DFI LANParty UT NF4 SLI-DR Extreme

DFI has created a motherboard that is suitable for enthusiasts as well as users who like to showcase their PC components. Indeed, if you have a windowed case and cold cathode lights, you can take advantage of the UV-reactant colours that the board offers and make your system stand-out like never before.

Aesthetics aside, this board caters to AMD Athlon 64, Athlon 64 X2 and Athlon 64 FX Socket 939 CPUs and is based on an NVIDIA nForce4 SLI chipset, which has two PCI Express x16 slots for SLI operation. The total bandwidth of the two slots is x16, which means both slots run at x8 when in SLI mode. In between the two x16 slots lie one PCI Express x1 slot and one PCI Express x4 slots, although depending on the thickness of your graphics card, it may be unusable. Three PCI slots round out the expansion possibilities for add-in cards. We like the physical layout of this board, which ensures that there are no capacitors located around the ends of the expansion slots and we like the fact that there aren't any locking mechanisms on the graphics card slots, which makes the removal of large graphics cards very easy.

Hard drive support on this board is abundant. DFI uses the in-built RAID capabilities of the nForce4 SLI chipset, which supports Serial ATA 2, as well as the RAID capabilities of the Silicon Image Sil3114 chip to drive up to eight Serial ATA (SATA) ports. The RAID modes that you can use depend on which controller your drives are attached to, but you can choose from RAID 0, 1, 0+1, JBOD (just a bunch of disks) and RAID 5. Additionally, the board has two IDE ports and a floppy port.

Two Ethernet ports provide flexibility when it comes to networking. One port can be used to connect to your broadband modem, while the other port can be used to connect to a Gigabit router, for example. The rear connectivity panel of the board also has six USB 2.0 ports and one FireWire port. Space is reserved for a special audio module that you need to plug into the motherboard if you plan on using analog audio outputs instead of the digital ones (S/PDIF RCA ports for line-in and line-out).

In the BIOS, the memory timings, the front side bus (FSB) speed and the PCI Express clock can all be manipulated and the board allows you to save custom configurations to the CMOS. Think of these as profiles that you can switch between, whether you want your system to perform faster, quieter or with different options enabled. The BIOS allows up to four configurations to be saved.

We tested the board with an AMD Athlon 64 3500+ CPU, 1GB of RAM, a 250GB SATA hard disk and a GeForce 7800GT graphics adapter and we found it to be reliable during gaming and during productivity applications. Setting up the board was straightforward: DFI conveniently supplies a floppy diskette with the RAID drivers for the nForce4 SLI and Silicon Image chipsets on it.

Verdict: if you're looking for a showpiece for your windowed system, then this board is worth considering. We found it to be reliable in our tests and we like its layout as well as its connectivity options.
Price: $319
Distributor: Bronet
Phone: (02) 8799 3888
URL: www.bronet.com.au
Specifications: Socket 939; support for AMD Athlon 64, 64-FX and X2 CPUs; NVIDIA nForce4 SLI chipset; dual-channel DDR 400 memory support, up to 4GB; 2 x IDE and 1 x floppy ports; 8 x SATA; RAID 0/1/0+1/5/JBOD; 2 x Gigabit Ethernet; 1 x FireWire and 6 x USB 2.0 ports; PS/2 ports; S/PDIF audio; 2 x PCIe x16, 1 x PCIe x1, 1 x PCIe x4 and 3 x PCI slots.

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