DFI has certainly changed the perception of itself over the last few years. They went from pretty much an OEM company to one that also produced a great line of enthusiast boards in the LanParty, and then the Infinity series of boards. We have been anxious to get our hands on another DFI gem, and today we get the opportunity to take a gander at the LanParty UT ICFX3200-T2R/G (note to the readers, that is the last time I will use the full name in this review!). Does DFI continue its tradition of being an excellent choice for enthusiasts? Let's find out!
The ICFX board is based on the latest and greatest from ATi in the form of the RD600 Northbridge and the SB600 Southbridge. The box that it comes in is the typical look that we get with the LanParty UT series, and really gives you a feel that this board is aimed at gamers and kids, but i guess most of us enthusiasts are just kids at heart anyways! Let's take a peek at the rest of the specs...
With that out of the way, let's move on to the layout of the board.
As you can easily see from a quick glance at the board, DFI cannot ever be accused of lacking color on their boards! This line from DFI has been characterized with the bright colors from the beginning of the line. It makes for a great reason to do some mods on your case to show off the color!
The top right of the board is where we find our DDR2 slots. This board supports up to 8GB of DDR2 memory in either single or dual channel configuration. To the right of the Dimm slots, we have the 24-pin power connector, and just under that we have the lone IDE connector. These are both positioned very well, off to the edge of the board which certainly helps keep wiring nice and clean.
To the left of the dimm slots, we have the large heat sink that sits on the RD600 north bridge. This seems to do an adequate job of cooling, but as always, we recommend taking off the stock TIM and adding a thermal product of your choice. Let's take a closer look at the heat sink...
At the bottom right of the board, and just under the IDE connector, we have a series of four SATA ports. These are powered by the ATI SB600 south bridge, and support four SATA drives at speeds up to 3Gb/sec, as well as RAID 0, 1 and 0+1. Right under those SATA ports, we have the floppy connector. Once again, the SATA and floppy connectors are all on the edge of the board. DFI certainly thought through the layout of the board! To the left of the SATA ports, we have another heatsink. This one sits right on the south bridge and also seemed to do a good job of cooling. Under the heat sink is our BIOS chip, and right under the BIOS chip is the battery for the board.
Taking a closer look at the bottom right corner of the board, we have our front panel connection pins. We also have our clear cmos jumper here. At the very top of the pic, we have one of my favorite features on a board... on-board power and reset buttons! These are a god-send for reviewers and enthusiasts alike.
Also located at the bottom of the board we find four more SATA ports. These are powered by the Promise PDC40719 controller, and supports SATA2 with speeds up to 3Gb/sec and RAID 0, 1, 0+1 and RAID 5. There is certainly a potential to have a lot of HDD space with this board!
At the bottom of the board, you can see that we have our PCI and PCI/E connectors. The board sports three legacy PCI slots and has a total of three x16 PCI/E slots. In their specs, DFI clearly states that the three slots are for housing two ATi graphics cards in a Crossfire setup, as well as allowing space on the third x16 slot for a physics card. Note: the board is able to run two ATi cards in Crossfire at x8 bandwidth speeds.
Also on this part of the board, we see an LED readout for troubleshooting the board. This actually came in handy during the course of this review. Take a closer look at the LEDSs.
Also on the bottom left of the board, we have our LAN chip...
The audio solution is provided by the Realtek ALC885, which provides 8-channel, high def audio. DFI does things just a little different with their audio. We can get a better picture of this by looking at the top left of the board.
As you can see , the top left provides us with the CPU socket, an 8-pin power connector, and another heat sink for the cooling of the power on the board. As I mentioned, this is where you can see something a little unique on the LanParty boards. Notice the big gap under the PS/2 connections. That is where many times we would find our audio connections, but they are not there. And this is why...
DFI makes their audio in an add-on riser card. This is certainly unique, but it does make for one extra step in setup if you need to use the on-board audio.
Just a quick look at the back I/O inputs for the board shows us the big gap left without the riser card being installed. You also have your typical PS/2 ports, six USB, one firewire an two LAN ports.
Alright, let's move on!
