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Sunday, 02 December 2007 23:36

DFI LANparty UT P35-T2R close-up

Written by Eliot Kucharik

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Review: DFI LANparty UT, an overclocker's dream



Today we take a close look at DFI's answer to all overclocker prayers. Where the BIOS settings of other boards stop, DFI gives you the freedom to change any setting available, but you should know what you are doing. This board is targeted to the high-end overclocker customer, but even "normal" folk will be happy with it.

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Features:
Intel P35/iCH9%
dual 4-phase digital VRM
Marvell 88E8053 PCIe Gb network MAC
Marvell 88E8052 PCIe Gb network MAC
JMicro JMB363 SATA II RAID/PATA controller
iTE IT8718F-S super I/O controller
Cypress CY28551LFXC clock generator
VIA VT6307 Firewire 400 controller
Bernstein audio module with Realtek ALC885 (with HDCP audio support)
Passive cooling of chipsets
8Mb BIOS, version BD07
Mainboard Revision: retail

Slots:
3x PCIe x16 (16x, 4x, 0x or 16x, 1x, 1x)
1x PCIe  x1
3x PCI

Memory:
2x Dual-Channel DDR2-slots for PC2-6400U memory up to 8GB

Storage:
8-Port SATA II
2-Port IDE

Backpanel ports:
1x PS/2 keyboard
1x PS/2 mouse
2x Gb LAN
6x USB 2.0
1x Firewire

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Accessories:
4x SATA cable UV
2x HDD-power to 2x SATA power cable
1x Floppy cable
1x IDE cable
1x Transpiper cooling module
1x Bernstein audio module

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BIOS features:
Bus Speeds: auto, 200MHz to 700MHz in 1MHz increments
Memory Ratios: auto, 200MHz, 266MHz, 333MHz strapping
DRAM command rate: auto, 1T, 2T
DRAM timing control: auto, manual
PCIe Frequency: auto, 100 to 200MHz in 1MHz increments
CPU Clock Multiplier: auto, manual
Core 2 Duo: 6x-11x in 1X increments - Core 2 Duo, downwards unlocked
Core 2 Extreme: 6x-16X, downwards unlocked
CPU Voltage: 0.44375V to 1.6000V in 0.0125V increments
CPU Voltage Special Add: 100.23% to 130% in 0.23/0.24% increments
DRAM Voltage: 1.904V, 1.71V to 3.04V in various increments
FSB Termination Voltage: auto, 1.20V to 1.60V in 0.02/0.03V increments
North Bridge Voltage: 1.33V, 1.30V to 1.90V in 0.03-ß-ß5V increments
South Bridge Voltage: auto, 1.070V, 1.150V, 1.217V, 1.300V
Clockgen Voltage Control: 3.45V, 3.60V, 3.75V, 3.85V
and a lot more settings




Layout:

While offering a lot of slots this layout also has some drawbacks. This board targets the high-end enthusiast market, where two-slot graphics cards are common. We think the single PCIe x1 slot is a waste of space, so the Northbridge and its massive cooler have to be located very close to the CPU socket. Some coolers will be troublesome to install because the heatpipes take up a lot of space. Check out the Web pages of the CPU cooler manufacturer before purchase.

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You can only use all PCIe x16 slots when you set the second and third to x1 speed. If you set the secondary PCIe x16 slot to x4, the third slot is unusable and the second Gb LAN-port is disabled. DFI should have spared the PCIe x1 slot and used it for the 2nd LAN port. At least you have three PCI slots, so you can keep your audio, TV and PATA RAID cards.

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While heatpipe cooling on the chipset has been standard for a while in the high-end market, DFI did something incomprehensible. The heatpipe is covering the mounting hole under the primary PCIe slot, which should be attached, especially when a heavy graphics card such as a 8800 GTX is used. We have already heard that this mistake will sadly be repeated with the AMD 790FX board.

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In contrast to all other boards we tested, this board has a digital VRM. A dual four-phase design keeps your CPU cool and reduces power requirements. The Volterra VT1115MF drives two Coiltronics CPL-4-50 quad-phase power inductors. Compared to an analog design, the digital chip can switch much faster and the current is supplied with much more accuracy. This will give you some advantages when overclocking.

