DFI Lanparty UT NF680i LT SLI-T2R Motherboard

ccokeman - 2007-05-06 16:00:34 in Motherboards
Category: Motherboards
Reviewed by: ccokeman   
Reviewed on: June 7, 2007
DFI
Motherboardpro
Price: $318.00 USD

Introduction:

How many of you have heard of DFI? How many of you think of performance when you think of DFI? I know I do. The product that we will be looking at today is DFI's foray into the 680i chipset market. Coming to market later than many of the other manufacturers, my expectations are higher due to the longer time to reach the market. I have come to expect the highest performance from DFI on each and every platform, be it Intel or AMD. The ability to wring the most performance out of my CPUs and memory with DFI's motherboards has made me a repeat customer. Boasting such features as 3x 16x PCIe slots(2x16x + 1x8x for a physics processor), Quad core support, 8 channel Realtek sound and the overclockability of the Nvidia 680i LT chipset, this board looks like it may well live up to the Lanparty reputation. Let's see if it can!

Diamond Flower International or more commonly known in the enthusiast community as DFI was formed in 1981 in Taiwan under the guiding principals of Mr. Y.C. Lu. Their corporate offices are located in Hsi-Chih City in Taiwan with regional offices spread across the globe. DFI does not only make high end enthusiast style motherboards but has moved into graphics solutions,a complete line of advanced motherboards and has moved into the field of applied computing platforms. DFI is dedicated to serving their customer with rock solid solutions and customer service. DFI was the first ISO9001 certified company in Taiwan showing their commitment to quality engineering and manufacturing.


Closer Look:

Having gotten used to seeing the extreme gamer dude on the packaging of the LanParty series of motherboards, I was a little surprised to see the change in design of the packaging. Not that it is a bad thing, just different. The packaging identifies the motherboard and the back shows the features of the motherboard.


Once out in the open, the motherboard is inside a plastic enclosure that contains the board to eliminate shipping damage. Underneath are the accessory boxes and a quick install guide printed in several languages.


One of the highlighted features that this board has that the others in the 680i chipset market don't have, is separate cooling solutions for the PWM, Northbridge and Southbridge.The fact that the heatsink for the Northbridge  must be installed when the board is put into service means you don't need to risk damaging an interconnected heatpipe cooling solution when you decide that the thermal tape under the sinks needs replacing. Looking at the Nortbridge heatsink, it is a 2 heatpipe solution that mounts using spring clips to hold it in position. DFI stamps each fin of this cooler with the Lanparty logo so you know who made it and where it came from. The heatsink comes with fan retention clips for a 60mm fan already attached, just begging you to put a fan on it.

Closer Look:

The accessory pack that comes with this motherboard includes all the items you will need to get this board up and running. The manual and driver CD mirror the new look for this LanParty board. The items  that are included are the Karajan audio module, SLI bridge for those who will be running SLI, Four UV SATA cables and 2 SATA power adapters, one each of the UV floppy and IDE cabling as well as the driver and raid diskettes for both Windows XP and Vista. Also included is a quick start guide printed in several languages.


 



The Karajan audio module does not come pre-mounted to the board. If you choose to use it, you will need to mount it to the board.


The SLI bridge that came with this board is a bit bland with no identification on it.


DFI has even included a tube of thermal paste that looks similar to Arctic Silver in color. If this is a silver based product, I wonder about the reasoning for including this type of paste. Considering this is an enthusiast product, most users should know how to use it properly. For the novice user this may become a liability.

Closer Look:

With the change in the coloring of the packaging, DFI kept the motherboard the familiar UV reactive orange and yellow. A couple of things I noticed right away were the active cooling on the Southbridge and the absence of the big heat-pipe connected series of heatsinks that most 680i chipset boards come with. Something great right out of the box considering I prefer an after market cooling solution.


