The image of DFI has been one of change over the past 5 years. Our first boards we received from DFI around 5 years ago were basic boards designed for the value segment, lacking any style about them or any overclocking functions. In its simplistic terms, DFI was just another player on the entry-level market, trying to get shares in the same sector as ECS.
Looking at DFI now, we can see that the injection of new blood with some of the older ABIT engineers along with a new marketing approach has turned the company on its ear. DFI not only still keeps its simplistic boards, but they now have a range in the LANParty and Infinity series which are designed to cater for the hardcore users and overclockers; not to mention the bling bling PC enthusiasts with eye candy designs such as UV reactive slots, bright flashing LED's and so forth.
DFI isn't afraid to put new designs out there for their basic and top gun models, and they are also more than happy to send us samples from both sides of their portfolio. We have been blessed to review a number of amazing boards from DFI's top shot line up; today we slow it down a bit as we look at one of their more mainstream oriented designs.
As part of the Infinity series, the Blood Iron Infinity P35-T2RL motherboard is based on the popular Intel P35 chipset supporting DDR2 memory. How does it stack up as a more cost-effective mainstream board? Let's have a look.
Specifications of the Infinity P35-T2RL
Supports Intel Core 2 Series (Extreme/Quad/Duo)
Supports Intel Pentium Dual Core Series
Supports Intel Pentium D Series
Supports Intel Pentium 4 5xx/6xx Series
Supports Intel Celeron D 3xx/4xx Series
Supports Intel 45nm Series CPU
Intel P35 Express
DMI @ 2GB/s
4 DDR2 SDRAM 240pin DIMM Sockets
64/128Bit Dual Channel
Supports up to 8GB Total Memory (4x 2GB)
P4 Bus Architecture
1 PCI Express x16
2 PCI Express x1
1 Parallel ATA port supporting 2 IDE Drives
6 Serial ATA ports
1 Gigabit Ethernet Port
1 PS2 Keyboard Port
1 PS2 Mouse Port
12 USB 2.0 Ports (6 rear accessible, 6 via expansion bracket)
6 Stereo Audio Ports
1 RCA SPDIF Port
1 Toslink SPDIF
The Box and What's Inside
Package and Contents
Getting stuck right into it, we start off on the package that the board comes to us in and what you're getting for your dollar. The box has a blood red coloured background with white writing of the model number and series on the front. No other pertinent info is on the front of the box.
The back is also sparsely populated with info; only basic marketing propaganda is found here. One thing we did notice is that the box states Crossfire ready, but this is rather misleading as the board lacks a second PCI Express x16 slot and can confuse some less informed people. It's not nice to advertise what the board doesn't do.
DFI's user manual is extremely helpful with a lot of information on the board as well as step by step setup to mount the board inside your case and get you up and running. The driver CD contains XP and Vista (32-bit and 64-bit) drivers, but no Linux support out of the box so you're going to need to hunt around for drivers for this board if you're a Linux user.
The cable bundle is also a bit lacking. Out of a total of six SATA ports on the board, only one power and one DATA cable is provided. If you're going to run more drives you have to purchase the cables separately. The IDE and FDD cables that we are accustomed to are included along with a rear I/O shield.
Moving along, it's motherboard time. With a name like "Blood Iron", what colour would you expect to see the PCB in? That's right, it's red. If you're into case modding, this board will look quite smashing in a case with some blue or green lights, that's for sure.
The board is manufactured on the full size 30x24cm ATX layout with a 6-layer PCB. While it may be a simplistic board, DFI hasn't spared any expense on the R&D department. The 24-pin power connector along with the IDE port is located behind the four DDR2 memory slots on the right hand side of the board. Just in front and to the top of the memory slots is the 4/8 pin combo power port, keeping it well away from the CPU.
The six SATA ports are located just below the ICH9R Southbridge and are placed so to keep them out of the way of the PCI Express x16 slot for the graphics card. The only major problem we have with this board is placing the FDD connector below the PCI slots right at the bottom middle section of the board; a definite cable routing nightmare.
DFI's CPU area is extremely clean, no large capacitors or heatsinks in the way of the CPU. This is because the motherboard uses a 4-phase full digital VRM setup with solid state components to keep things cool and running smooth. Four phases is enough for basic overclocking of Core 2 Duo and Extreme CPUs, and even the Quad can be happy with that; but if you're going to put an older Pentium D on to this board, four phases will just keep these power hungry CPUs fed at stock. Overclocking one of these older processors will tax the board extremely, and may require you to place some aftermarket cooling on the voltage regulators. The Northbridge and Southbridge are cooled independently and passively, there are no interconnected heatpipes on this board.
