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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  • Gerbil333 - Friday, February 04, 2005 - link

    justinmann, why are you wasting your time at this site? There's nothing wrong with the review, so if you don't like it, then don't come here. Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Friday, February 04, 2005 - link

    #71 - We also did exclusive reviews of the MSI SLI at http://www.anandtech.com/video/showdoc.aspx?i=2258... the Gigabyte Ultra at http://www.anandtech.com/mb/showdoc.aspx?i=2273, the Gigabyte SLI at http://www.anandtech.com/mb/showdoc.aspx?i=2285, and the Asus SLI at http://www.anandtech.com/video/showdoc.aspx?i=2284...

    However, the focus in those reviews varied from video to chipset to motherboard, and the previous testing was therefore not conducive to comparison in this review. That is why we are doing an SLI roundup to bring all these boards and information together in a consistent head-to-head roundup.
    Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Friday, February 04, 2005 - link

    #71 - We are always "boning for" exclusive coverage of new items. It is one advantage a major site like AT has over smaller sites. An exclusive also does not make any of us one dime at AT, but it can increase readership if it is a much anticipated item, like this DFI board. It is a matter of honor and respect, and we are flattered so many manufacturers have enough respect for our Editorial integrity and readership that we are often offered exclusive reviews.

    I stated my opinion in the article, which I stand by. I did not award an Editor's Choice since those should be reserved IMO for roundups or onging review series where there is much more comparative data. I will likely award an Editors Choice for best SLI board when that roundup appears.
    Reply
  • justinmann - Friday, February 04, 2005 - link

    Of course, that was not the bulk of my complaint Wesley. If you had read my post, which was much more concise than your article, you would have seen that I was asking why no other retail NF4 boards', which have been available for quite some time, benchmarks were included. Your response to my question points even more strongly to an apparent lack of journalistic integrity on your part. Are you boning for more exclusive coverage deals Wes?
    If you imply that this is the best nf4 board, which is what you did, you should provide ammunition to back it up. You failed to do that, and now have failed to justify why you failed to do that.
    Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Thursday, February 03, 2005 - link

    #68 - Retailers can charge whatever they wish for the DFI boards or anything else. The $140 and $200 are expected street prices once the pricing settles down. It took quite a while for the new video cards to reach "street-price" levels and the same may be true of the DFI nF4 boards.

    We are told prices in Europe are higher.
    Reply
  • Rapsven - Thursday, February 03, 2005 - link

    It's because their motherboard is so ungodly. Reply
  • ChineseDemocracyGNR - Thursday, February 03, 2005 - link

    According to the Inq the prices are:
    "DFI is shipping three models: LANParty NF4 SLI-DR, LANPartyUT NF4 SLI-R and LANPartyUT NF4 Ultra-D. The first two boards are based on SLI and the last one is based on Nforce 4 Ultra chipset. Suggested retail prices for these boards are $229 and $189 for the two SLI boards, and $159 for Ultra board."]

    Wesley, could you please check with DFI what the final suggested prices for these 3 boards are? The review mentions $140 but I believe they changed their minds after all the feedback.

    Reply
  • Zebo - Thursday, February 03, 2005 - link

    Owned... now Justin, go get yourself one of these bad mobos. OC or not I'd like to see you satisfed..she'll do it in spades.

    http://www.newegg.com/app/viewProductDesc.asp?desc...
    Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Thursday, February 03, 2005 - link

    #65 - The DFI is available for sale NOW, which you would know if you had actually read the review. AnandTech had an exclusive on this board which is why this is the first review posted of the DFI. I waited to post the review until the same day zipzoomfly and others would likely have the boards for sale - most are now sold out I am told by readers.

    You would also know if you had read the review that we will be posting an SLI roundup next week comparing all SLI capable boards in single and SLI mode. We have been waiting for the Epox, but it will not likely be available in time for the roundup - which now includes Gigabyte (already tested here), DFI, Asus, and MSI.

    Criticism is welcomed and helps us, but it would be appreciated if you actually read the review before you make comments like this.
    Reply
  • justinmann - Thursday, February 03, 2005 - link

    It seems a bit premature to call this "the best nf4 board" when it's the only production model nf4 board even in the review. Seems to me that with the arrival of the MSI board last week, and the asus, gigabyte and chaintech boards weeks before, Anandtech could easily include more nf4 competition. Instead they have chosen to put an unavailable board up against outdated competition. It's a strange call in my estimation.

    When can we expect to see it compared to other boards with the same chipset?

    Justin
    Reply

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