X48 has certainly earned a name for itself now. While Intel has been at the back end of adapting new technologies that actually work (forget the Rambus incident), the X38/X48 chipsets are somewhat ahead of their time.
First to market with PCI Express 2.0 compatibility on its Northbridge, as well as support for CrossfireX even before AMD has its own chipsets out for it, Intel has really started to make good on the entire platform front. Core 2 processors are better than ever on the Penryn architecture, and with an X48 chipset powering it, there is no stopping the possibilities.
With the chipset in full swing, we are now seeing many new boards coming out. So far we have had MSI and GIGABYTE grace us along with ASUS; today one of the biggest players in the bling bling for PC markets brings out their new weapon, that being DFI's new LANParty board based around the X48/ICH9R combo. It looks good, but does it have what it takes to impress? Let's move on and see.
Specifications of the LANParty LT X48-T2R
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 X48 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
3 PCI Express x16
1 PCI Express x1
1 Parallel ATA port supporting 2 IDE Drives
8 Serial ATA ports
2 Gigabit Ethernet Ports
1 PS2 Keyboard Port
1 PS2 mouse Port
12 USB 2.0 Ports (6 rear accessible, 6 via expansion bracket)
6 Stereo Audio Ports
2 Firewire ports (1 rear accessible, 1 via expansion bracket)
The Box and What's Inside
Package and Contents
In usual fashion we start off with the package and contents that you get with the board. When you're paying a premium for a board, you hope to get a little more than just a board and one or two cables. DFI supplies the board in a standard ATX sized box; no over sizing here. The front has very little apart from the DFI and LANParty logos.
On the back we have a lot of different marketing info. Unfortunately DFI doesn't supply any artwork of the board on the back; in today's market if you really want to get ahead, a full colour photo of the board helps to make the final decision.
DFI provides a reasonable cable bundle with the board. For the interface cables, DFI gives you a total of four serial ATA data cables. While the board does support eight drives in total, four is enough to get started. The cables are also green in colour and are UV reactive; if they are placed under a UV black light, they will glow a bright green.
As for the parallel cable bundle, DFI has two sets; a FDD cable with single drive support and an IDE cable that supports two drives. The cables have been rounded (something we don't see much of these days, but as we know, they were very popular before SATA) and are also sleeved in the same UV reactive tubing that the SATA cables come in.
DFI doesn't use any heat pipes to cool their boards. If you plan to run a water cooled system, the chipset comes bare on the board. There's no heatsink attached if you want to use a water block. If you aren't, a heatsink is included that you can attach to the boards Northbridge. One thing that was noticed is the size and how close it is to the CPU area; if you do install this, some heatsinks won't fit. Our OCZ Vanquisher wouldn't fit with this board due to the fans placement.
If you plan to use the included heatsink, a small tube of thermal interface material is included. While it is adequate, using something better like MX-2 would be a much better idea.
Like ASUS, DFI goes that extra mile with its sound cards. The HDA audio codec is placed on a daughter board. This is supposed to promote better audio quality by keeping the audio components away from the boards internal noise circuitry.
We finally get to the main part which is what you're spending so much money on; the actual board itself. DFI has done a fantastic job on the layout of the board. Designed using an extremely dark brown ATX PCB measuring 30x24cm, it's a full sized monster. The 24-pin ATX power connector along with the IDE port are located behind the four memory slots. The 4/8 pin power combo port is located just behind the PS/2 ports.
The Serial ATA ports are located along the right hand edge of the board and are rotated 90 degrees; they are stacked two-up at a time in a total of four separate sections. There are six green coloured ports and two yellow ports; the green ports run off the ICH9R Southbridge while the two yellow ports run of the same JMicron PCI Express controller chip that runs the IDE port.
Moving along to the CPU area; DFI has gone the all-digital approach for the voltage regulation system. DFI uses an 8-phase regulator system with two CPU-4-50 controller chips designed to run even cooler than most normal voltage regulation systems. However, they do cost a bit more to implement.
Pressing onto the rear I/O ports, we see that the board doesn't have a huge arrangement of ports; most of the space is taken up by the external cooling system for the Mosfets. Unfortunately there are no eSATA ports or any digital audio ports on the back.
Going to our last section on the board, we have the expansion slots as well as the additional controllers that come with it. The board has all green slots so there aren't any different colour coding patterns for each type of slot. The board comes with a total of three PCI Express x16 slots for graphics; the top and middle slots run off the X48 Northbridge and both run at full x16 speed with PCI-E 2.0 spec support. The last PCI Express x16 slot runs off the Southbridge for adding in a third graphics card for Physics. A single PCI Express x1 slot makes up the last of the PCI-E expansions.
If you want to use the last PCI Express x16 slot at the full x4 speed, you can't use the PCI Express x1 slot without the last PCI-E x16 slot going back to x1 speeds. Lastly on the expansion slots there are three legacy PCI slots; hopefully soon we will see the end of PCI on motherboards and the addition of more PCI Express lanes to Southbridges that Intel release.
For the additional controllers, due to the ICH9 family not having any IDE support a JMicron JMB363 PCI Express to SATA/PATA controller chip gives the board its single IDE port as well as two SATA ports. For digital connection a VIA PCI based FireWire controller makes its way onboard. The LAN controllers are handled by two separate Marvell PCI-E network chips.
