I ripped out the heatpipes on all 3 boards, abit’s, ASUS Striker’s
and Inno3D 680i the NVIDIA Ref:

61 abit IN9 32x MAX 680i SLI Motherboard

At once, it is clear that the reference board has opted for
a more economical solution, offering the cheaper yet slightly less efficient
aluminum instead of copper, for fins and pipes, though the base is copper.

58 abit IN9 32x MAX 680i SLI Motherboard

59 abit IN9 32x MAX 680i SLI Motherboard

abit on left, ASUS’s on the right

60 abit IN9 32x MAX 680i SLI Motherboard

abit on left, ASUS’s on the right

On closer inspection I was enlightened. abit’s offering is actually aluminum
anodized to an orange copper color, while ASUS’s is really copper. This gives
abit a slight disadvantage as copper has better thermal efficiency, but the
mass and surface area of abit is it’s saving grace.

Removing the heatpipe, we get a closer look at the thermal interface
between the cooler and the chipsets:

1 abit IN9 32x MAX 680i SLI Motherboard

A pink thermal pad is used.

26 abit IN9 32x MAX 680i SLI Motherboard

The PWM area for the CPU revealed with the heatpipe taken off. Volterra VT1115
manages the power and voltage supplied and this is why you don’t see conventional
capacitors around the CPU socket, but instead small surface-mounted capacitors.