlihan)
    • After reading TFA it sounds to me like they probably build another board like it for another brand. This is pretty common behavior.

      The feature set sounds like it belongs in a server more than the average desktop.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Control Group (105494) *
        I don't know about that...how many PCIe 16x slots do you use in an average server? How much do you care if your MB runs silent in your average data center? What do you need 10 USB ports, or even a single Firewire port for in a DL380? Or an optical audio output?

        No, this board looks to me like it's exactly what they're marketing it as: a mainboard for the home enthusiast.
      • by ari_j (90255)
        It looks more like idiot power user than server to me. There is no on-board remote management capability, only one CPU socket, and the RAM slots are perpendicular to the rest of the components, so it'd be tough to get good airflow in a rackmount chassis. Maybe not idiot power user, though - I suppose that a high-end workstation could potentially use interface bonding to get some mileage out of the four ethernet ports, although there is probably a better way to get the same task done.
    • I like most of the setup...like the all solid state caps...
      But I have to ask who would really use some of the features it has?

      Points:
      1. 10 Sata ports...obviously there are some video editing applications or SOHO server applications this might be good for but still it sounds just a tad overkill.
      2. 4Gigabit ethernet ports!?!?...What would someone use this for? Oh, I know...gotta be able to hook up those 4 T1s coming into your "Swordfish" style hacking suite:P I suppose you could setup all sorts of
      • If you're serious about using RAID arrays and want to have uber-storage, 10 SATA ports isn't that over the top. I don't disagree that it's overkill, to be sure, but not to a degree I find silly for a top-end, top-dollar product.

        4 GbE ports does seem a bit much, though. 2 you could team on a home network to potentially good effect, but with 4 you've got teaming and redundancy (assuming you can even set it up that way). I really don't see the need for network redundancy in my apartment. I suppose it does open
        • But it doesn't come with RAID! If you buy a decent RAID controller, it'll have the ports on it for the drives, so what's the point of having 10 slots on the mobo, and no RAID controller? I guess you could buy a 20 dollar pseudo-raid card, but that would be screwing yourself if you're going to be buying 6+ HDDs.

          Agreed on the ethernet, though looking around it's hard to find multi-port gigabit cards that are anything except PCI-X, so it'd be hard to get a lot of extra ports. Still, for my money, what the hell
  • With all the heat piping in this thing it sounds really great for quietness -- except that the heat still has to be removed from the enclosure so that it doesn't toast lots of other electronic whatzits Of course, if they put a little coffee plate on the top of the enclosure you could prolly use one of things to brew up a pot but otherwise the quiet factor goes away because of the newly required higher capacity enclosure fan.
    • Feel free to correct me if I am wrong, but for most desktop/tower cases the biggest source of sound is the tiny video card and CPU fans spinning at $BIGNUM rpm. The larger and slower case fans make less sound and at far less obtrusive frequencies. This was the logic behind all those fan controllers and BIOS fan speed controls to slow down the smaller fans whenever the heat load was diminished. It also explains some of the more monstrous CPU cooler rigs out there. Using a big chunk of Cu allows you to use a
      • You can do liquid cooled that's pretty quiet, but otherwise, yea. If you get a good quiet air cooler (they are often huge chunks of Cu with a big slow fan ;) then the biggest source of noise (assuming a decent power supply) is the video card.
    • But you already have a system exhaust fan. Going from a 100 mm fan to a 120 mm fan (running at the same RPM to move more air) won't increase the noise level as much as keeping the 100 mm and also having a whiny little 40 mm fan on the northbridge. And that's assuming that you actually need to increase the total air throughput.

      I've certainly built systems where the total air throughput was more than adequate to move all the heat, but it wasn't adequate to cool down a specific hotspot. Which isn't surprising,
  • by Enderandrew (866215) <enderandrew@noSPam.gmail.com> on Friday July 13, 2007 @04:11PM (#19852603) Homepage Journal
    I intend to launch a tech review site immediately after you give me a copy of that motherboard for review. Just ship it to my house, and I promise you a good review. Mind you I can't really test the board's SLI features unless I have two top-end video cards as well. And I can't really test the overclocking unless you give me a processor, but in the end, you'll get a glowing review. It will be worth it.
  • But... (Score:5, Funny)

    by jonnythan (79727) on Friday July 13, 2007 @04:11PM (#19852609) Homepage
    Will it blend?

    That is the question :)
  • editors..... (Score:4, Informative)

    by KillerCow (213458) on Friday July 13, 2007 @04:11PM (#19852611)
    From TFS:

    it also has three full-length PCI Express x16 slots for multi-GPU support.


    From TFA:

    2 PCI Express x16 slots
    1 PCI Express x8 slot

  • Why? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by hcdejong (561314) <hobbes@xmsnBLUEet.nl minus berry> on Friday July 13, 2007 @04:13PM (#19852617)
    Why stick so many ports (4x LAN, 10x SATA) on the motherboard? Is there a performance benefit to putting those ports there, instead of providing lots of PCI slots so you can create your own optimal mix of ports?
    • They should replacs the 2 of the lan ports with usb ports or more fire wire ports as they give you 0 usb / firewire back plans.
    • 4x LAN?
      If they were deployed right, it would be very nice teaming and redundancy. What are the chances of that on retail hardware?

      10x SATA
      I need a new file server. Nothing like an LVM using 10 drives. Pretty cheap. But hot.

      Is there a performance benefit to putting those ports there?
      If you did the same thing with PCI slots the power and heat requirements might be higher.

      No doubt this will be an expensive board few will pay for.
      • 4x LAN?
        If they were deployed right, it would be very nice teaming and redundancy. What are the chances of that on retail hardware?


