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DFI nForce 2 Lanparty Motherboard Review

By: Cameron Johnson | NVIDIA Chipset in Motherboards | Posted: Sep 9, 2003 4:00 am
TweakTown Rating: 9.0%Manufacturer: DFI

Features of the NFII Lanparty Continued

 

 

Now that we have looked at what you get with the motherboard, it's time to take a look at the motherboard itself. DFI uses a standard sized nForce2 PCB in an extreme dark brown tone, which looks good in a window PC. One AGP slot is provided supporting 4x or 8x transfer protocols and 5 PCI slots for your expansion needs. Like the rounded cables, the motherboard itself also has some UV reactive parts. These include the three DIMM slots, the AGP/PCI slots and the IDE and FDD controller ports.

 

On the placement side of the equation, DFI have done a very good job with only a couple flaws. Placement of the IDE and FDD connectors are well out of the way behind the DIMM socket keeping the cables out of the air flow path. Power connectors are 50/50 in placement. The 20 pin ATX connector is placed between the memory and the FDD connector, well out of the path of the cool air supply to the CPU and Northbridge heatsinks. The 4 in connector is slightly in a bad spot if you have short power cables. The 4 pin connector is located behind the I/O backpanel. This means that if the cables for the 4 pin connector are short they may drape across the CPU heatsink.

 

 

Now we have covered the placement it's time to have a look at the components. nForce 2 is a hot running chip from the beginning, we would have liked to see an active solution, but DFI have gone for stealth with a tall passive cooling solution installed on the Northbridge. While running hot, it still managed to stay within specs and was able to overclock without any heat issues, this is a tribute to nVidia and DFI with heat management. Under the heatsink is the new nForce2 Ultra 400 SPP Northbridge. This new revision simply adds 400MHz FSB support to the already popular nForce2 SPP controller.

 

The Southbridge is the nForce2 MCP-T version. This is the most advanced Southbridge from nVidia to date. This allows for AC-3 Dolby Digital sound system, Dual Ethernet, Firewire and ATA-133 IDE controller all within a small package.

 

 

RAID is now of one of the oldest additions to motherboards, yet still sought after. DFI has added the newest chip from Highpoint to the Lanparty, the HPT372N. This chip allows Dual Parallel ATA IDE ports supporting a maximum of 4 IDE devices. This new chipset also support RAID 15, a new RAID standard for mirroring and striping at the same time. Since the nForce2 MCP-T doesn't have native Serial ATA support, a Marvel Parallel to Serial ATA converter has been placed on the Primary channel to allow one Serial ATA port. When enabled, the Primary IDE channel on the HPT327N controller is disabled and routed to the Serial ATA port.

 

 

Since DFI was gracious enough to use the MCP-T version of the nForce2 Southbridge, Firewire ports come built in, all that is needed is a PHY interconnect to allow bridging access. The Agree PHY is used for this function allowing three Firewire ports: two are via an expansion bracket that slots into a backpanel, the other one is front accessible via the FrontX panel.

 

 

This is one of the few motherboards we have seen with Dual Ethernet systems. One of the other major features of the MCP-T is two Ethernet controllers, one nVidia and one 3Com. The nVidia Ethernet controller is used with a Realtek PHY connector. The second Ethernet controller isn't the 3Com controller but a PCI driven Realtek RTL8100BL controller, which has proven to be a great PCI solution. This is a great feature of the motherboard as you can use one Ethernet port for dedicated modem access and one for LAN without having to re-configure the port for Broadband or LAN.

 

 

Finally, we move onto the audio. The MCP-T also comes with its legendary Dolby Digital APU system. The Realtek ACL655 is used to bridge the Stereo ports to the APU engine. The ACL655 also uses a unique feature that can detect which speakers are plugged into each port; this means if you accidentally plug the front speakers into the center/sub port, the codec will automatically switch the port access over.

 

Overclocking

 

This is one field that DFI has lacked in throughout their most recent motherboards. This time R&D has done a much better job on the overclocking options.

 

First off we look at the FSB speeds available. DFI has allowed for FSB selections from 100MHz up to 300MHz in 1MHz increments. This is a far better cry from the past DFI motherboards that have only given limited bus speed options.

 

AGP and PCI bus speeds are also user selectable. While you can only change the AGP ratio, it changes the PCI ratio in accordance. You can set your AGP speed from 50MHz up to 100MHz in 1MHz increments. Locking the AGP to 66Mhz will keep the AGP and PCI within specifications and allows for graphics and PCI stability when pushing the CPU and memory components to the limit.

 

Voltages are somewhat limiting but should be enough for a very reasonable overclocking experience. You can set your CPU voltage from default up to 1.85v in 0.025v increments. DRAM voltage can be changed from 2.5v up to 2.7v in 0.1v increments, chipset voltage can be changed from 1.5v up to 1.9v. The chipset voltage is the AGP voltage and I/O voltage of the chipset interface.

 

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