 



Looking at the I/O section of the board, we have a few connection options available. The standard PS2 connections for your mouse and keyboard are still available. Six USB 2.0/1.1 slots, one 1394 Firewire port, optical sound connections and 2 gigabit LAN connections are included.The Karajan audio module fills the open space in the I/O area and mounts to the audio riser seen in the second photo.


This board comes with 3 PCIe 16x slots - great if you are running a dual GPU system, as both slots one and two will run at 16x bandwidth, while slot three will run at 8x and can be used with a physics card. The 3 PCI slots are not really in usable positions if you are using dual GPUs with two-slot cooling solutions. This pretty much includes any high-end video cards. I have found this issue with the last few boards I have used, so this problem is not exclusive to DFI. Another thing to note is that the 4-pin floppy connectors that are needed close to the 16x PCIe slots. These power connections need to be made to provide stability to the system.


This motherboard has almost all the drive connections on the right-hand edge for easy access - something that I really like. 8GB of memory is supported on this motherboard by filling all four slots. You will need a native 24-pin PSU for this board.


Being an enthusiast grade product, this board has some features that are great for the enthusiast. The on-board debug LED is great for diagnosing boot issues. Power and reset switches are ideal for the benchmarking crowd who run without cases - no more using a screwdriver to jump the switch connections. Additional SATA and USB connections are some of these features, as we all need more and more drive space and USB accessories.The 680i LT chipset is the center that all these features revolve around.


You will notice that this board has a lot of room around the CPU socket without all the capacitors that are normally seen in this area. This is due to the board using a 6-phase digital power management circuit for the CPU. The Southbridge heatsink resembles the Evercool VC-RE, but appears to be larger in size. Hopefully this will result in increased cooling capabilities.

Closer Look:

In my experience, DFI has almost always given the enthusiast community the most tweakable BIOS to squeeze the most performance from the hardware that you have. For some it's a love/hate relationship. The LanParty boards are not for the first-time overclcocker, based on the amount of options in the BIOS. Today we will look at the items most of you will want to see and stick to the Genie BIOS settings. It's where we will spend most of our time anyhow.


Here we have the main BIOS page to show the available options. Also shown is the main Genie BIOS screen.


The voltage options should be enough to satisfy even the most extreme enthusiast.


For the CPU voltage, the maximum available is 1.6 volts. But with the Special 'VID Add' feature, you can dial in up to 121.25% more core voltage to supply your CPU with the power it needs to perform. This should be in the neighborhood of 1.94 volts. Only the brave ones with extreme cooling will venture this high.

 


System memory voltage maxes out at 3.04 volts. I don't recommend you go this high, but for massive memory clocks at tight timings, you can be a little adventurous. Northbridge voltage maxes at 1.74 volts to help achieve your overclocking goals.


The FSB and Frequency setting page is where you will perform all your clocking wizardry. The CPU front-side bus is adjustable up to 625 FSB while the memory is adjustable up to 700. These are some pretty lofty numbers to shoot for. You may not get there, but at least it will be fun trying.


On the memory settings page are your memory timing adjustments. There are two options: Optimal which is equivalent to the auto setting and Expert which allows you to make your adjustments manually. CMOS reloaded is a DFI motherboard feature that allows you to save specific BIOS settings to a profile so that you don't have to go back and forth in the BIOS any more if you want a different setting for benching, gaming or just standard clocks when you don't need the extra performance. Just save the settings you want to a profile so that you can go straight to the CMOS Reloaded page and change it. Much simpler if you ask me. The last page we will look at is the PC health page. You can check the status of a few key voltages, adjust the fan speeds to suit your noise or performance levels, view component temperatures and fan speeds.

Installation:

Installing the motherboard in the chassis of your choice is not too difficult of a process. I will start with the bare chassis, or in this case one already set up and just needing a motherboard change. Because I usually use a large after-market CPU cooling solution that includes a backing plate, the first thing I do is mount the CPU into the socket and then mount the heatsink onto the motherboard. I then will move to the chassis and install the correct amount of stand-offs (10 for this board). Then I install the I/O shield for the motherboard making sure it is seated correctly.


