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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  • SilthDraeth - Sunday, December 17, 2006 - link

    I had USB Keyboard problems on DFI ATI motherboard for A64. It seems it is a semi common problem on DFI Boards, or maybe it is just unique to my board and this new one. Reply
  • JKing76 - Sunday, December 17, 2006 - link

    On power draw alone this chipset wins with me. And the serious undervolting potential. Reply
  • phusg - Monday, December 18, 2006 - link

    Definitely! Although not a popular topic. The VCore is seriously undervoltable (to 0.44V), but what about the other settings? I still holding on to Athlon XPs at the moment so I'm that familiar with the rest. DDR2 is already 1.5V at stock isn't it? Reply
  • yyrkoon - Saturday, December 16, 2006 - link

    Would have been nice to have seen ALL of the capabilities of this board/chipsets, instead of something that plays out more like a TV commercial.

    To be honest, I have no desire buy any of DFI's products, I'm more interested in this so called "NIC Teaming" implementation on the RD600 chipset. Yeah, anyhow, guess I'll have to look elsewhere for my information . .right ?
    Reply
  • Gary Key - Sunday, December 17, 2006 - link

    quote:

    Would have been nice to have seen ALL of the capabilities of this board/chipsets, instead of something that plays out more like a TV commercial.


    I did not think TV commercials discussed product issues? ;-> We are sorry you feel this way but the article was a performance preview. We will expand the coverage on the follow-up as stated one too many times in the article. :)
    Reply
  • yyrkoon - Sunday, December 17, 2006 - link

    Just label me cranky, Ill get over it, would still like to know about the actual teaming support :( Reply
  • Gary Key - Monday, December 18, 2006 - link

    I am still working on the Teaming capability. I was provided with a new utility from Marvell that allowed a seamless setup. Hopefully, I can get the standard test run tonight on it. Reply
  • yyrkoon - Tuesday, December 19, 2006 - link

    Oh, and if what I've read comes into fruition, PCI-E 2.0 PCI-E to PCI-E communications is still 3 quaters off, then YEEEHAAAW, 5Gbit/s, asynchronous multi-link connections ! Reply
  • yyrkoon - Tuesday, December 19, 2006 - link

    Sweet, don't suppose we could get a sneak preview here of the results ? ;)

    My motivation concerning this is simple: I've been doing a lot of experimentation with iSCSI, and for people like me, who can not afford FC networking, or 10GbE, it would be really awesome for "us" to have some form of TCP/IP implemented networking that allowed for greater than 128MB/s. I already have serious plans for iSCSI, and having a technology like this, that actually worked in its favor would be a very good thing (the only thing for that matter).
    Reply
  • Griswold - Sunday, December 17, 2006 - link

    Read the full article from start to end before jumping to conclusions. Reply

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