In the past few months, NVIDIA has been busy beefing up their core logic chipset portfolios in a bid to cater to every market segment from mainstream to enthusiast. The microprocessor war is getting into full swing again with both AMD and Intel brandishing new toys, but no matter who wins, NVIDIA is making sure they won't lose. With their acquisition of ULi, NVIDIA has the excellent M1695 and M1697 chipsets at hand to fill in the performance mainstream market for the AMD platform, but what about Intel. NVIDIA has more or less focused only on the enthusiast community with the nForce4 SLI X16 and vanilla nForce4 SLI.
Then the new Intel only nForce4 SLI XE chipset was announced, but introductions aren't really necessary because the nForce4 SLI XE is basically the nForce4 SLI Intel Edition with a few notable changes. Firstly, the chipset looses its ActiveArmor Secure Networking Engine (ActiveArmor Firewall feature is still available though) and the updated MCP now supports HD Audio. By removing an underused feature that is less integral to performance enthusiasts and gamers and updating the audio (which is), NVIDIA can target the mainstream crowd and woo them with the promise of cheap SLI. If our past experience with the nForce4 SLI Intel Edition were anything to go by, motherboards running the nForce 4 SLI XE will turn out to be a tough competitor to beat.
One such motherboard that dropped by in the mail a couple of weeks ago is the ECS C19-A SLI. This little devil uses the aforementioned nForce4 SLI XE, supporting all current LGA 775 processors up to the latest dual core Preslers and of course features all the goodies of the chipset, including DualDDR2 architecture and MediaShield. Notice that there isn't an 'Extreme' tag on the board, which means that ECS is positioning the board for mainstream consumption, putting SLI at an incredibly affordable price.
Let's have a look at the motherboard packaging and specifications first before we move on to the full review:-