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Network connectivity is provided by two Marvell PCIe Gb LAN MACs, but you may only use the first if you need to use all three PCIe x16 ports. PATA devices can be used, thanks to the JMB363 controller on board, which also provides two more SATA ports onboard. DFI does not use these extra ports to provide two eSATA ports, this may be a drawback, but you still have 12 USB 2.0 ports to add lots of external storage. Additionally, a VIA VT6307 provides two Firewire 400 ports, one externally and one header.

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The memory slots are placed pretty close to the PCIe x16 primary slot, but with a bit of fiddling around you can replace memory, even when a large graphics card is installed. Below you find the 24-pin power connector and the IDE port.

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The SATA connectors are located on the edge of the board at a 90° angle. Such a layout saves space, does not interfere with extra large graphics cards and keeps the cable mess at bay. The yellow ones are connected to the JMB363 controller.

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On the left side below the third PCIe x16 slot you will find reset and power switches. You won't miss the CMOS switch because when pressing the reset and power switches for more than four seconds simultaneously the CMOS will be cleared of the OC settings, while RAID and other options stay. Below them the port-80 diagnostic LEDs will inform you of any troubles while booting. Not all codes are printed inside the manual, but the Internet will help out if you run into an undescribed code.

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DFI packs the Transpiper module in the box, which is a nice idea to get the heat out of the case. Sadly, DFI did not think the idea through, because it's not very compatible. For example, if you own a Thermaltake Armor case, you're in trouble, because you can't mount it in such a way to get the heatsink in front of your power supply. In this case the power cable gets in the way. If you use a monster PSU with 750W or more, you won't get cool air from the power supply, and it will heat up the Transpiper which will limit your overclocking results.

There is an other option to mount the Transpiper to the Southbridge cooler, which is a bad idea, as heatpipes work best when heat can flow upwards. The third option is to sandwich a cooper heatspreader between the CPU and the CPU cooler, which should transport some of the heat to the VRM cooler (where the Transpiper is installed anyway), and this is a bad idea, too. To introduce an extra heatspreader does more harm than good, since it impairs CPU cooling. Only one heatpipe is mounted on the VRM cooler which connects to the Transpiper module. We think a dual heatpipe would been better, at least for stability reasons. We also wish there were more installation flexibility and also request that the tiny tube of thermal conductive paste be replaced with a tube of Arctic Silver 5 instead. The original was too hard to apply due its viscous consistency.

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BIOS:

DFI uses a Phoenix-Award BIOS with tons of options to set. It would take 20 pages to explain it in detail, but you will find a lot of useful information about DFI-BIOS settings at DFI-Club.

We have set Enhance Data transmitting and Enhance Addressing to "fast." You can set all the timings for any bank and cycle timings as well; we used only "more aggressive" where applicable and let all other settings stay "auto," as these are the most stable settings for 800MHz modules.

Memory timings are set with FSB-strap (200, 266, 333MHz) and memory frequency. The BIOS is nice and calculates the absolute frequency for you. The strap is important for any other timings; most notably, the "performance level" 333Mhz strap is safer, but slower, than 266MHz strap. If you own OC modules, the 266MHz FSB strap is usable up to 400MHz.

We have to state that we always do recalculate the bench results to nominal frequencies. Most vendors do an overclock of their products, maybe to get more bench points, but we nullify such attempts. The DFI LANparty UT P35-T2R is mostly underclocked or right on target:

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Overclock:

We did not expect to get a BIOS-screen with 500MHz FSB with our old CPU but DFI managed, which is incredible. Our CPU was stable with 489MHz. More surprisingly, we could squeeze out ~3752MHz. This is higher than any other board we tested so far.

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Of course, the board is also suited to set your memory up to sky-high frequencies, but you need to carefully set memory timings to get there.