        From the fine article:

        controller, two of the GigE LAN ports are powered by the nForce chipset, the other two by a pair of Marvell PCI Express controller,


        My first thought was that if I needed 4 GigE NICs, they'd all be Intel, so maybe this isn't so much a feature.
      • You don't want to have a sever with SOFTWARE raid. You can team the 2 nforce lan parts the 2 other ports should be replaced with a FULL firewire port.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by magarity (164372)
      Two reasons: Slots cost more during manufacturing than headers. And modern video cards with hugemongous heatsinks overlap at least one of the spare slots (mine has a passive heatsink and takes up 2 other slots plus the one its plugged into) so slots are really less useful than having ports built in elsewhere.
      • Actually... I think a lot of people value add-ons to the motherboard more than a card. A chip for Ethernet Gigabit cost maybe $3 and to add it to a motherboard costs next to nothing. But to package it as a card, with instructions, box, independent shipping and support - makes it sell for $25.

        Right now you can get from Newegg PCI Express SATA controllers with 2 ports for $20, but the ones with 4 ports are all more than double. Just the way it goes, nobody making one with 4 ports with two chips on it ;)
  • by Tumbleweed (3706) * on Friday July 13, 2007 @04:22PM (#19852719)
    The correct term is 'solid-core', not 'solid-state', FYI.
  • Three PCI Express 16X Slots? I'm not quite sure I get that one. Why? To run SLI on one pair, and have another single graphics card? Most cards today come with two outputs anyway, and if you're crazy enough to need SLI on two monitors, why wouldn't you need it on your third/fourth? Four slots would've made more sense to me.

    I guess they must be aiming at the booming five- and six-monitor market...?

    • by danbert8 (1024253)
      You forget the physics card that you really need if you are going to show off your billion dollar machine. Of course pretty soon they'll have dual physics cards that run in parallel to compliment your dual-core processor, dual-channel memory, SLI graphics, and RAID array.
    • It's 2 16s and an 8

      however, to answer your bigger wuestion: There are cards other then video cards that use 16 PCI-eXpress.
    • by Looshi (1038712) on Friday July 13, 2007 @05:54PM (#19853637)

      Overheard at Gigabyte HQ...

      Would someone tell me how this happened? We were the fucking vanguard of PCI slots in this country. The one slot motherboard was the motherboard to own. Then the other guy came out with a two-slot SLI board. Were we scared? Hell, no. Because we hit back with a little thing called the 3 slot PCI-e motherboard....
  • Capacitors (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 13, 2007 @04:27PM (#19852777)
    All the hardware faults I've had in the past few years are due to bad caps. I hope other manufacturers take the hint and ditch using electrolytics for their mobos. The only place I want to see electrolytics are in the power supply.
    • A few years ago an electrolytic capacitor in my PSU literally exploded, frying the mobo, both CPUs, keyboard and mouse...

      Beef.

  • N680SLI-DQ6 (Score:5, Funny)

    by hansamurai (907719) <hansamurai@gmail.com> on Friday July 13, 2007 @04:31PM (#19852829) Homepage Journal
    That's a mother of a product name too.
    • Sometimes, I'm tempted to call the boards "fatherboards" just to see if it upsets someone.

      In some fairness to the naming, the first two thirds of the model number describes the chipset and main feature. I have no idea what "DQ6" is, maybe that's the type of Dairy Queen building that goes with the board.
  • iSCSI SAN (Score:3, Interesting)

    by doseyg (1127317) on Friday July 13, 2007 @04:31PM (#19852839)
    With 4 Gigabit ports and 10 sata slots this could make a nice cost-effective iSCSI SAN...
  • by Joe Snipe (224958) on Friday July 13, 2007 @04:40PM (#19852915) Homepage Journal
    those damn ads kept crasing my ie:

    http://www.hothardware.com/printarticle.aspx?artic leid=987 [hothardware.com]
  • I'm sorry, but as interesting as this board seems in the Slashvert for HotHardware, I can't take the site itself: Overclocked with nausiating ads, minimal actual story spread over way too many pages... They seem to be getting a lot of exposure on Slashdot, but it's just not worth it.
  • by iminplaya (723125) <iminplaya.gmail@com> on Friday July 13, 2007 @05:45PM (#19853537) Journal
    Cool! It's really getting hard to find the old vacuum tube caps I'm using now.

    Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, I read the article. Seems to me that electrolytic is kind of solid state, but I get the idea. Whatever happened to mica?
  • It's kind of fitting it's on a web site called 'Hot hardware'. With all those heatsinks, it must be horribly inefficient and heat generating!
  • by NerveGas (168686) on Friday July 13, 2007 @06:49PM (#19854135)
    ... what, precisely, do you do with a desktop motherboard where you need four gigabit ethernet connections?
  • by gelfling (6534) on Friday July 13, 2007 @09:43PM (#19855639) Homepage Journal
    Seriously, they just heaped features on this thing for bragging rights. What are you going to do - turn this into a one box data center?
  • by AbRASiON (589899) * on Friday July 13, 2007 @11:16PM (#19856109) Journal
    Gigabyte have attempted MULTIPLE times to extort money from me for a product under warranty.
    They flat out refuse to honour the warranty without payment on a video card - it's STILL under warranty and broken in my drawer at work.
    I'd rather stick with Asus or MSI or well,,, anyone but Gigabyte.

    Oh and the amazing overclocking Gigabyte DS3? Yeah, not so much, go search on google for the 'post bug' problems where it refuses to re-boot even if the overclock was stable for a week, or it re-boots itself at the post stage multiple times for no apparent reason - very flakey - very cheap - not interested.

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