Bundle and BIOS
The bundle, as it usually is, with the LanParty series is plentiful. You get all the documentation you would need for setup, as well as a CD with the drivers and other useful applications. DFI also supplies you with a floppy for your Windows install if needed. You get four SATA, one IDE and one floppy cables. You also get two SATA power adapters in the bundle. Of course, you cannot forget the sticker and case badge. These are a must for any LanParty cultists!
DFI went with the ever popular AWARD BIOS, with a few tweaks of course!
Advanced BIOS page brings in a few options of interest. Boot order and devices are set here, as well as a few other items of personal preference.
The Integrated Peripherals page is where you will set up your drives and USB preferences.
The health page gives us a good bit of information, and will help you manage your system's temps and fan speeds as needed.
The Genie page is certainly where the enthusiasts will find themselves spending a great amount of time. As with previous boards, DFI gives us plenty of options to tinker with. One could literally spend hours on this board and still have not touched half the options that are available. Let's take a look at some of these pages in this section...
Under Performance Option, we can set the RAM divider that is used. This is also where we can set the NB strapping, CPU control frequency and Memory overclocking.
Our memory divider options are what we would expect to see...
FSB goes all the way to 2044! I would say that is likely enough for anyone!
DDR speed can be set up to 1316DDR, which is also very good!
The last two shots give us the memory options that are available. As you can see, you have plenty to chew on. This will be a little overwhelming for the novice overclocker, but the hard-core tweaker will love spending time making many adjustments!
DFI has always given us lots of voltages to play with, and this board is not an exception. Take a look at what we have:
Vcore goes up to 1.6v. That may seem low, but the board also has the ability to be increased above that by setting the CPU VID Special, as seen here...
Using this option, you can increase your voltage (if I did my math correct) by 121.25%, which could give you a potential vcore of 1.94v, which is enough to cook dinner on!
Vdimm also has an amazing range, giving us the option of up to 2.64v running through our DDR memory! Umm...needless to say, it is not recommended to run this voltage without a little extra cooling! I am not going to go over and explain each voltage option, but here are some pics of the max that you can expect from each option offered in the BIOS...
Quite a lot of voltages to play with, huh? Like I said, you could literally spend hours upon hours tweaking a board like this, and that is just the voltage options! Let's look at some other options in the BIOS...
DFI has continued to include the CMOS reloaded page for the BIOS. This let's you save BIOS settings for a few different setups. This is nice to be able to switch things up so quickly (on the fly).
Ok, that is enough of the BIOS... let's move on!
Test SetupBenchmarks and Testing Setup:
Intel Core 2 Duo E6600 (2.4ghz)
DFI LanParty UT ICFX3200
EVGA 680i SLI 775 A1
ECS PN2 SLI2+ Extreme
Asus P5N-E SLI
ATI X1900 XTX
Corsair C6400C4 2 GB kit
Western Digital 250GB, 16mb Cache
PC Power & Cooling 750
Windows XP Professional w/SP2
All tests were run using a clean install of Windows XP Professional with SP2. For our stock speed tests, we ran everything at default timings for the CPU. Our stock speed testing used Corsair DDR2 C6400C4 2 GB kit at 1.9 vDimm at DDR2 800. Timings for our overclocking were left 4-4-4-12 and 1.9v, but the ram divider was set to the lowest possible to take any ram issues out of the CPU overclocking. Vcore is set at 1.5v for overclocking. The video card was left at default timings as well for all tests. For this review, stability was determined by running our battery of tests, plus the ability to complete a SuperPi 32mb test run.
SiSoft; Sandra 2007
Sisoft; Sandra 2007:
SiSoftware, founded in 1995, is one of the leading providers of computer analysis, diagnostic and benchmarking software. The flagship product, known as "SANDRA", was launched in 1997 and has become one of the most widely used products in its field. SANDRA is used by almost 400 world-wide IT publications, magazines, review sites to analyze the performance of today's computers.
Multi-Core Support: As well as SMP (multi-processor) and SMT (multi-threading/Hyper-Threading) support we have added multi-core support for future AMD and Intel CPUs. The benchmarks have been optimized to schedule the optimum number of threads on the optimum (virtual) CPU on both multi-core and Hyper-Threaded computers.
