DFI NFII Ultra: Mean Green Dream Machineby Wesley Fink on July 30, 2003 6:25 PM EST
- Posted in
DFI NFII Ultra: Basic Features
|Chipset||nForce2 Ultra 400 North Bridge
nForce2 MCP-T South Bridge
|Bus Speeds||100 to 300MHz (in 1MHz increments)|
|Core Voltage||1.10 to 2.05V (in 0.0250V increments)|
|DRAM Voltage||up to 2.80V (in 0.1V increments)|
|Chipset Voltage||up to 1.90V (in 0.1V increments)|
|AGP Slots||up to 1.80V (in 0.1V increments)|
|Memory Slots||3 184-pin DDR DIMM Slots|
|Expansion Slots||1 AGP 8X Slot
5 PCI Slots
|Onboard IDE RAID||HighPoint 372N controller (RAID 0, RAID 1, Raid 1.5 & RAID 0 + 1)|
|Onboard USB 2.0/IEEE-1394||Six USB 2.0 ports supported by MCP-T
Agere FW803 IEEE-1394 FireWire (up to 3 ports available)
|Onboard LAN||Dual LAN:
nForce MCP-T 10/100 Ethernet
Realtek RTL8101L 10/100 Ethernet
|Onboard Audio||CMedia CMI9739A codec (nForce2 APU)|
|Onboard Serial ATA||One SATA connector via Marvel 88i8030|
|BIOS Revision||6/25/2003 Release BIOS|
The DFI NFII Ultra comes in a HUGE box containing the LanParty trademark components: PC Transpo carrying harness for hauling around your computer, a FULL selection of cables (including round UV reactive cables that match the board), and the flexible modular FrontX box that includes front microphone jack, USB, and Firewire. Other connectors can be added to further customize the FrontX box, which fits in a 5-1/4" bay, and can be purchased at www.frontx.com.
As you can see, the new DFI nForce2 is loaded! The board uses the latest nVidia nForce2 Ultra 400 chipset for official support of all Athlon chips, including the new 200FSB 3200+.
As in the other LanParty boards, the new NFII LanParty is UV reactive. It glows a soft green under black light, which seems to be the trademark color for AMD LanParty, since it is also used in the LanParty KT400A.
On boards using the MCP-T Southbridge, sound is provided by the excellent nVidia SoundStorm digital audio controllers built into the MCP-T. The manufacturer provides a compliant audio codec for the front-end that interfaces to Sound Storm. DFI uses the excellent cMedia codec – the same codec used on all three LanParty boards.
nVidia’s powerful MCP-T SouthBridge contains the nForce2 APU (Audio Processing Unit), which is designed around three functions. First, it supports hardware acceleration of 256 2D voices, 64 3D voices, and 3D positional audio. Second, full support is provided for Microsoft’s DX8.0 standard. Third, support is provided for Dolby Digital 5.1 and in-hardware Dolby Digital encoding. To take advantage of Dolby Digital, you must use an SPDIF connector with a receiver and the right speakers. Unfortunately, most nForce2 boards do not come with the proper SPDIF connectors, which basically make the wonderful features of the MCP-T a waste of audio power. Fortunately, the DFI comes with the accessory bracket that provides input and output coaxial SPDIF connections.
The NFII Ultra utilizes two 10/100 LAN controllers available in the nForce2 design. You get the familiar nForce2 10/100 Ethernet plus Realtek RTL8101L 10/100 LAN. For a machine with a name like LanParty, we can think of many situations where two LAN adapters could be very useful for a traveling gaming box. However, we are a bit surprised that DFI equipped the NFII Ultra with two 10/100 speed connections and decided not to include at least one Gigabit LAN option. In fairness, the two 10/100 connections will be just as useful in almost all situations, as there are very few situations where a LanParty gamer would find a real need for a Gigabyte LAN connection.
The DFI NFII Ultra I/O ports configuration is complete with two PS/2 ports, two serial ports, one parallel port, four USB 2.0 ports, two 10/100 LAN ports, and Mic In, Line In, and Line Out, which drive the onboard sound and are configurable for rear/sub/center outputs if desired. The microphone output is not lost since it is also available on the FrontX box. The DFI NFII Ultra also supports IEEE 1394 FireWire courtesy of a Agere FW803 controller, capable of supporting up to three ports (two ports on a rear bracket and an additional port on the FrontX break-out box). The dual-IEEE 1394 FireWire bracket is included, as are the SPDIF coax I/O bracket, a SATA cable and even that elusive SATA to molex power adapter required by some SATA drives.
The FrontX kit includes ports for MIC, Headphone, two USB, and Firewire. It is modular, so other options can be added. As already mentioned, a complete collection of matching round green UV reactive IDE cables and a floppy cable are also included, which will look well-coordinated in a window case. DFI even realized that there are still some who are attached to a favorite game controller (connects to a game port instead of USB), so a game port bracket is also included for those who won’t retire their favorite game-port device.