 



For this motherboard, I had the ability to mount the Northbridge heatsink and use my choice of thermal paste without having to first remove it from the board. The included Northbridge heatsink is huge compared to some of the heatsinks in use today. It attaches to the motherboard with the standard Intel clip-on method. If you are using a large after-market air cooling solution for your CPU, you may run into some interference between the Northbridge heatsink and the CPU heatsink. I was able to rotate the Tuniq tower to push air North and South, but the preferred method was blowing out the back of the case. As you can see, space was at a premium, but it all worked out in the end.


Now that we have been able to install both of the heatsinks, we are able to get to the business of mounting the board in the chassis and installing our peripherals. The board sits on the stand-offs and is attached using screws to secure the board to the chassis. I inserted the graphics cards into the appropriate slots on the motherboard and secured them with a screw. You should follow the same procedure for any other devices you will be using.


The last thing I normally install onto the board is the system memory. Index the modules into the DRAM slot and carefully push the modules in until the retaining brackets swing in and lock the memory into place. Last on the list, is installing the cabling to your drives and power supply. Once completed, you are ready to tweak to your heart's content.

Specifications:

Listed below are the specifications for this motherboard.


 


CPU


Chipset

Memory

BIOS

Power Management

 Hardware Monitor

Audio

LAN

IDE


Rear Panel I/O Ports


 I/O Connectors


 Expansion Slots

  PCB


 

Testing

I will be running the DFI Lanparty UT 680i SLI-T2R through a series of benchmarks to compare the performance of the board and 680i LT chipset to the XFX 680ILT sli and Abit IN932x-Max, two of the other 680i variants on the market today. I will be using both system and video benchmarks to make this comparison in performance. All clock speeds and memory timings will be the same on both of the boards to eliminate any variances. All video card settings were left at set-up defaults, again eliminating any variances. I will be including overclocked results for the DFI motherboard to show the performance improvement over stock.


Testing Setup:

Comparison System:



The system tests we will be using are listed below:

Lets get started with Apophysis. This program is used primarily to render and generate fractal flame images. We will run this benchmark with the following settings.

The measurement used is time  to render in minutes to complete.


Lower is Better

It looks as though the DFI is showing a little muscle early on.

Testing:

Specview is a benchmark designed to test Open GL performance. The tests used for comparison are listed below. The default tests were chosen.




Higher is Better


Higher is Better


Higher is Better


DFI wins hands-down in 2 categories.


WinRAR is a tool to archive and compress large files to a manageable size. We will use 10MB,100MB and 500MB files and test the time needed to compress these files. Time will be measured in seconds





The Lanparty continues to beat the IN9 and XFX at stock speeds.

Testing

PcMark05 is used to measure complete system performance.The tests I will focus on are the System Suite and memory test.




Higher is Better

Higher is Better


Sisoft Sandra is a diagnostic utility and synthetic benchmarking program. Sandra allows you to view your hardware at a higher level to be more helpful. For this benchmark I will be concentrating on four tests: processor arithmetic, multimedia scores, memory latency and bandwidth scores.


Higher is Better


Higher is Better


Higher is Better


Higher is Better


Lower is Better


Higher is Better


Higher is Better


It looks as though the DFI 680i has continued to show it's true colors.

Testing:

Sciencemark tests real world performance instead of using synthetic benchmarks. For this test we ran the benchmark suite and will use the overall score for comparison.






Higher is Better!


Cinebench is useful for testing your system CPU and OpenGL capabilities using the software program CINEMA 4D. We will be using the default tests for this benchmark.

Higher is Better


Higher is Better


HDtach measures disk performance to make comparisons between drives or disk controllers. For this test we used the 8MB test for our comparison.