The DFI does pretty much what we expected here in our Sandra testing. It scores right in line with the other boards represented.
POV-Ray 3.7 Beta 13a
Processor Performance on Pov-Ray 3.7 Beta 13a:
The Persistence of Vision Ray-Tracer was developed from DKBTrace 2.12 (written by David K. Buck and Aaron A. Collins) by a bunch of people (called the POV-Team) in their spare time. It is an high-quality, totally free tool for creating stunning three-dimensional graphics. It is available in official versions for Windows, Mac OS/Mac OS X and i86 Linux. The POV-Ray package includes detailed instructions on using the ray-tracer and creating scenes. Many stunning scenes are included with POV-Ray so you can start creating images immediately when you get the package. These scenes can be modified so you do not have to start from scratch. In addition to the pre-defined scenes, a large library of pre-defined shapes and materials is provided. You can include these shapes and materials in your own scenes by just including the library file name at the top of your scene file, and by using the shape or material name in your scene. Since this is free software feel free to download this version and try it out on your own.
The most significant change from the end-user point of view between versions 3.6 and 3.7 is the addition of SMP (symmetric multiprocessing) support, which in a nutshell allows the renderer to run on as many CPU's as you have installed on your computer. This will be particularly useful for those users who intend purchasing a dual-core CPU or who already have a two (or more) processor machine. On a two-CPU system the rendering speed in some scenes almost doubles. For our benchmarking we used version 3.7 as all of the processors we are testing today are dual-core.
Once rendering on the object we selected was completed, we took the score from dialog box, which indicates the average PPS for the benchmark. A higher PPS indicates faster system performance.
Here we see the DFI fall just a little short when compared to our other board represented, including the older ECS PN1 board.
POV-Ray Real-Time Raytracing
Legit Reviews was e-mailed by one of the developers over at POV-Ray to see if LR could include real-time raytracing in our performance analysis of Kentsfield and Quad FX. After spending a bit of time to get the beta software to work correctly LR has some of the only real-time raytracing numbers available for Conroe, Kentsfield and Quad FX platforms.
We see the same results in the POV real-time tracing testing. The DFI just does not measure up to the other boards in this benchmark, although it does beat out the ECS PN2 60i board.
ScienceMark 2.0 Beta:
Science Mark 2.0 is an attempt to put the truth behind benchmarking. In an attempt to model real world demands and performance, ScienceMark 2.0 is a suite of high-performance benchmarks that realistically stress system performance without architectural bias. For the Memory Testing, higher numbers represent better performance. On the remaining tests, lower seconds represent better performance.
Our DFI just did not do well in our Memory bandwidth testing either. It falls VERY short of the other boards that were tested. We will have to see if this will be the same result in our Everest Bandwidth testing...
Everest Ultimate Edition
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. We use EVEREST because it does memory read and write speed, memory latency measurement to stress the memory and cache subsystem, including references list to compare actual performance with other systems.
Everest shows us mixed results, as the DFI does poorly on the read testing, but falls right in line with the write bandwidth testing. Note: we have no Everest results for the Foxconn and ECS PN1 boards.
Super PI Mod v1.5:
Super PI is a program a lot of enthusiasts use to benchmark overall system performance, as the program is capable of calculating pi up to 33.55 million digits on a timer. Many overclockers and enthusiasts are in a battle to get the lowest Super Pi times possible. We use the 2MB test this time, as it demands quite a bit more stability than a 1MB test. Of course, most believe using the 32MB test is a must to prove stability.
In our SuperPi testing, we see that the DFI falls nearly 3 seconds behind our leaders in this benchmark. It comes in dead last again, leaving us scratching our heads.
RARLAB - WinRar v3.61 has a multithreaded version of the RAR compression algorithm, which improves the compression speed on computers with several CPU, dual core CPU and processors with hyperthreading technology. Multithreading is enabled by default, but you can disable it in "General" part of "Settings" dialog.
You can see the trend can't you? This board is just not measuring up in performance compared to the other boards involved in our testing. This is unusual, as we typically see very close scores at default settings.
