DFI has performed a miraculous change of marketing directions in the past two years. They have moved from a solid second tier motherboard manufacturer producing nice OEM motherboards and a few solid, but dull, branded motherboards to a company whose products have come to define the Computer Enthusiast market. We can all chuckle when we say that Diamond Flower International became Designed For Innovation to fit their new image, but the transition is truly that remarkable.

A quick visit to www.xtremesystems.org or any other site devoted to enthusiasts who live to top the orb at Futuremark will find huge discussions of each little feature of upcoming DFI motherboards. Now, enthusiasts seem to ask with each new motherboard review, "That's fine, but what will the coming DFI do?" The DFI Socket 754 nF3 250Gb was one of the last 754 boards to market, but it was so heavily anticipated that DFI pre-sales totaled several months of production even before the board landed on the market.

This time around, the new nForce4 boards from DFI are some of the first to market, surely a first for DFI, and the new boards have already created quite a buzz when it was found that their new nF4 Ultra board, with two x16 PCIe slots, could be modded easily into an nForce4 SLI by closing a bridge on the nF4 Ultra chipset. Suddenly, a $140 motherboard could deliver everything that a full SLI board could deliver with a simple mod using a #2 pencil. Details of that mod are at Morphing nForce4 Ultra into nForce4 SLI. Add to that the incredible range of tweaking controls, which are becoming trademark DFI, and enthusiasts have been lining up to buy the new DFI nForce4 boards, which should actually be available right now.

There are two new DFI nForce4 boards covered in this review - the full-blown LANParty nF4 SLI-DR and the LANParty UT nF4 Ultra-D. However, the boards are basically the same and built on the same PCB. The LANParty is based on the nVidia nForce4 SLI chipset, while the UT has a few less features and is based on the nForce4 Ultra chipset. However, both boards sport 2 x16 PCIe slots, both boards perform the same, and they even use the same BIOS. As we found in the Ultra to SLI mod article, the UT board becomes, in every way, an SLI board after the simple mod. We will talk about the few differences between the boards in this review, but all benchmarking, overclocking, and memory performance tests apply equally to both boards.

DFI wanted to be certain that buyers of the lower-priced UT Ultra board still had all the overclocking controls and options available on the full-blown LANParty, and in this case, it is not just lip service. The SLI and Ultra boards can be considered equal in performance. The full-blown LANParty package with SLI adds a few more features to justify the $60 premium that the LANParty SLI will ask.


UPDATE 2/05/2005: nVidia has acted to prevent, or at least make it more difficult, to mod the Ultra board to SLI. First, DFI has advised us, and posted on their website, that they will NOT sell the SLI bridge to buyers of the Ultra board. Second, nVidia has advised us that future shipments of the Ultra chipset have been modified so that the mod to SLI will no longer be possible. An additional side effect of this second action is that the "Dual Video" mode, which performs at about 90% of SLI performance levels, will only work with nVidia SLI drivers 66.75 or earlier. If you do a quick check of web driver postings you will see it is now very difficult to find 66.75 drivers. With a chipset modded to SLI the "Dual Video" mode worked through 70.xx versions of the nVidia driver. nVidia also made it clear they will continue to make driver changes to prevent functioning of any "non-standard" (8X/8X) operation of their SLI driver. This also throws into question whether the VIA "dual graphics" mode on the 894 Pro chipset will ever work with nVidia graphics cards. If you are interested in the current UT Ultra-D we suggest you buy one now if you can find it. Future versions of the UT Ultra-D will not have the same capabilities as a result of these actions.


Basic Features: DFI nForce4
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  • LordConrad - Wednesday, February 2, 2005 - link

    It's been a year or two since the last time I researched motherboard features, so maybe I'm out of the loop. Isn't it unusual for a consumer level motherboard to offer RAID-5? This is certainly the first such board I've heard of. I wonder if the RAID-5 support is hardware or software based. Reply
  • ChineseDemocracyGNR - Wednesday, February 2, 2005 - link

    #17
    "Few questions can you fit say a x1 pci-e card into a x4 pci-e slot??? "

    Yes you can.
    Reply
  • eetnoyer - Wednesday, February 2, 2005 - link

    #18 Would you consider a 100m sprinter who broke the old world record by 8% to have demolished the record? What you have to realized, is that these boards are performing at the very edge of what's possible today. While a compact car exceeding the Chevy Cobalt's top speed by 8% would make everybody yawn, a car that exceeds the Bugatti Veyron's top speed (252mph) by 8% would be pretty remarkable.

    Irregardless, this looks to be a very respectable board whether you want to OC or not. For the features that are on the board, $140 for an nforce4 board isn't all that bad. And just like the S754 board, I'm sure the price will come down significantly after a little while.
    Reply
  • Trente - Wednesday, February 2, 2005 - link

    Man, I remember we used to laugh at DFI back in year 2000; How was it possible for a low-end maker to became the best brand for all die hard overclockers? someone should write a book about it... Reply
  • Manzelle - Wednesday, February 2, 2005 - link

    *yawn*

    Where are the AGP/PCIe boards...better yet, where is DFI's nForce3 939 board...
    Reply
  • arfan - Wednesday, February 2, 2005 - link

    1. why another board maker don't try to make motherboard likes DFI Ultra have ? Because it's a big oppurtunity to buy Ultra than SLI
    2. What do u think Nvidia do to make this board DFI Ultra not functionally likes SLI ? Just tweak driver or likes AMD in the past, change chipset in their factory ? so people can't do likes anand do.
    Reply
  • Burbot - Wednesday, February 2, 2005 - link

    I do not like this phrase from Final Words:

    We reached 318x9 at 1T Command Rate - performance that demolished our previous best of 295 1T with this same memory.

    This is a gain of 8% over old result. Would you consider a car with maximum speed 8% higher than competitor model to be "demolishing" it? I don't think so. I consider this to be a "fair improvement" over previous result, and not a "demolishing" one.
    Reply
  • 1q3er5 - Wednesday, February 2, 2005 - link

    Few questions can you fit say a x1 pci-e card into a x4 pci-e slot???

    4 volts for RAM but your going to need active cooling, and how do you manage that.

    Reply
  • Bozo Galora - Wednesday, February 2, 2005 - link

    I dont see what all the shouting is about
    Sure its a nice board, but, unless you are an EXTREME overclocker the NF3 is plenty close enough, and the big surprise here is the Epox
    Reply
  • johnson - Wednesday, February 2, 2005 - link

    I was hoping for a look at results of other memory as well, besides only the ocz ddr400. Perhaps the upcoming round up will use various memory sticks. Reply

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