Shifting things over to the rear of the board, the I/O ports are pretty sparse, but you get the basics here. PS/2 ports for keyboard and mouse are the only legacy ports found here, there's no serial or parallel ports resident. Six USB ports are found at the back as well as the 6 stereo audio ports. One RCA and one Toslink port make up the digital components. There is also a jumper on the back that allows you to clear the CMOS without opening the case.
Pushing on to the expansion slots, the Blood Iron P35 resembles what we are used to seeing on older motherboards. Having a P35 board without Crossfire doesn't seem right, but DFI has marketed this board as a mainstream board which they believe isn't going to require Dual graphics cards. A single PCI Express x16 slot is used for the graphics system running off the P35 Northbridge chipset and two PCI Express x1 slots run from the Southbridge. Three PCI legacy slots are what's left to give you legacy compatibility for sound cards, TV tuners and so forth.
In terms of additional extras, there is only a single PCI Express x1 Realtek Gigabit LAN chip and a JMicron PCI Express based SATA/PATA chip to give the board its IDE channel. One thing we aren't happy about is that DFI have elected not to use the two extra SATA ports that the JMicron chip provides; these could have been routed to eSATA ports but have gone to waste.
BIOS and Overclocking
DFI's BIOS setup is based around the same BIOS they have always used for their Infinity range of boards with Overclocking Profile saving, so you can simply recall what setup you had and can tweak it even further. All of the overclocking features lie under the Genie BIOS setup menu.
CPU clock: 200 - 700MHz in 1MHz Increments
Boot Up Clock: 100 - 410MHz in 1MHz Increments
PCI-E Clock: 100 - 250MHz in 1MHz Increments
CPU VID Special Add: +12.5mv to +787.5mv in +12.5mv increments
DRAM Voltage: 1.8v to 3.378v in 0.025v Increments
SB 1.05v Voltage: 10.5v to 1.3v in Various Increments
SB Core/CPU PLL Voltage: 1.55v to 2.15v in Various Increments
NB Core Voltage: 1.3v to 1.9v in Various Increments
CPU PLL Voltage: 1.2v to 1.9v in 0.05v increments
Overclocking on this board was pretty good considering. The limiting factor was the CPU voltage which would tend to fluctuate under Windows when loaded up. If you set it too low it would under volt and cause system crashes, too high and thermal problems arose.
We did manage to hit a max speed of 502MHz on the FSB with all of the settings available to us. The best feature we found was the Boot-up Clock. This allowed the board to boot to the BIOS using a specified FSB speed that would allow posting, and then increase the FSB to its set limit; this would give it more of a chance to boot up when first turned on in the morning.
Important Editor Note: Our maximum overclocking result is the best result we managed in our limited time of testing the motherboard. Due to time constraints we weren't able to tweak the motherboard to the maximum and find the highest possible FSB as this could take days to find properly. We do however spend at least a few hours overclocking every motherboard to try and find the highest possible overclock in that time frame. You may or may not be able to overclock higher if you spend more time tweaking, or as new BIOS updates are released. "Burn-in" time might also come into play if you believe in that.
Test System Setup and Memory Performance
Processor: Intel Core 2 Quad QX6700 @ 3GHz (9x333MHz)
Memory: 2x 1GB DDR2-1186 Geil (Supplied by Geil)
Hard Disk: 500GB Seagate 7200.9 (Supplied by Seagate Australia)
Graphics Card: MSI GeForce 8800GTS 640MB (Supplied by MSI)
Cooling: GIGABYTE 3D Galaxy II (Supplied by GIGABYTE)
Operating System: Microsoft Windows XP SP2
Drivers: Intel INF 184.108.40.2069, Forceware 163.75
Today we pit the DFI Blood Iron board against our ASUS P5K motherboard which we personally believe is more of the class that this board is designed to take on. Its feature set is almost identical and its overclocking abilities are also pretty close to the Blood Iron.
Stock speeds were done at 3GHz with a 333MHz FSB, and the memory was set to 800MHz. Overclocking wise, we moved the memory to a 1:1 divider to eliminate the memory and CPU as the limiting overclock factor. Our ASUS board was at an FSB of 510MHz and our DFI board at 502MHz, all with a 6x divider to keep CPU speeds as close to 3GHz as possible.
EVEREST Ultimate Edition
Version and / or Patch Used: 2006
Developer Homepage: http://www.lavalys.com
Product Homepage: http://www.lavalys.com
Buy It Here
EVEREST Ultimate Edition is an industry leading system diagnostics and benchmarking solution for enthusiasts PC users, based on the award-winning EVEREST Technology. During system optimizations and tweaking it provides essential system and overclock information, advanced hardware monitoring and diagnostics capabilities to check the effects of the applied settings. CPU, FPU and memory benchmarks are available to measure the actual system performance and compare it to previous states or other systems.
