DFI has been one of the biggest names in motherboards for nearly two years now. Started as a break away company doing OEM products, DFI acquired some very smart engineers from ABIT and various other hardware vendors and then put them together to start up the DFI brand, in the hardcore arena. Since then, DFI has had some of the best motherboards on the market aimed at the hardcore overclockers and the case mod enthusiast - and their LANParty series of boards has grown to now include a new member.DFI is an "equal opportunity" motherboard maker, using chipsets that suit their products - if it's good and can serve a purpose, DFI will use it and it seems they have found a use for the ATI's latest Crossfire chipset, the Radeon Xpress 3200.Today we are going to take a look at the UT CFX3200-DR from DFI and compare it to the ASUS A8R32-MVP and the Sapphire Pure motherboard, which also are based on this very same chipset and compare just how well this board stacks up.DFI told us to expect very good things from their latest motherboards, so let's continue on and see if they can deliver on those promises.
SpecificationsSpecifications of the LANParty UT CFX3200-DRCPU
Supports AMD Athlon 64 3000+ ~ 4000+ mPGA939Supports AMD Athlon 64 3800+ ~ 4800+ mPGA939Supports AMD Athlon 64 FX 53 ~ FX60 mPGA939Supports AMD Opteron 100 Series mPGA939Chipset
ATI Xpress 3200 CrossfireATI RD580 NorthbridgeULI M1575 SouthbridgePCI Express x4System Memory
4 DDR SDRAM 186pin DIMM SocketsSupports DDR-266/333/400Mhz64/128Bit Dual ChannelSupports up to 4GB Total Memory (4x 1GB)Bus Frequency
200MHz Internal800/1600/2000MHz ExternalHyper Transport LinkExpansion Slots
2 PCI Express x162 PCI Express x13 PCIConnectivity
2 Parallel ATA port supporting 2 IDE Drives8 Serial ATA ports2 Gigabit Ethernet PortExpansion Ports
1 PS2 Keyboard Port1 PS2 Mouse Port8 USB 2.0 Ports (4 rear accessible, 4 via expansion bracket)2 SPDIF Ports6 Stereo Audio Ports2 Firewire-a Port (1 via expansion bracket)
The Box - Inside and OutPackage and Contents
DFI uses a single box design for the LANParty boards. Only the model name of the board is changed depending on what board is placed into the box. The box though is flashy and bright, so it's easy to spot in the local PC store.
On the back of the box, DFI gives you a general layout of the board and some of the features and a basic explanation of the overall feature pack of the board itself. This helps you decide if this is indeed the board for you.
Now we start to look at what DFI gives you in the box. First up you only get 4 SATA data cables, since the board support 8 all up, you will need to source 4 extra ones if you intend to use all 8. Also 2 power converter cables supporting 2 drives per cable, 4 total. This also means if you have 8 SATA drives you will need to source and extra 4 power ports. DFI uses a totally new port layout to its previous boards, so no matter what, you will need the I/O shield for this board.
For the parallel cables, DFI includes 2 IDE and 1 FDD cable. Theses have been factory rounded and sleeved in U.V reactive material, true to the "LANParty" name of the motherboard.
DFI has used this feature in the past, where the audio ports are placed on a separate daughter module that plugs onto a header on the board. This is supposed to work on the principal of keeping the audio modules off the board itself to promote better audio quality. We watched some DVD's and played some music just to see if there was any difference between the DFI board and our other baseline boards, we didn't notice any difference in audio quality. Simply put this is a novelty.
DFI provides 2 separate manuals - the first one on the left is the user manual for the board itself with all the setup instructions and BIOS features the board support. The second is the info manual on how to install the external daughter module for the sound system.
Lastly on to driver support. DFI provides a single CD with all the Windows drivers as well as their own software bundle. The FDD that is included is for Windows installation. Since Windows XP, 2000 or the likes don't have the necessary drivers for the new SATA controllers used, when installing Windows you need to tell the installation what controller you are using.
