It seems like it was only yesterday that I reviewed the Asus ROG (Republic of Gamers) Striker II Formula motherboard, which used the nForce 780i SLI chipset. Although the 780i SLI was pushed as a new chipset it was clear that it was basically an nForce 680i SLI that had been revised to add in an nForce 200 PCI Express chip. The Striker II Formula was a decent motherboard that cost a surprisingly high £184 at the time of review although it has now dropped to somewhere south of £160.
So where, you may wonder, does the Striker II Extreme fit in to the picture and how the heck can it justify such a high price? These are both good questions so let's start by getting the matter of the price out of the way first.
Asus charges top dollar for its ROG motherboards and it delivers a stack of features in return but even so the list price of £285 for the Striker II Extreme is, um, extreme. You can find the Asus on sale for about £260 but even a reference design 790i board, such as the XFX 790i SLI, costs £240 so it's clear the ROG premium is actually quite minimal in this instance. In fact, the reason this and all other 790i boards cost quite so much is simply because nVidia is charging so much for the chips. Rumour has it the price is as high as US$110. To put this into perspective, mainstream Intel chipsets sell for about US$40.
The block diagrams for the 780i SLI and 790i SLI show that the two chipsets share a great deal in common although there are two significant differences. The first change is that 790i is a twin chip design that incorporates the functions of the nForce 200 into the Northbridge which makes the layout of the board tidier and it also helps the chipset cooling.
The second change is system memory as the 790i supports DDR3 instead of DDR2. Specifically the 790i SLI supports DDR3 up to 1,333MHz while the 790i Ultra SLI on this Striker II Extreme adds speeds of 1,600MHz, 1,800MHz and 2,000MHz when you're overclocking. You pay a hefty premium for the extra memory speed as we expect Asus will launch its Striker II NSE next month for about £50 less than the Extreme.