At stock speeds we see both boards right on top of each other. At overclocked speeds there is also not much at all in it; not really enough to call either an astounding victory of defeat. The ASUS board does have slightly better memory scores, but not a huge gap.
Benchmarks - PCMark05
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.2.0
Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com
Product Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/products/pcmark04/
Buy It Here
PCMark is a multipurpose benchmark, suited for benchmarking all kinds of PCs, from laptops to workstations, as well as across multiple Windows operating systems. This easy-to-use benchmark makes professional strength benchmarking software available even to novice users. PCMark consists of a series of tests that represent common tasks in home and office programs. PCMark also covers many additional areas outside the scope of other MadOnion.com benchmarks.
ASUS and DFI tie it up in both overclocking and stock speeds here.
Benchmarks - Adobe Premiere Elements 2.0
Adobe Premiere Elements 2.0
Version and / or Patch Used: 2.0
Developer Homepage: http://www.adobe.com
Product Homepage: http://www.adobe.com/products/premiereel/
Buy It Here
Our test with Adobe Premiere Elements 2.0 is performed with a raw two hour AVI file. It is then compressed into DivX format using the latest version codec. We measure the time it takes to encode and then record CPU usage.
Moving into Premiere Elements we see only a few seconds taken off at overclocked speeds between the ASUS and DFI board.
Benchmarks - HDD Performance
Version and / or Patch Used: 220.127.116.11
Developer Homepage: http://www.simplisoftware.com
Product Homepage: http://www.simplisoftware.com/Public/index.php?request=HdTachBuy It Here
HD Tach has been around for a long time and is excellent when it comes to testing hard drive performance. It is also a very handy program when it comes to testing the controller used on particular motherboards. Tests such as Read, CPU Utilization and Burst are available at a click of the button and give you a good idea of how the hard drive can perform from system to system.
Here we see no difference between ASUS' and DFI storage controllers as they are both on the same ICH9R.
Benchmarks - 3DMark06
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.1.0
Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com
Product Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/products/3dmark06/
Buy It Here
3DMark06 is the very latest version of the "Gamers Benchmark" from FutureMark. The newest version of 3DMark expands on the tests in 3DMark05 by adding graphical effects using Shader Model 3.0 and HDR (High Dynamic Range lighting) which will push even the best DX9 graphics cards to the extremes.
3DMark06 also focuses on not just the GPU but the CPU using the AGEIA PhysX software physics library to effectively test single and Dual Core processors.
Moving into 3DMark06 we see there is very little difference between the two boards once again.
Benchmarks - Prey
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.2
Timedemo or Level Used: Hardware OC Demo
Developer Homepage: http://www.humanhead.com
Product Homepage: http://www.prey.com
Buy It Here
Prey is one of the newest games to be added to our benchmark line-up. It is based off the Doom 3 engine and offers stunning graphics passing what we've seen in Quake 4 and does put quite a lot of strain on our test systems.
Prey doesn't show much difference between the two boards in our first real world game test.
Benchmarks - Far Cry
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.3
Timedemo or Level Used: Benchemall Default Demo(download here)
Developer Homepage: http://www.crytek.com
Product Homepage: http://www.farcrygame.com
Buy It Here
While Far Cry is now one of our older benchmarking games, it is still able to put pressure on most computers systems as it is able to utilize all parts of the system. Utilizing PS2.0 technology with the latest versions supporting Shader Model 3.0 with DX9c and offering an exceptional visual experience, there is no denying that even some of the faster graphics cards get a bit of a workout.
Our last test shows both boards just about on par with each other.
Power Consumption Tests
We are now able to find out what kind of power is being used by our test system and the associated graphics cards installed. Keep in mind; it tests the complete system (minus LCD monitor, which is plugged directly into an AC wall socket).
There are a few important notes to remember though; while our maximum power is taken in 3DMark06 at the same exact point, we have seen in particular tests the power being drawn as much as 10% more. We test at the exact same stage every time; therefore tests should be very consistent and accurate.
The other thing to remember is that our test system is bare minimum - only a 7,200RPM SATA-II single hard drive is used without CD-ROM or many cooling fans.
So while the system might draw 400 watts in our test system, placing it into your own PC with a number of other items, the draw is going to be higher.
Power usage between the two boards is almost negligible.
While we would all love to have a the most expensive high-end board out there with everything including bar the kitchen sink, sadly we aren't all that lucky; but that doesn't mean we have to settle for sub-standard products.
While DFI has not only managed to produce some of the most powerful enthusiast boards out there, it also brings a lot of its high quality to the mid-range motherboard sector. It's just a shame they didn't adopt Crossfire support this time around.
With that said, the Blood Iron P35 motherboard is definitely a board where if you're looking for a more simplistic offering with the basic necessities, and would also like to get some overclocking in, then this board's right up your alley.
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