Higher is Better


Higher is Better


Lower is Better


Looking at these numbers, the performance seems to be pretty close between the two boards.

Testing:

Now that the system benchmarks are complete, we will move on to the video benchmarking portion of the review. I will be using my EVGA 8800GTS 640mb as the video card of choice for today's test. We will be using an assortment of games to test performance across platforms to look for a performance advantage.


The game tests that we use are as follows:


First up we have Far Cry. This game makes extensive use of pixel shaders and features Polybump normal mapping technology to increase character details.


We will be using the Hardware OC benchmarking utility version 1.8 with the following settings.





Again, we see parity in the performance.

Testing:

F.E.A.R. is a newer game that includes its own benchmarking utility. We will be using this test to benchmark this game. This game introduces a new AI model that emulates real squad behavior. It has the ability to counteract the moves you make rather than having a predictable routine.


The settings we will use today are below:




Testing:

Microsoft Flight Simulator X is the newest edition of the popular flight simulator. For testing, I will fly the same route through each resolution while using Fraps set to capture 120 seconds of the run. Testing will start at a resolution of 1024X768 since this is the lowest resolution available.


The settings we will use are listed below:






Flight Simulator 10 is the newest installment of the series and proves to be a severe test for even high-end systems when the quality settings are cranked up.

Testing:

Call of Duty is starting to age, but looking at the amount of time my son and I spend playing this game, it's still fairly popular. This test will consist of a 120 second run on the Stalingrad multi-player map measured with Fraps. Average FPS will be the measure used.


The settings used are listed below:






Again we see parity in the results.

Testing:

Quake 4 is next up for testing. We will be using the Hardware OC Quake 4 benchmark utility version 1.5  to complete the testing with this game. You will need to update to the most current version to avoid the time demo failing with a floating point error. Average FPS will be the measure used.


The settings we will use are listed below:





Testing:

Need For Speed Most Wanted. For this test we will use Fraps to run a 120 second snapshot of each "race".


The settings we will use are listed below.





Conclusion:

Does DFI live up to it's reputation? It sure does. In our suite of benchmarks, the 680i LT Lanparty out-performs the competition at stock clock speeds and really comes alive when you start cranking up the clock speeds. I have yet to be disappointed with the performance I can pull from my existing hardware, when all I change is the motherboard. With the DFI Lanparty 680i LT, I was able to run the clock speed higher than on the last 3 motherboards I have used. My processor is limited to 3.6GHz and I was finally able to get a board to run 400x9 stable instead of the usual 360x10. In doing so, the level of performance was increased for me - something that I really like. With the ability to clock the memory separately from the CPU, the sky is the limit if you have memory capable of running 600Mhz or more. My final stable speeds on the board were 400MHz on the CPU and 600MHz on the memory - a pretty lofty achievement in my world.


This motherboard features independent heatsinks on all of the vital areas, which can be removed and swapped out for something better, rather than an all-in-one heat-pipe solution seen on so many of the 680i boards out today. The factory cooling solutions work great, but if you want to water cool just one of the chipsets, you don't want to risk your warranty by destroying a heat-piped cooling solution. One thing I did not like, was that I was no longer able to use my PCI sound card any more. I use dual video cards and unfortunately it just won't fit. This is not a problem that is unique to DFI though. Of the past 5 motherboards I have used, dual GPUs on only one allowed the use of the PCI slots. The good news is that the included sound solution is pretty darn good, quite possibly better than what I had. Being an overclocker, in that I prefer realistic overclocks compared to a hardcore benchmarking guru, I would like to show what this product is capable of with real world voltages, instead of maxing out every voltage to gain that last MHz from your processor or memory. I prefer having a system that is capable of running day-in and day-out at a realistic long-term level of performance. This board does that and more. If performance is the name of the game, then DFI has you covered with its latest socket 775 offering - the Lanparty UT NF680i LT SLI-T2R.

Pros:

Cons: