It has been over a year since ATI announced CrossFire for Intel. The original reference board that we looked at was code named Stingray and to be quite honest, performance was not up to par at that time even though the feature list was class leading. The main issue that we found with Stingray was its DDR2 memory performance. While the RD480 for AMD was launched amidst a lot of fanfare and was soon followed up with the impressive RD580/SB600 combination for AMD, the ATI Intel chipset design lagged in both development and performance.

ATI was able to overcome most of the early performance concerns that centered on memory throughput performance and had a revised version of the chipset ready for use last spring. However, the merger between AMD and ATI threw a kink into any plans that motherboard manufacturers might have had for this chipset. With the uncertainty of continued Intel support and future product plans, most motherboard manufacturers were content to pass on the RD600 chipset as the well proven and still excellent performing Intel 975X chipset provided CrossFire support for customers needing this functionality.

Although uncertainties abound concerning how Intel will view and eventually react to the AMD/ATI merger regarding licensing approval, DFI persevered in designing a high performance platform based on the RD600 chipset. Other motherboard manufacturers have certainly looked at this chipset with interest. We know of a few engineering samples floating around certain engineering departments but with today's release of the LANParty UT ICFX3200-T2R/G, DFI becomes the first and perhaps only motherboard manufacturer to release product based upon this unique chipset. We first looked at an early beta of this motherboard a few months ago and recognized it had potential - real potential - to compete with the 975X chipset and do so at a lower price point.

Since our first look the motherboard has undergone several design changes and ATI/AMD revised the chipset based upon their close working relationship with DFI. However, in the time it has taken this board to get to market, NVIDIA has released the 680i chipset and 975X based boards such as DFI's own Infinity can now be bought for around $165. Of course, everyone's question is if the performance of this chipset, or more importantly DFI's implementation, lives up to the hype. We look to answer this question with today's performance preview and will provide additional information in an in-depth review of this ballyhooed (we are guilty of this) yet mysterious chipset and motherboard.


ATI introduced the Radeon Xpress 200 CrossFire for Intel (RD400) in September of 2005 and its successor known as the RD600 is being officially released now. The highlights of the RD600 include independent memory and FSB overclocking capabilities, 1066MHz front side bus support, 1066MHz+ DDR2 memory support, automatic PCIe overclocking, and full support for the entire Core 2 Duo processor lineup. The chipset is officially called the ICFX3200 which is a misnomer in our opinion. The RD580 for AMD series was designated the Radeon Xpress 3200 based upon having true dual x16 PCI Express capability for graphics with the Radeon Xpress 1600 (RD480) nomenclature being used for the dual x8 PCI Express graphics capable motherboards.

The RD600 numbering scheme gives us the impression of it being a new chipset. While true to a certain degree, the original design (RD400) was actually developed alongside the AMD RD480 chipset. The RD600 improves greatly upon the RD400 in several areas but carries over the dual x8 PCI Express design from the RD400/480 series instead of the RD580 dual PCI Express x16 layout. However, the RD600 does share the Xpress II link design with the RD580 as well as sporting additional PCI Express lanes (24) over the RD400/480 series but still not enough for true dual x16 graphics.

In fact, this chipset has been heavily revised over the course of the past year and is on its fourth core revision yet still retains the dual x8 design. However, unlike the RD480 or RD580, this chipset offers an improved PCI Express logic core with enhancements for CrossFire operation along with improved DDR2 memory performance. The performance difference at this time between dual x8 and x16 CrossFire capable boards is minimal at best, but this could potentially change with the upcoming R600 video card release. While the x8/x16 difference might be important to some, for the majority of users we still recommend buying the fastest single card available based on cost to performance ratios.

DFI pairs the RD600 up with the SB600 Southbridge that features four SATA-2 3Gb/s ports featuring NCQ and hot plug support, ten USB 2.0 ports, HD audio interface, and multiple Gigabit Ethernet support depending upon the Northbridge utilized. We have found the performance of the SB600 to be very competitive with other current Southbridge designs and it is a great improvement over the previous SB450 Southbridge.

This leads us into today's performance preview of the DFI LANParty UT ICFX3200-T2R. In our article today we will briefly touch on the performance aspects of this board, present some basic features, and provide our initial opinions after using it for the past few days. We will provide in-depth coverage of the board, additional performance results including multiple RAID, audio, quad core, and memory benchmarks along with some of the best ways to properly configure this board/BIOS in a few days.

Basic Features
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  • baronzemo78 - Monday, December 18, 2006 - link

    I would like to thank Gary for all the hard work getting this preview out so fast. I am still very excited about this board. I'm waiting for the R600 anyway, so hopefully by then the stability and BIOS options of the board will have improved. I'm very curious to see if the R600 in crossfire will need more then the x8 pcie bandwith. I certainly hope it doesn't as an overclocked RD600 with a R600 sounds awesome to me. Anyway thanks again for the preview and keep up the good work. Reply
  • Lord Evermore - Sunday, December 17, 2006 - link

    First page says SB600 offers multiple LAN ports, but SB600 has no LAN support, and the Marvell controllers are off the PCIe links from the northbridge.

    It seems odd that ATI didn't design the SB600 with at least a couple of extra PCIe lanes. Right off the bat, this mainboard has zero upgradeability for PCIe devices, if you set up the intended dual graphics and physics cards. No hot new PCIe sound cards, TV tuners, SCSI cards.

    SB600 automatically becomes a nice competitor to Intel's chipsets, due to the included PATA support, so there's no need for an add in PCI IDE controller. ATI/AMD's overview page though is a bit misleading, as they claim the built-in SATA controllers support "all RAID levels".