RightMark Audio Analyer
In interpreting the results on the boards, we see that the Dynamic Range and Noise Levels on the DFI LanParty board does very well for itself compared to some of the other boards represented here, as the greater the dBA the better. We can also see that when it comes to the THD and IMD percentages, the DFI does very good compared to the other boards, since lower percentages mean better audio. Any of the boards audio will probably be fine for most people, even for gaming and movies. But if you are a die hard audiophile, you will likely get an add-on card for the best sound that is available.
Hd Tach 3
Hd Tach 3: HD Tach will test the sequential read, random access and interface burst speeds of your attached storage device (hard drive, flash drive, removable drive, etc). All drive technologies such as SCSI, IDE/ATA, 1394, USB, SATA and RAID are supported. Test results from HD Tach can be used to confirm manufacturer specs, analyze your system for proper performance, and compare your performance with others. HD Tach is very easy to use, quick, and presents data in easy to read graphs, including the ability to compare two storage devices on screen at the same time for easy analysis.
The average read score falls right in line with the other boards, but we do see the DFI board fall behind the other boards in the burst speed testing.
3DMark06 includes an array of 3D graphics, CPU and 3D feature tests for overall performance measurement of current and future PC gaming systems. With this broader design approach, 3DMark06 has become the benchmark of choice for all PCs with top-of-the-line graphics hardware and CPUs. 3DMark06 is the first product from Futuremark using the AGEIA PhysX software physics library in two very complex, game-like threaded CPU tests conceived to measure properly performances of single processor, multi-core and multiple processor systems in next generation of games. In addition to using real-time physics, both CPU tests also employ multi-threaded artificial intelligence algorithms. By combining the results of the two CPU tests and four graphics tests, 3DMark06 enables users to get a 3DMark score which reflects the overall gaming performance of their PC.
We see a turn-around for the board in our 3dMark testing. In the overall score, the DFI takes the lead while in the CPU score, it comes in around the middle of the pack.
Sierra; F.E.A.R w/ v1.0.8 patch:
F.E.A.R. (First Encounter Assault and Recon) is a first-person close-quarters combat game for the PC. The story begins when a paramilitary force infiltrates a multi-billion dollar aerospace compound, and the government responds by sending in Special Forces. The group loses contact with the government when an eerie signal interrupts radio communications--and when that interference subsides moments later, the team has been destroyed. That's where you come in. As part of a classified strike team created to deal with threats no one else can handle, your mission is simple: eliminate the intruders at any cost, determine the origin of the signal, and contain the potential crisis before it gets out of control.
The DFI also does very well in the F.E.A.R. benchmark, tieing for the the lead. This board does well in the gaming department. Let's look at overcocking!
I had great hopes of being able to post some uber numbers for our overclocknig of the board. To be honest, I have always had good success with DFI boards, so hopes were high. Unfortunately, at this time, we will not be able to get you any overclocking numbers. Our board had some issues with the BIOS, and we had hoped to have a replacement board in time to complete the article, but we did not. When and if we receive another board, we will do our best to post some overclocking results, so check back here!
Final Thoughts and Conclusion
I am really at a loss for words when it comes to writing my conclusion for this board. There is really not too much to be said other than, "look at the numbers." It did not score well in any of our testing other than gaming, so performance is only so-so. The price of the board is right at $180, so it would be hard to justify this board at that price point when so many of the other boards that it was compared to are cheaper and out-perform it.
When it comes to the RD600 chipset, I really did expect more right out of the box. DFI included all of the tweaks that have been available on past LanParty series boards. There is likely some tweaking that can be done to get a little more out of the board, and many of the hard core tweakers would like that on this board. However, why do it when better performance can be had out of the box with the likes of the 680i, 650i and even the 650i ultra chipsets from Nvidia as well as the tried and true Intel 965 and 975 boards. The performance of the RD600 chipset just seems to fall short when compared to these others.
Legit Bottom Line: This board, though it carries the LanParty series naming, just seems to fall short of its predecessors. For top performance right out of the box, your money is better spent on one of the other chipsets that are currently available.