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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  • flachschippe - Thursday, February 03, 2005 - link

    Why is the A8N missing from the comparison? Reply
  • Zebo - Thursday, February 03, 2005 - link

    WHAT BIAS??? Please spell it out for me as I don't see it. This a bad arse mobo... I wager best Wes ever seen and used in years of comp building time... I'm suprised he's not even more animated... and even to dwell on insignifigant "short comings" later in article shows me he was giving a fair shake...leaving "best" PCIe 939 title open even though he knows in back of mind DFI already won...:) Reply
  • byvis - Thursday, February 03, 2005 - link

    #55 I agree that this board is very good in overclocking and etc... But I'm telling what I thoughts came to me reading this article. Until now I haven't read such biased and praying article. Everything has drawbacks, even ultra extreme mbs... Professional shouldn't express their opinion like this. I can, you can, but not professionals... This is ofcours IMHO :) So don't flame me :) Reply
  • erios666 - Thursday, February 03, 2005 - link

    #60 - Ha! Excellent point Zebo and I'd have to agree. As an enthusiast I'll take care of the sound myself thank you. Just as I would the video. Reply
  • Zebo - Wednesday, February 02, 2005 - link

    Cheeezzzusss...some people....

    LOL get em flexy.

    Also those people complianing about sound are kinda weird. even if they put 880 or SB live on there it's still crap if you're at all interested in hifi. Plus it adds $20 to mobo cost... for "just ok" sound. NO THANKS. I'd prefer they drop sound all together (save $8+) as this is an enthusiast board.. not an all in one..notice thiers no on-board graphics?
    Reply
  • Shinei - Wednesday, February 02, 2005 - link

    The message is clear: DDR2 has failed! DDR636 at EXTREMELY reasonable latencies--color me impressed.
    I'd like to see how this board handles Crucial's Ballistix RAM, since Ballistix is pretty cheap on the Egg (~$220 for the pair of 512MB sticks) and performs like TCCD; would be interesting to see what the DFI can take the Micron chips to, considering the legs it gives to TCCD chips...
    Reply
  • Gerbil333 - Wednesday, February 02, 2005 - link

    #54: Considering Abit's best engineer, Oscar Wu, has been working for DFI for a while, I doubt Abit will change much. Abit's last good board was the NF7-S. Since then, they seem to have gone downhill. DFI has only been improving. Reply
  • flexy - Wednesday, February 02, 2005 - link

    my bad..nevermind...i confused the MSI board with the dfi....the dfi is NOT the one with the onboard sb live :) Reply
  • flexy - Wednesday, February 02, 2005 - link

    #42, you can have the SB live onboard sound with the SLI-DR...well....and the Ultra ius cheaper and comes with the crappy sound. WHO CARES ????
    I got a Audigy 2 Value for $42.

    If you NEED the good onboard sound..then get the SLI-DR board....if not get a pci soundcard.
    Reply
  • flexy - Wednesday, February 02, 2005 - link

    >>>
    The board is nice, but not outstanding, incredible, top performing, etc... Jesus AnandTech I have never seen you so biased. I hope that the benchmarks don't lie. Poor preview, poor...
    >>>

    ehrm...its the best and fastest enthusiast's NF4 board right now with the best overclocking capabilities AND a way to "mod" it to a SLI...what do you want more ? Cheeezzzusss...some people....
    Reply

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