    You're blaming DFI's board layout for large heatsinks not fitting into smaller cases? They had to put the socket somewhere, if that's the issue, and no matter where board makers put things, reviewers ALWAYS seem to find some complaint because of odd components not fitting or cabling not being perfect. And you didn't even mention those 90 degree angled SATA ports. I haven't seen that before. Might those not be an issue if you don't use a cable with a clip, since the downward pull of the cables is now going longways instead of across the width of the connector? (Same thing could apply to any SATA or IDE ports aligned perpendicular to the expansion slots really, but most boards don't have them that way that I've seen, possibly for that very reason.) Yeah I know, it might get mentioned in a more in-depth review, but that stands out more to me than 0.1% of the available heatsinks not fitting in a tiny case.

    Why would the third PCIe slot need to be "jumpered for PCI Express card operation"?

    That Promise RAID looks like crap. The single drive SB600 performance almost beats it. Why no benchmarks with the SB600 RAID, or the Intel or Nvidia RAID? It would be nice to know if ATI can beat the roughly 50% performance gain of the others.

    Too bad this might be the only board ever made with this chipset, and that there won't be a more value-oriented line. I can do without the CrossFire support or the physics slot (although having the option of a non-graphics x8 or x2 slot with x16 physical support would be nice), and I can do with a reduction in the amount of tweaking options, or the add-in Promise controller, or dual LAN and the better audio solution. And the color scheme could be done without. I'm tempted by Core2Duo chips, but none of the other chipsets or boards really looks that great to me in terms of features.
    Reply
  • Gary Key - Tuesday, December 19, 2006 - link

    With the latest beta BIOS release -

    If you disable Promise and SB600 RAID you can use the second X16 slot (x8 electrical) for a RAID card, it will switch your first x16 slot from x16 to x8 operation.

    The physics slot (x2 electrical) works fine with our x1 Network or TV Tuner cards once you switch the jumper now. This is required to change the operation of the slot based upon the switching mechanism employed with the future Physics setup.

    I am not blaming DFI for large heatsinks not fitting in smaller cases. I was just pointing out the fact that it could be an issue for those that try it. I like the open space myself due to the offset but that creates another issue for some users. It is just information being provided.

    The SB600 can support LAN depending upon how they configure it. DFI that it would be best for dual Lan coming off the RD600 instead.

    The other RAID benchmarks are coming in our follow-up as stated in the article.

    The 90 degree angled SATA ports are being used in most of the new board designs now. Look at most of the 680i boards and you will find they are being used extensively now. We did not have any issues with the cables slipping out.
    Reply
  • yyrkoon - Monday, December 18, 2006 - link

    quote:

    You're blaming DFI's board layout for large heatsinks not fitting into smaller cases? They had to put the socket somewhere, if that's the issue, and no matter where board makers put things, reviewers ALWAYS seem to find some complaint because of odd components not fitting or cabling not being perfect


    Thats why "we" just review the product, and not send them off to some salt mines, somewhere ;) This is after all, a review, everyone has an opinion, and if it doesn't bother you, simply disregard, and use common sense . . .
    Reply
  • Sh0ckwave - Sunday, December 17, 2006 - link

    Looks like a decentn my cramped case. board. I just need to know if my Infinity will fit on it i Reply
  • cornfedone - Sunday, December 17, 2006 - link

    From this initial review this mobo sure sounds temperamental and a shaky design if you see dramatic changes with BIOS settings and instability sometimes. The fact that it's performance changes radically with memory or CPU changes is not an indication of a stable mobo design.

    More BIOS adjustments does not necessarily make for a better mobo design if all the options do is make the mobo unstable or crash. This is a typical case of more is not better. The extra options are used as a rationale to jack the price and increase profits from consumers who lack the technical expertise to understand the motivation for such useless BIOS options.

    As far as the ATI/AMD labels go, I don't know why many in the online enthusiasts PC hardware segment make such a big deal out of AMD renaming the ATI products with AMD labels. Every company I know of that has bought another company, renames the products, so this ain't no big deal. If you don't like the product don't buy it. The name of the product has no impact on how it performs.
    Reply
  • mino - Tuesday, December 19, 2006 - link

    Also on the maning "issue".

    Most sites "big deal out of AMD renaming the ATI products" not because ot the renaming - no problem there.
    The thing is, one of the best chipsets/if not THE best for Intel comming form AMD, well, that IS something.

    Also remember, AMD chipset ? That has not been in the consumer market for LONG time. At the same note, most average people have no idea that X200=X3200IE=RD600 and is from the RD480line... to those (aned there are many of them!) this is a big deal as they do not have to dig the info themselves.

    Also, at least to me, seeing it makes me smile usually...
    Reply
  • mino - Tuesday, December 19, 2006 - link

    maning==naming Reply
  • mino - Tuesday, December 19, 2006 - link

    Well, at first You should understand what "temperamental when messing with BIOS" and temaperamental at "stock" means.

    When the board is "temperamental" when messing with BIOS, ti means YOU are messing with something you have no idea what it is or what it does!

    If you do not understand what overclocking really means, do NOT overclock at all.

    Overclocking is about running things "one the edge" ... and to find that "edge" you NEED to be able to push the board over it.
    To be able to do so is a dream of an overclocker as it enables him to get most performance from any set of components.

    I love those dumbass "overclockers" who assemble a mid-range machine, install some ClockGen-like utility, overclock it until it becomes unstable and consider themselves "overclockers".

    To topic:
    !!! I LOVE THE IDEA OF THOSE UNDERVOLTING OPTIONS !!!

    More boards should offer those, it is far more usefull and safe than overvolt jet most boards do not offer it... ;-(
    Reply
  • mino - Tuesday, December 19, 2006 - link

    sry for the typpos :) Reply

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