Nvidia had a rough time when Core 2 was first released. The NForce5 was late on to the market, lacking features present on the AMD versions and had ropey quad-core support. The 680i chipset cures those problems, hitting back with a fully laden feature set and none of the previous restrictions.

There are three PCI Express 16 slots present on the ECS PN2 SLI2; with two of these in use for full-speed SLI, the third can be used for physics acceleration, or attaching a third graphics card. Although any extra GPU horsepower will go unused, a third display adaptor allows you to connect two additional monitors, for a maximum of six.

The other new feature of the 680i chipset is support for memory speeds beyond the normal 800MHz. The board will go up to an astonishing 1200MHz. It also offers support for EPP (enhanced performance profile) memory modules labelled SLI ready, which give greater control over timings than the traditional SPD modules.

The ECS board's layout has some radical changes from what we're used to from Core 2-ready motherboards: the garish colour coding is gone in favour of a sleeker look and onboard USB 2.0 ports have been bumped up to a total of six.

The single IDE and four of the SATA connectors are above the PCI-e slots, with two more SATA connectors mounted on the side. After installing a full length graphics card, access to the motherboard is totally obscured so it makes sense to move important connectors away from this area.

The stellar performance of the 680i chipset is what's worth raving about, since it seems Nvidia has had the last laugh. 3DMark06 and SYSmark04 results both received a small but noticeable boost. The ECS PN2 SLI2 finally brings the performance of Intel's chipsets to those with SLI setups. It does this while being cheaper than other 680i-based products.

The minor niggle with the 680i chipset is the proprietary nature of multi GPU technology, something that is in no way the fault of ECS. The 680i is designed to work with dual Nvidia GPUs, especially the 8800 series. Since ATi's Crossfire works differently, it can't be used with this board, so effectively your choice of GPU now dictates your choice of motherboard.