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Testbed:

Motherboard:
DFI LANparty UT P35-T2R (provided by DFI)
Intel P35/iCH9R

CPU:
Intel Core 2 Duo E6700 (provided by Intel)

CPU-Cooler:
Scythe Andy Samurai Master (provided by Scythe-Europe)

Memory:
Kingston 2GB PC2-9600U Kit KHX9600D2K2/1G (provided by Kingston)
CL5-5-5-15-CR2T at 1.90V@  800MHz
CL5-5-5-16-CR2T at 2.30V@ 1066MHz/1200MHz

Graphics Card:
AMD ATI Radeon X1950XTX (provided by AMD)

Power supply:
Silverstone Element SF50EF-Plus (provided by Silverstone)

Hard disk:
Western Digital WD4000KD (provided by Ditech)

Case fans:
SilenX iXtrema Pro 14dB(A) (provided by PC-Cooling.at)
Scythe DFS122512LS





Benchmarks:

Please note that different BIOS revisions may give different results. All benches are done with AUTO settings, without altering any BIOS option aside from the CPU VCore and major CL settings. DDR2 speed is always 800MHz, or near to 800MHz when not possible. As stated earlier, we did some tweaking.

Gordian Knot/XVID 1.1.3:

For our Gordian Knot testing we took an PAL episode of "Babylon 5" with a length of 41 minutes, 57 seconds and 8 frames.

We tried to "emulate" the most common usage of Gordian Knot:

1st: We have a perfect master, so we only de-interlace the content and resize it, without any other manipulations. We marked this as "fast."

2nd: You get bad mastering on many DVDs, especially "old" stuff or when the studios are in a hurry for the release. In this case you will want to improve the picture quality, which is done by filtering the content. You can choose from tons of filters for any purposes you can think of. We only used the most common "undot," "FluxSmooth" and "MSharpen." Of course, we also de-interlaced, filters were done before any resizing took place (which is slower). We marked this as "slow."

If you need more information about filters, we recommend reading the doom9.org forum.

Surprisingly, the DFI is weaker than expected.

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*Please note the Biostar board is running at 3600MHz.

x264:

x264 is a H.264/AVC codec which supports four threads and is available for free. We used the same "slow" settings as XviD. H.264 gives you a huge advantage in compressing size, and you need much less bitrate to achieve the same or better quality compared to XviD. While the H.264/AVC is much more advanced compared to MPEG2 encoders, now the CPU-power is available to do the encoding in an acceptable time.

You can clearly see that a quad-core brings a massive advantage in encoding speed; the first pass seems to run on only two cores, but the second pass takes advantage of all four cores. With a quad-core you can nearly reach the speed of XivD, which can only use two cores for the time being.

The codec is open source, still in heavy development and you can grab it here.


Here DFI does not show any weakness, which is very strange, because video encoders should perform similarly.

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*Please note the Biostar board is running at 3600MHz.


LameMT:

We used the same episode for our MP3-testing. We don't recommend using MP3 for encoding, because AC3 can do the job better. The audio is almost 42 minutes long and it gives us approximately the length of most of album. A measurement in seconds, as many sites use, is useless, because the differences are too small.

We used the built-in play/CPU ratio, which means the CPU is encoding x-times faster then the track-length. Fast memory does not play an important role here. For your convenience we also show you the single-threaded benches. They will be produced with any other L.A.M.E. version, because only LameMT can do more than one thread and take advantage of a second dice.

We used this setting: lamemt --vbr-new -q 2 -V 2 -m j --strictly-enforce-ISO --resample 48.

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*Please note the Biostar board is running at 3600MHz.




Power Consumption:

Now look at the results of this 8-phase digital VRM. It clearly shows how much more efficient it is. We can't understand why other vendors do not endorse the use of the best technology available. While an 8-phase design does require more power while the CPU is idling - the digital uses a few watts less then its analog brother, and it gets very close to the 3-phase VRM design under load. We did also save up to 0.025V while overclocking; of course, this will reduce the CPU power requirements, too.

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*Please note the Biostar board is running at 3600MHz.




Conclusion:

This board may not be the fastest with certain applications, but it is still the best. It has some drawbacks due to the layout, Transpiper and compatibility issues with some CPU-coolers, but it has all an overclocker can dream of. While you "play" with the board you learn with every step what the timings will do. Contacting  DFI support results in an incredibly fast response, and any other vendor can take this as an example.

The board was stable all the time, some 1fps slower is not something we care about that much; but you can squeeze out every MHz your CPU can manage while keeping your CPU cool and energy costs low.

We definitely recommend this board. You can grab it for under €193,- here, which is still 10 bucks less than ASUS Blitz Formula but you will not receive a fancy LCD-Display, either. While a Bugatti Veyron does not make any sense, this board does.

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Last modified on Monday, 03 December 2007 10:39
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