The MotherboardThe Motherboard in Detail
Now we come to the best part, the actual board. DFI has what we would call a rather unique design. While we have seen boards like this before, it's been a while since one like this popped up. The board is a smaller 24x30cm ATX board with the DIMM sockets moved from the right hand side to the left, between the I/O ports and the CPU. Since AMD uses an on die memory controller from the CPU, the memory modules can be located either side or at the top of the CPU, manufacturers discretion.Even still, we would still say this board has a good layout. The 2 IDE controller ports are located at the right hand side of the board on the edge, away from the CPU. The FDD connector resides below the IDE ports rotated 90 degrees to flatten out the cable as best as possible, a great feature for ribbon cables is this layout. 4 SATA ports controlled by the Southbridge sit below the FDD board just to the right of the Southbridge chip.DFI has gone with the ATI RD580 Northbridge chipset and the ULI M1575 Southbridge. This setup is pretty common for the ATI Xpress 3200 setup as the ULI Southbridge is a more mature product with faster IDE/SATA data transfer rates as well as not suffering from the USB problems the ATI SB450 suffers. The two chips are connected through the PCI Express bus using an x4 link. This is the only Southbridge chipset to use this interface and allows for greater flexibility as it can be added to any motherboard with a spare x1, x2 or x4 PCI Express link.
Above the IDE ports are 2 power connector ports. One is the 24-pin ATX power supply connector and beside this is an 8-pin EPS12 power connector that supports the 4-pin power plugs on older PSU's. This is one of the best power core placements ever, as it keeps all of the bulky cables in one spot on the top right of the board.DFI up's the antae on this board by providing a 4 phase voltage regulation system to keep the power to the board as stable as possible. DFI also goes the extra mile by putting heatsinks on the Mosfet's to keep them cool when under heavy loads (read: overclocking
The rear I/O panel contains all the necessary ports, however, there is no Serial or Parallel ports, so people with older printers are out of luck. You will see there is a large gap between the SPDIF ports and the USB towers; this is where the daughter module sits for the rear audio ports - in all, it is pretty well setup.
Expansion slots are pretty standard. 2 PCI Express x16 ports take care of the dual graphics requirements. Both slots run at full x16 speeds thanks to the new RD580 Northbridge. One nice feature is that the Northbridge contains both PCI Express x16 interfaces, not like the nVidia offerings that have the second PCI Express x16 channel running though the Southbridge. For additional expansion there are 2 PCI Express x1 slots as well as 3 PCI legacy slots.
While you may think 4 SATA ports are enough, DFI does not. To this end the older Silicon Image 3114 PCI controller chip is added to give 4 extra SATA ports. The only problems with this chip is it only runs SATA 1.5 specs, so no 3GB/s or NCQ support here. The other problem, it's connected using the PCI bus, so the speeds will be limited to the PCI throughput.
Lastly DFI gives you a VIA VT6307 PCI Firewire controller chip supporting 2 Firewire-a ports. One is located at the rear I/O panel and the other is accessed with a separate bracket header.
