Guide: DFI NF4 Ultra-D to SLI-D mod
hardnrg - 2006-11-14 00:06:46 in MotherboardsCategory: Motherboards
Reviewed by: hardnrg
Reviewed on: September 29, 2006
Introduction: SLI-D In DisguiseIf you have the DFI nForce 4 Ultra-D, you may be surprised to hear that it is actually an NF4 SLI-D board with the SLI part not activated! The board is physically exactly the same apart from one tiny electrical connection on top of the chipset. So all that is stopping you from activating SLI on your supposedly non-SLI board is one tiny electrical connection. Of course, it takes a little work to get to it...
Well, last night I set up SLI on my main rig (that has a DFI NF4 Ultra-D). All I needed was a spacer thing and the silver pen, the rest I had already: 2nd 7800GT, 2nd VF700-Cu, official DFI bridge... A few people have asked me have I done it yet, well now I have, and here is a guide to show how I did it to illustrate just how easy it really is.
What You Need
- Silver conductive paint
- Scalpel / X-Acto / craft knife
- A bright source of direct light
- Cotton buds / Q-tips
- IPA (Isopropyl alcohol, Isopropanol)
- 40mm spacer (optional)
You really need some GOOD direct light, I have a handy halogen lamp that is really easy to point where I want it to. You might also need a magnifying glass later on, but luckily I still have good eyes (unlike the rest of my family that need glasses, I guess I have that to look forward to lol)
Reaching The Contact PointNote: If you can't figure out how to remove the chipset fan, just give up now and buy an SLI-D/SLI-DR. This is also a perfect opportunity to switch out the stock DFI chipset fan for the much better Evercool VC-RE chipset fan!
This is the thing that most people are probably talking about when they say it's not possible on newer boards, it's just a covering over two points that you need to connect.
I just used a craft knife to scratch over the epoxy in all directions, being careful to not hit the nearby surface mounted component (I guess a resistor)
...and after some more scratching and a little clean up with IPA (using cotton buds / q-tips), you can see the exposed contacts!
Little More Scratchy
Bridging The GapI went for the fine tip silver conductive pen as we have a choice of regular and fine where i work. I'm glad I went with the fine because the contacts are hard to see let alone join up with a pen!!!
Spaced OutWhile perusing the net trying to find out if two VF700-Cu's in SLI would fit, I noticed someone made a spacer to keep the cards at a fixed distance from each other to avoid the 1st card's fan touching the backplate/screws of the 2nd VF700-Cu. I approximated the gap to be 38mm so i used a 8mm male-female and a 30mm female-female. Turns out the gap is a touch wider like maybe 39 or 40mm. The spacers take M3 screws so you can just use optical drivecage mounting screws as they are short M3 machine screws. I used two small washers to make the spacer a little wider (because my spacers are only 38mm wide in total).
This step is totally optional, and only really required if you are using two large 3rd-party graphics heatsinks like the VF700-Cu.
Hex Spacers A
Hex Spacers B
Hex Spacers B
Setting It UpHere you can see the spacer at the bottom of the pic, and a cunning Q-tip / cotton-bud at the top of the page used to keep my soundcard from shorting out on the 2nd VF700-Cu hehe.
So I booted up and went into the bios screen to see what rates my PCI-E slots were at, expecting them to be the same (I just wanted to see it before I changed the SLI jumpers on the mobo) and lookie here, 6600GT compatibility option... so something's changed! :)
So I moved the jumpers over. My rig is set up on my mobo box as some of you will already know, and the extraction tool is inside the box. It's nigh on impossible to open the box with all the cables and watercooling in place so i just used my finger- and thumb-nails to pick the SLI jumpers up... they're only long jumpers after all.
Enabling SLI In WindowsNow all you have to do is enable SLI in the nVidia control panel, reboot the machine, and then run a few benchmarks to confirm SLI is activated and working in 3D apps.
ConclusionThe actual time needed to carry out the mod is only a few minutes, but getting the motherboard out of your case and the chipset off and then reinstalling it after the mod can easily take a few hours. I'd say you could get SLI working on your Ultra-D in a single evening regardless of your rig's set-up.
The additional cost of the DFI SLI bridge (or other compatible 3rd party SLI bridge) and the silver conductive paint may mean that it is more cost effective to just buy the SLI-D, SLI-DR or SLI-DR expert variants of the NF4 series. But for owners of the Ultra-D it is a relatively simple mod that gives you the opportunity to run two nVidia cards in SLI and gain a massive performance boost in SLI-enabled games (which is pretty much all games these days).
Bottom line: minimum effort, maximum payoff
- Gain SLI functionality on your NF4 Ultra-D, effectively transforming it into a genuine SLI-D
- Boost your 3D graphics performance in games
- Relatively simple mod to undertake
- Low cost: minimal tools/materials required
- Can easily be quite fiddly and time-consuming to prepare your motherboard for modification and reinstall all the hardware
- May not be as cost effective as simply buying an SLI variant of the DFI NF4 series (for people who don't already own the Ultra-D
- Some people may have difficulty finding a DFI SLI bridge (although I'm sure DFI would supply you with one)