BIOS and Overclocking
DFI has gone for the traditional Award BIOS setup which quite honestly has always been the best setup of all, though this may possibly change when EFI takes off. The Genie BIOS setup menu contains all the overclocking controls needed.
CPU Clock: 200 - 700 in 1MHz Increments
PCI-E Clock: 100 - 150 in 1MHz Increments
CPU VID Control: 0.44357v to 1.6v in 0.0125v increments
DRAM Voltage: 1.71v to 3.04v in various Increments
SB Core/CPU PLL Voltage: 1.51v to 2.38v in Various Increments
NB Core Voltage: 1.265v to 2.040 in Various Increments
CPU VTT: 1.211v to 1.61v in Various Increments
ClockGEN Voltage Control: 3.45v to 3.85v in various Increments
Being a DDR2 based board we didn't expect a huge FSB out of the X48 chipset due to limited DDR2 dividers, however we did manage to make a good fight out if it. We managed to get this board to 532MHz FSB without too much effort. We did raise the CPU core voltage just a tad, and the memory voltage was up at over 2.3v to get it stable. We also had to play with the ClockGEN voltage to get it all going nicely though the tests, but all was stable and I must say shows for a very tweakable board.
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 absolute 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 18.104.22.1689, Forceware 163.21
Our test systems comprise both GIGABYTEs X48-DQ6 motherboard based around X48 and DDR2 along with the DFI board. DFI is aiming for high-end users, and that's what GIGABYTEs board is clearly aimed at as well.
For our stock clock settings the memory was set to DDR2-800 speeds with tightest memory timings possible using only stock voltages; no major tweaks.
Our overclocking tests are pushed to the limits with regards to the FSB. Memory is always set to run 1:1 in overclocked mode. Our DFI board ran with a 532MHz FSB and our GIGABYTE P35-DQ6 ran with a 545MHz FSB, both using 6x multipliers.
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 both boards are right on each other, there is no discernable difference. When overclocking is taken in the GIGABYTEs slight clock advantage gives it a better overall memory score.
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.
Pressing into a more wider range of tests in PCMark05, we see that the GIGABYTE board only manages to up the DFI board when overclocked. At stock speeds both are equal.
Benchmarks - Adobe Premiere Elements 3.0
Adobe Premiere Elements 3.0
Version and / or Patch Used: 3.0
Developer Homepage: http://www.adobe.com
Product Homepage: http://www.adobe.com/products/premiereel/
Buy It Here
Our test with Adobe Premiere Elements 3.0 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.
Premiere Elements prefers to have more bandwidth and GIGABYTE at overclocked speeds delivers that compared to the DFI board; but the results are still pretty close.
Benchmarks - HDD Performance
Version and / or Patch Used: 22.214.171.124
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 DFI and GIGABYTEs storage controllers as they are both the same chips.
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.
Our first gaming benchmark puts the two boards identical at stock and not that far apart when overclocked.
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.
Moving to the real world we don't see much difference between the two boards, even at overclocked speeds.
Benchmarks - Battlefield 2142
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.25
Timedemo or Level Used: Custom Timedemo
Developer Homepage: http://www.dice.se/
Product Homepage: http://www.battlefield.ea.com/battlefield/bf2142/
Buy It Here
In Battlefield 2142, players choose to fight for one of two military superpowers - the European Union or the newly formed Pan Asian Coalition -in an epic battle for survival.
Armed with a devastating arsenal of hi-tech weaponry, including assault rifles, cloaking devices and sentry guns, players will also take control of the most lethal vehicles known to man. Massive Battle Walkers wage fierce combat on the ground, while futuristic aircraft rule the skies. When taking on this futuristic armor players will need to use their wits and an arsenal of new hi-tech countermeasures like EMP grenades and smart mines to level the playing field.
Putting a little more stress on things we see that the DFI board lags just a little bit behind in the overclocking department.
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.
With the scaling test we see that DFI does indeed fall a bit behind when overclocking is taken into the equation.
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 across the board is pretty good. The DFI does use a tad more power to do its job, but the difference at both stock and O/C speeds when compared to the GIGABYTE is very small.
What can be said for the DFI X48 LANParty board other than yet another success from this once OEM company is that DFI has really taken on a new persona over the last three years. With a huge boost in R&D, DFI are designing boards that are not only functional, but look just as good as they perform. So far the LANParty range hasn't had a bad board in its lineup, and the X48-T2R isn't going to disappoint you either.
We did have a few issues with the board, mostly in relation to the clearance around the CPU socket. No thanks to the rather large heatpipe cooler that DFI includes for cooling the X48 Northbridge, it was impossible for us to get our OCZ test heatsink on there, and the worrying thing is that this is a rather small one in the scheme of CPU coolers; some of the larger Zalman and Thermaltake coolers are going to be put right out of the equation on this board.
If you're planning to water cool, you're fine, this board will suit. I might add that since there is no Northbridge heatsink in the way when W/C'ing, you might as well water cool it as well to increase your overclocking potential.
PRICING: You can find products similar to this one for sale below.
United States: Find other tech and computer products like this over at Amazon.com
United Kingdom: Find other tech and computer products like this over at Amazon.co.uk
Australia: Find other tech and computer products like this over at Amazon.com.au
Canada: Find other tech and computer products like this over at Amazon.ca
Deutschland: Finde andere Technik- und Computerprodukte wie dieses auf Amazon.de