DFI has made a name for itself in overclocking circles with its nForce 4 offerings for AMD Athlon 64, and once again they have moved into overclocking for AMD through this board.Under the Genie BIOS menu are the overclocking options as well as some sub menu's to control the PCI Express bus, LDT (Hyper Transport) multipliers as well as advanced DRAM control features such at the CAS and all the other goodies you can tweak.Under the main Genie BIOS menu you find the bulk of the overclocking. DFI offers the most robust FSB adjustments of any board with a minimum of 200MHz to a maximum of 500MHz in 1MHz increments. While we haven't been able to break 400MHz yet, if we are able to in the future, this board is ready to go even higher.The Hammer FID control allows you to change your CPU multiplier. You can change the settings from 4.0x up to a max of 25x in 0.5x increments. Setting a multiplier higher than your CPU's default (unless you own a FX series) will result in the system booting from the default multiplier, however, all CPU's allow you to change the multiplier down all the way to the 4x limit.DFI provides a plethora of power to the board. You have the ability to change CPU, DRAM, Northbridge, Southbridge and LDT voltages with a varying scale. CPU voltage can be set from 0.8v up to a max of 1.75v is you use the special CPU voltage option.DRAM voltage is the highlight of the power settings; you can adjust this from 2.6v up to a max of 4.15v in 0.05v increments. We have never seen a board allow this much DRAM voltage and we aren't likely to again with DDR-2 for the AMD platform coming soon with AM2. If you want to go this high, make sure your RAM has LN2 cooling!While ATI states that you don't need to increase the Northbridge voltages, DFI has simply stuck their fingers in their ears and gone "la la la...
" as there are two separate Northbridge voltages - one is called Northbridge analogue voltage and one is Northbridge core voltage.We managed to push the motherboard to a maximum overclock of 362MHz FSB with the CPU at 4x, HTT link at 3x, CPU voltage at 1.6v, DRAM at 3.0v and the other voltages untouched. We have reviewed several Radeon Xpress 3200 based motherboards so far and the DFI LANParty UT CFX3200-DR has provided us with the best overclocking result.
Benchmarks - Test System Setup and SandraTest System SetupProcessor
: AMD Athlon 64 x2 4200Memory
: 2x 512MB Corsair DDR-533Hard Disk
: 2x Seagate 7200.9 RAID 0 (Supplied by Seagate
: ATI Radeon X1600XT (Supplied by MSI Australia
: Microsoft Windows XP Professional SP2Drivers
: ATI Catalyst 6.4 and DX9cFor our testing today we are placing the DFI CFX3200-DR against the ASUS A8R32-MVP and the Sapphire Pure PC-A9RD580 which are all based on the Xpress 3200 chipset just to see what happens here.SiSoft SandraVersion and / or Patch Used:
2005 SR3Developer Homepage: http://www.sisoftware.co.ukProduct Homepage: http://sisoftware.jaggedonline.com/index.php?location=home&a=TTA&lang=enBuy It Here
SiSoft Sandra (S
iagnostic and R
ssistant) is a synthetic Windows benchmark that features different tests used to evaluate different PC subsystems.
All three boards perform within 1% of each other.
Benchmarks - PCMark05PCMarkVersion and / or Patch Used:
1.1.0Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.comProduct 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.
Here we see all three boards perform identically in graphics performance, however the ASUS and the DFI boards pull ahead on final score and HDD tests due to the higher speed of the ULI Southbridge.
Benchmarks - 3DMark033DMark03Version and / or Patch Used:
Build 360Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.comProduct Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/products/3dmark03/Buy It Here
By combining full DX8 and partial DX9 support with completely new tests and graphics over the previous version, 3DMark03 continues the legacy of being the industry standard 3D benchmark.Please Note: Due to recent events with the 3DMark03 series, we are adding results purely for those who are still in favour of 3DMark03. These results should not be taken too seriously and are only added for interest sakes.
3DMark03 shows very little difference in scores between the boards.
Benchmarks - 3DMark053DMark05Version and / or Patch Used:
Build 120Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.comProduct Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/products/3dmark05/Buy It Here
3DMark05 is now the second latest version in the popular 3DMark "Gamers Benchmark" series. It includes a complete set of DX9 benchmarks which tests Shader Model 2.0 and higher.For more information on the 3DMark05 benchmark, we recommend you read our preview here
Same results are 3DMark03, all boards perform very close to each other.
Benchmarks - 3DMark063DMark06Version and / or Patch Used:
Build 102Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.comProduct 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.
3DMark06 puts a bit more stress on the boards graphics system and HDD, here the DFI and ASUS gain a slight lead over the Sapphire board.
