Those who wondered how many more prototypes and market balloons they would have to endure before a retail ATI Crossfire AMD board appeared will be happy to know that this DFI is for real. While this exclusive AnandTech review posts, New Egg has DFI LANParty UT RDX200 boards for sale. Similar to their early scoop in the nForce4 market, DFI is also first to retail with a Crossfire AMD offering.

DFI produced what is arguably the most enthusiast-friendly board on the retail market when they launched the LANParty nForce4 series. They then shocked the conventional wisdom among computer manufacturers when their LANParty nForce4 boards became the best seller in a market crowded with nForce4 products. With firm credentials for leadership in the Enthusiast market, DFI set their sights on producing a similar "Gold Standard" motherboard based on the ATI Crossfire AMD chipset. The question on everyone's mind is, has DFI done it again?

To answer that question, we need to first consider the current market. Crossfire is mostly a dual-video idea that is just a promise until ATI has X1800XT Crossfire in the market. There are some X8xx owners who may buy a Crossfire board to upgrade their existing X8xx ATI video, but X850XT Crossfire is not even an option for new buyers. New buyers have no interest in a new system with Crossfire X850XT when they can choose a single card 7800GTX or X1800XT single card solution that will perform better. NVIDIA still has the advantage here, since today you can buy the ATI X1800XL, but the top-line X1800XT will not even hit the market until November 5th. The point of this is that while it is reassuring in the buying decision that ATI has an apparently competitive dual-video product to NVIDIA SLI, no one will buy an ATI Crossfire board today just because of Crossfire.

So, what will persuade buyers to go to an ATI chipset instead of the current NVIDIA nForce4? First, stock performance has to be at least as good as nForce4. Second, enthusiast features and performance must at least be as good as NVIDIA, but preferably even better. The AMD market is driven by computer enthusiasts and hobbyists, so if you satisfy them, the market will follow. Third, if performance and features are very close to NVIDIA, then value - bang for the buck - becomes a very important factor.

To DFI's credit, many of the features of their new RDX200 board seem to be geared toward an understanding of what it will take to succeed with their new ATI chipset motherboard. Crossfire dual-video is on the board, but the emphasis is on performance and features. DFI lavished all the adjustments and tweak options of their nForce4 board on the RDX200 and then went even further. Oscar Wu found out how to make 4DS DIMMs run at 1T Command Rate and launched that solution with this board. He also claims that he has a working CAS 1.5 on the ATI motherboard, and the options for CAS 1.0 and 1.5 are available in the BIOS. Memory voltage extends to 4.0V, so any memory is supported, but this is done without special jumpers or a heat-producing work-around.

DFI firmly believes that these new options, combined with a chipset designed for the enthusiast, will be enough to persuade many buyers to move to the RDX200. So the board is not a value board. This 6-layer design will set the buyer back over $200. Is DFI on target - does the LANParty UT RDX200 have what it takes to win in the market? We will try to answer that question in our closer look at performance, features, and overclocking abilities of the DFI LANParty UT RDX200.


DFI LANParty UT RDX200: Board Layout
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  • bigtoe36 - Tuesday, October 18, 2005 - link

    having tested the RDX200 at the same time as Wesley I am able to confirm that i was able to run cas1.5. Now on the NF4 LP boards oskar enabled what seemed to be cas1.5, infact this option gave no performance increase over the cas2 option. On RDX200 he has though found a significant speed increase by using the 1.5 option.

    Running OCZ PC4800Plat's with drive srength at 9 and 1.5-2-2-5 timings a 100MB/s increase in available memory bandwidth was seen over setting 2-2-2-5. I was however forced to use 3.1Vdimm to achieve this at 200fsb 1:1. Another point is that BH5 and VX (UTT CH5) would not do cas1.5, it seems to be a samsung TCCX tweak only.

    Reply
  • mongoosesRawesome - Tuesday, October 18, 2005 - link

    thanks for the info Reply
  • Leper Messiah - Tuesday, October 18, 2005 - link

    Used to be buy an nVidia mobo and an ATi graphics card. Funny how things have changed...but 4DS at 1T is awesome if you aren't OCing your RAM, but 250-2-2-2-7 2T is going to be faster than 203 2-2-2-7-1T. Reply
  • Madellga - Tuesday, October 18, 2005 - link

    Thanks for the good review Wesley. One thing I always missed on your reviews was what kind of BIOS settings you used.

    It took me a long time to get my DFI-NF4 up and running. You know better than anybody that tweaking is time consuming - specially with so many settings on the BIOS.

    Make this an habit and keep posting the BIOS settings used on the reviews.
    Reply
  • mongoosesRawesome - Tuesday, October 18, 2005 - link

    quote:

    A good example of this is the options available for memory speeds at stock speeds. Not only can you choose 200, 266, 333 and 400, but you can choose and fine tune with in-between speeds like 240, 280, and 300. Beyond the standard 400, you can choose 433, 466, and 500. This allows those who would never think of overclocking their CPU the ability to run their memory at DDR500 for example. For those who do overclock, this increases the ability to fine-tune the CPU and memory for the absolute best performance.


    Isn't that integrated into the A64 memory controller and don't the Nforce 4 DFI boards support those DDR speeds?
    Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Tuesday, October 18, 2005 - link

    The additional ratios are available in the AMD Athlon64 Rev. E Memory Cntroller and can be implemented on any Socket 939 motherboard. However, the BIOS writer has to implement these choices. AMD made them a part of their Reference Board and they will likely find their way to many retail boards. DFI implemented them on the RDX200, but you rarely if ever see these finer ratios actually implemented on nForce4 boards. Reply
  • jr9k - Tuesday, October 18, 2005 - link

    quote:

    The surprise, however, is the new DFI option of 4DS DIMMs at 1T. Not only is there no performance loss – the scores are 2,000 points higher than 4DSx2T. (...)


    2000 points.
    Impressive...
    until you do some math. 4 dimms at 1T are 2.3% faster than 4 dimms at 2T.

    Don't get me wrong, the achievement of running four dimms at 1T is impressive, but the results are not (as we already knew). It's the way of showing things.

    Anyway, it is good to see some competition from ATI.

    Nice review and nice board
    Reply
  • mongoosesRawesome - Tuesday, October 18, 2005 - link

    Yea, I agree. A lot of times a big deal is made over only a few percentage points. I would have rather seen FPS in some games. I truly doubt we'd even see 2% in some cases. Reply
  • Spacecomber - Tuesday, October 18, 2005 - link

    I had the same sort of reaction to the signifigance of the 1T vs 2T scores. I translated the Aquamark score back into FPS got this.

    2 DIMM 1T 91fps
    4 DIMM 2T 90fps
    4 DIMM 1T 92fps

    While this capability certainly says good things about DFI's engineering team, I'm not sure that I'd spend a $100 premium on a motherboard just to get this feature.

    Overall, this is a board with very good potential, but I wouldn't want to rush out and buy this first release. It sounds like the revision with a different south bridge will be worth waiting for. Hopefully, the price will be mroe in line with the comparable nforce4 boards by then, too.
    Reply
  • ksherman - Tuesday, October 18, 2005 - link

    I am particularly impressed with the ability to use 4DS DIMMs @ 1T. That is a really nice little feature! Too bad you have to stay near stock speeds... is it possible to do some overclocking, but use divides to keep the memory at 406? or is overclocking the memory the better thing to improve system performance? Reply

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