Guide: DFI NF4 Ultra-D to SLI-D mod

hardnrg - 2006-11-14 00:06:46 in Motherboards
Category: Motherboards
Reviewed by: hardnrg   
Reviewed on: September 29, 2006

Introduction: SLI-D In Disguise

If 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

The silver conductive paint you can get in either a small vial or in a pen applicator. The first option means you apply the paint using a tiny paintbrush or toothpick that is dipped into the vial. It is also the cheapest option. The pen applicator is a lot quicker, neater, and easier, but is also often quite a lot more expensive so it really comes down to how much electronic modding and circuit work you think you will do when you decide which one to get. I went for the pen option. The cost of this mod really comes down to how cheap you can get the silver conductive paint (so if you already have some, it would cost you nothing!).

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 Point

Note: 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.

Scratchy




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)

Scratchy





...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 Gap

I 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!!!



I just slowly built up a little blob to ensure that a contact would be made and I wouldn't have to disassemble and re-do it.



 

Spaced Out

While 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


Setting It Up

Here 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.

2x7800GT's Installed


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! :)

Testing


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.

Now I Have an SLI-D


A few hours work, and now i have SLI...

Weeeeeeee!

Enabling SLI In Windows

Now 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.

Conclusion

The 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

Pros

Cons