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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  • ShadowVlican - Wednesday, February 2, 2005 - link

    beautiful analogy #22

    for now i guess this is THE best AMD64 board money can buy... i wonder if Abit's AN8 will change the results...
    Reply
  • PrinceGaz - Wednesday, February 2, 2005 - link

    Can hard-drives be installed in non-RAID mode on the Sil3144 sockets with this board?

    As far as I know, the additional controller on the Asus SLI Deluxe board requires SATA drives to be in a RAID configuration and does not support individual drives. Can you confirm if that is the case with the DFI board.
    Reply
  • erios666 - Wednesday, February 2, 2005 - link

    #49 - Thanks much Wesley. I did actually see that. I still feel it doesn't answer the question of whether or not you can span all those monitors. It will work great for when I'm at work. Which I can accomplish with an AGP plus a PCI vid card. But I am hoping to get some "surround gaming" going in UT2004, HL2 and NFSU2. So *span* capabilites with a 3840x1024 res' I guess is what I'm looking for rather than a simple multi-mon. Reply
  • Zebo - Wednesday, February 2, 2005 - link

    This is what I call a "ten year board" ...a motherboard built to last (jap caps, mosfets, al cooled etc), with every feature imaginable... you DON"T have to be an overclocker to get this board. In fact it's probably the best mobo ever built for the price using componets found in high-end server boards costing hundreds more. You should buy this DFI reguarless if you plan to overclock or not.

    That said... it's overclcoking options leave me speechless..never has a board came with these kind of heavy duty options..2.1 Vcore..4Vdimm..fuggin incredible. And it shows...guys at xtreme are posting over 400HTT with this bad boy.

    Just awesome..you'd have to bee a damn fool to buy any other skt 939 mobo, or any mobo for that matter over DFI...
    Reply
  • Stiganator - Wednesday, February 2, 2005 - link

    Between the A8n-SLI and this DFI SLI board which would you choose? Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Wednesday, February 2, 2005 - link

    #48 - DFI has responded to your question.

    "That's what we call "Dual Xpress Graphics" technology, supporting 2 video cards simulatneously and therefore 4 monitors. The DFI Ultra-D in normal mode will support up to 4 monitors off 2 video cards"
    Reply
  • erios666 - Wednesday, February 2, 2005 - link

    Please please does anyone know if it will be possible to do a 3 monitor span on the Ultra-D?!
    I beg of you! I want to do something like a Matrox Parhelia but with more 3D power. I've already got all my lcds and now I'm just sitting and waiting to see how this all pans out.
    Reply
  • nserra - Wednesday, February 2, 2005 - link

    Athlon 64 3200+ (Socket754) ALL 1003
    Athlon 64 3000+ (Socket754) ALL ALL
    Athlon 64 3400+ (Socket754) ALL ALL
    Athlon 64 2800+ (Socket754) ALL 1003
    Athlon 64 3700+ (Socket754) ALL 1003
    Sempron 3100+ (CG version) (Socket754) ALL 1004
    Sempron 3100+ (D0 version) (Socket754) ALL 1005

    Any one know how sempron 3100+ D0 overclocks?
    Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Wednesday, February 2, 2005 - link

    Instead of answering emails, we asked DFI to name some vendors who would likely have boards this week. They suggested New Egg, Frys (and their outpost.com online store), NCIX, zipzoomfly, and Monarch Computer. DFI also says Tiger Direct and Microcenter will have them by next week.

    That's all we know and it's straight from DFI, so PLEASE stop emailing us asking where to buy. Thanks!
    Reply
  • HardwareD00d - Wednesday, February 2, 2005 - link

    Onboard sound has pretty much always been crap, with a few exceptions (Sound Storm). I wasn't too impressed with Via Envy24 BTW. An add-in soundcard is the best way to go IMHO.
    * waits for Creative to get off there a$$ and make a PCI-e soundcard with Dolby Digital Encoding *
    Reply

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