Benchmarks - Doom 3Doom 3Version and / or Patch Used:
UnpatchedTimedemo or Level Used:
Custom TimedemoDeveloper Homepage: http://www.idsoftware.com Product Homepage: http://www.doom3.comBuy It Here
Doom 3 is the latest game to hit our test lab and is one of the most intensive games to dates. With our own custom time demo we are able to give a realistic rating on what kind of FPS you will be achieving.For more information on benchmarking Doom 3 we recommend you check out our extensive article regarding it here
Doom 3 keeps all boards close together in results.
Benchmarks - Quake 4Quake 4Version and / or Patch Used:
UnpatchedTimedemo or Level Used:
Custom TimedemoDeveloper Homepage: http://www.idsoftware.com Product Homepage: http://www.quake4game.comBuy It Here
Quake 4 is one of the latest new games to be added to our benchmark suite. It is based off the popular Doom 3 engine and as a result uses many of the features seen in Doom. However, Quake 4 graphics are more intensive than Doom 3 and should put more strain on different parts of the system.
The results in Quake 4 almost mimic Doom 3.
Benchmarks - F.E.A.R.F.E.A.R.Version and / or Patch Used:
UnpatchedTimedemo or Level Used:
Custom TimedemoDeveloper Homepage: http://www.vugames.com Product Homepage: http://www.whatisfear.com/us/Buy It Here
F.E.A.R. (First Encounter Assault Recon) is an intense combat experience with rich atmosphere and a deeply intense paranormal storyline presented entirely in first person. Be the hero in your own spine-tingling epic of action, tension, and terror...and discover the true meaning of F.E.A.R.
F.E.A.R. gives ASUS and DFI the lead with DFI just leading.
Benchmarks - Far CryFar CryVersion and / or Patch Used:
1.3Timedemo or Level Used:
Benchemall defaultDeveloper Homepage: http://www.crytek.comProduct Homepage: http://www.farcrygame.comBuy It Here
There is no denying that Far Cry is currently one of the most graphic intensive games on the market, utilizing PS2.0 technology (the latest versions support Shader Model 3.0 with DX9c) and offering an exceptional visual experience there is no denying that even some of the faster graphics cards struggle.
Far Cry puts ASUS just in front.
Final ThoughtsFinal Thoughts
Motherboards perform pretty much close to each other these days in the benchmark department, especially ones with similar chipsets - so it then comes down to functionality, overclocking and desire of the brand.DFI is by no means a cheap brand when it comes to motherboards. Maybe in the past, but recent success has put DFI on the forefront of PC technology and the LANParty series of motherboards reflect upon this. You will pay more for this motherboard but as the saying goes, "You get what you pay for...
"While there isn't much variation in scores at the benchmark level, we would recommend DFI and the LANParty UT CFX3200-DR to users who want to mod their case and show off a very flashy board, especially under U.V lights. This motherboard not only performs well and contains plenty of onboard features to keep you happy; it also looks good at the same time.Being a motherboard targeted towards the gamer and end-users who demand high performance, you would expect some decent overclocking results. We got just that. Out of the ATI Xpress 3200 based motherboards we have tested so far (which include the likes of ASUS and Sapphire), the DFI LANParty UT CFX3200-DR managed to provide the best results.Simply put, this has got to be one of the best Socket 939 motherboards we have tested so far. It goes without saying... we recommend this product - just take a look at the "Pros" list below. We are impressed.- Pros
Best overclocking result from Xpress 3200 motherboard so farMassive voltage options available in BIOSFull speed x16 ports for Crossfire dual graphicsAdditional 4 SATA portsIdeal board layout for optimal coolingUses ULI Southbridge over ATI SB450 - better HDD performanceFirewire supportDual Gigabit LANUV reactive- Cons
Additional SATA controller PCI basedMore expensive than other brands but you get what you pay for- Latest Pricing Rating - 9.5 out of 10 and TweakTown's "MUST HAVE" Editors Choice Award