DFI uses the well-regarded HighPoint 372N RAID controller on the NFII Ultra – but with a twist. Included are the usual HighPoint options of RAID 0 (striping for performance), Raid 1 (Mirroring for security), and the four-drive option of RAID 0+1. However, as on the other LanParty boards, DFI has included a really slick RAID option, called RAID 1.5, which allows both striping and mirroring with just two drives. Basically, half of each drive in the 1.5 array is used for striping and the other half is used for performance. So, if you combine two 80GB drives in a 1.5 RAID, you would end up with a fast 80GB drive with mirroring. This is a really interesting option because it will allow faster performance with striping than the pair of 80GB drives set up for mirroring alone using RAID 1. The IDE drive support for this board is truly exceptional, since the HighPoint controller also allows single hard drives to be driven by the RAID chip with no special formatting required.
DFI apparently did not think SATA would matter a great deal on the nForce2 Ultra because a SATA RAID option is not on the board. The support for a single SATA drive is provided by a Marvel controller, which disables IDE channel 1 if a SATA drive is connected. You can use a SATA drive on the NFII Ultra, but support is fairly basic.
To make the LanParty image complete, DFI has included a LanParty decal, thermal compound, a pack of jumper caps, and a LanParty ID badge for the front of your case!!
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Anonymous User - Thursday, October 16, 2003 - linkI have been considering this mobo for some time and I read the reviews here and at Tomshardware. Both seem to be based on boards tweeked by the mfgr. I also looked at the forum at Amdmb.com recommended by Angry Games. What a mess. This board, like so many others using Nforce2, seems to be extremely fussy about memory timings. Several brands of memory strips lock up during posts. I say the reviews should be redone with retail versions after initial bios fiddling has settled down. And the question of stability at various timings should have as much importance as performance speed.
Anonymous User - Friday, September 19, 2003 - linkI'm having a hard time figuring out the difference between the NFII Lanparty Ultra and the NFII Ultra-AL.
The Ultra-AL seems to go for about half the price.
Do they perform/overclock the same?
Anonymous User - Sunday, August 31, 2003 - linkIts a cool mobo...whats all the fuss
Lonyo - Tuesday, August 19, 2003 - link640x480 for game tests would make most sense, then it's mostly CPU limted not GPU limited.
1024x768 is silly if you're comparing motherboard using different graphics cards.
And doing a graph showing one board is pointless.
You should have delayed this review until you'd done another one with the same testbed setup.
Anonymous User - Sunday, August 17, 2003 - linki myself was skeptical about the whole raid 15 deal, that just seems like marketing scheme to me as well. this does seem to be the case doesnt it? well i do believe these benchmarx are quite abbreviated, being that they lack a a7n8x! and a few others, and while on this topic, very disappointed with the whole video card fiasco...please review and update this article guys....
ATConundrum - Saturday, August 16, 2003 - linkI could be wrong, but this comment board is for the review on the mainboard, not the performance/build of the AnandTech.com website itself. Send those comments to the webmaster instead, and do the respectable thing and post constructive comments about the review here.
Anonymous User - Wednesday, August 13, 2003 - link
Anonymous User - Monday, August 11, 2003 - linkJust another anonymous post...
I think he did a fairly decent job of reviewing the board, and the choice of an Radeon for the benchmarking due to directx 9 compatability is understandable. If you wanted to wait longer for them to dig out all of the other mobos, rebuild them in to systems, then retest each one again so that you could have your nice little benchmarks... sorry.
Just wait, either they will re-do the other benchmarks again, or do the new benchmarks using this card. I've already seen tomshardwares guide showing 10 mobos with this chipset, and the bechmarks between them were so similar that they didn't make any difference in my buying descision.
next to last: I agree with the previous plugin complaint, as I also use Mozilla. Is there ANY advantage in using flash over JPG of GIF for the benchmark results? Also the flash banners are annoying as... but I guess they pay the bills.
Finnally, I know I'm not spelling well either due to no spell check, stiff keys on this keyboard, and I ran out of give a care juice about 45 minutes ago.
Anandtech is still all good.
Anonymous User - Sunday, August 10, 2003 - linkjust to add to my comment in 37 if you had a post for pics i could have placed a pic on just to show you i does look smart and others have started making enqiries to my tower AND LANPARTY motherboard tower from www.thermaltake.com take a look if u dont know the case im talking about
thermaltake tower + lanparty motherboard = 1 smart looking system
Anonymous User - Sunday, August 10, 2003 - linkhey wesley 1 point of interest for u m8 when you made the board why didnt u make the IDE cables longer as i have a thermaltake tower so when i saw your board and read the speck i was impressed and imediately boutght it only to be dissapointed in the cables as i cannot connect from the raid connectoins to my HD=2off + dvd rom and dvd-re writer as the cables are too short this post is for ALL u tech wizzards that make motherboards
GIVE US LONGER CABLES FOR GOD SAKE now im stuck with using normal IDE connections AND NO im not reverting back to the old cable strips it takes the look away from a promissing motherboard when you add in a uv light to light up the inside