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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  • lplatypus - Sunday, December 17, 2006 - link

    umm isn't that why the article was called a "quick performance preview"? Reply
  • yyrkoon - Sunday, December 17, 2006 - link

    quote:

    DFI LANParty UT ICFX3200-T2R: ATI's, err, AMD's RD600 finally arrives


    Perhaps you should look again.
    Reply
  • lplatypus - Sunday, December 17, 2006 - link

    I was referring to the description of the article on the anandtech.com front page:
    quote:

    We provide a quick performance preview of DFI's latest LANParty motherboard and wonder what will become of the RD600...
    Reply
  • Goty - Sunday, December 17, 2006 - link

    Perhaps you should read the article again and realize that they're going to do a few follow-up articles. There's also the fact that the last section is called "Initial Thoughts". Reply
  • Avalon - Saturday, December 16, 2006 - link

    511FSB max for $229 doesn't sound that impressive to me. I can get a $110 Biostar 965PT to do that. Hopefully a newer BIOS will allow much higher FSB clocks. Nevertheless, I don't think this board will be for me anymore. Reply
  • Goty - Sunday, December 17, 2006 - link

    That is possibly the most shortsighted comment I've heard in the past week. You aren't buying this motherboard just for the stated maximum FSB, you're buying it for the amazing feature set, you're buying it for the memory clock that's not coupled to the FSP, you buy it for the fact that it performs about the same as the other high-end chipsets (not the midrange P965), and you buy it for the incredible tweaking possibilities. The Biostar board is that cheap because it has NONE of these things going for it. Reply
  • Avalon - Sunday, December 17, 2006 - link

    You are full of crap. Just because a board has more features than another doesn't make it the best out there. The networking features I won't use, and a decoupled memory clock doesn't seem to do squat for REAL WORLD performance. At the end of the day, it's all about the CPU clocks, and this board AT THIS TIME (note I said I'd be looking forward to future BIOS releases, please try reading my posts before exploding into DFI ass kiss mode) does not seem to offer any significant advantages over other good boards.

    So again, I ask why I should spend $229 for this board when I can get similar CPU overclocking performance for $110-$115? Sorry, but memory and FSB tweaks that account for a few percent in benchmarks are not going to sway me from the $100+ savings. Not worth it IMO. This board will not be for me, but for the benchmark enthusiast.
    Reply
  • Goty - Sunday, December 17, 2006 - link

    Oh, and another thing, I'm interested in finding out how you can say the decoupling the memory clock from the FSB seems to provide no performance gain when benchmarking of different memory speeds at a constant FSB hasn't even been done yet. Reply
  • Goty - Sunday, December 17, 2006 - link

    Not once did I say that this board was the best out there, I said it had the best feature set. You're telling me the board isn't worth the money because you can buy a cheaper board that overclocks similarly. I say that there are people out there who genuinely want the features of this chipset (me being one of them) and people who will use them. Just because you won't use the features doesn't mean that the board is not worth the money, it's just not worth it to you. Reply
  • Avalon - Monday, December 18, 2006 - link

    Funny, I don't remember telling YOU that YOUR opinion should be the board isn't worth the money. I said it isn't worth it to ME. Way to restate what I said. Reply

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