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DFI LanParty NFII Ultra DFI LanParty NFII Ultra B: There's still life left in the Athlon XP, and we take a look at one of the better mobo solutions, which includes an excellent BIOS feature.
Date: January 9, 2004
Manufacturer:
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Motherboard Layout:

One of the first things I noticed about the board was the rounded PCB edges. This makes the board so much easier to handle. Also I noticed the motherboard features UV reactive PCI slots and the PCB itself is also UV reactive. Modders who have a UV cold cathode or Neon in their case with a window should be pleased with a nice looking motherboard to showoff. The color scheme is green and black, and at first I wasn't too much for it, but after a while the colors grew on me.

Generally the items on the motherboard seem to be laid out in a good fashion.

The rear ports are all color coded, and noticeably one of the serial ports is gone in favor of the S/PDIF in and out which surely would be more useful for most people. Other things of note are the 2 Ethernet ports and the 4 USB ports. For me the most wonderful of all are the 5 audio jacks that can be used in digital or analog along with the MCP-T Southbridge giving the LanParty NFII Ultra B full Soundstorm support. The 5 jacks are Line-in, Line-out, Mic-in, Center/Bass, Rear out.

Room around the CPU socket is plentiful, and DFI even has the four mounting holes which are no longer a part of AMD spec, to allow larger HSFs such as old Swiftech MCA-462's, Alpha Pal 8045's, or Thermalright's SLK-900-U's to fit without a hitch. Kudos to DFI for the inclusion of said holes.

The DIMMS have plenty of space between themselves and the AGP card, and have enough space to be removed or installed with a long AGP card installed such as a 9800 XT or a 5950 Ultra. There are 3 DIMM slots allowing for up to 3GB of ram. Although the RAM slots themselves are not color coded, they appear in 2 banks, DDR 1 and 2 on one bank on the left, and the third DDR slot in the bank on the right. DDR 1 and 2 is one memory controller and the third is the other, making it easy to distinguish the two to make full use of the two memory controllers. During testing I had my RAM installed in bank 1 and 3.

The AGP slot has the distance of 1 PCI slot as a "buffer zone" between it and the other peripheral devices. This space will surely allow room for larger cooling devices found on 5900 Ultra cards or water-cooling or TEC setups. Next to the AGP slot is the 12v rail which is Intel spec, but DFI included on this board.

The Northbridge is just above the AGP slot, and there is plenty of clearance between the two. It's cooled passively by a heatsink that looks very similar to the one found on the Asus a7n8x. Underneath the northbridge was a good amount of thermal paste. I'm glad DFI supplied something; many manufactures still leave the northbridge dry.

The Southbridge is also passively cooled by a low profile heatsink. It's not a part of the MCP-T spec, but its inclusion is good none the less, because the Southbridge did become quite hot during testing.

The bottom right hand corner of the motherboard is populated by four SATA ports. With four SATA connectors, instead of two like most boards, one could easily have all SATA drives without needing an additional add-on SATA card. The SATA and SATA raid is controlled by the Silicon Image chip located next to the SATA ports. More notably is the power and reset buttons found onboard. This little feature made working with the motherboard that much easier. I didn't have to bother setting up a power switch on it while using it on the test bed.

There is plenty of space for the IDE devices at the edge of the board, and the 3 ½" floppy port is at a 90 degree angle allowing for easier access. I found myself wondering why the IDE devices didn't follow suit, but the IDE ports are in a good location none the less. You'll also notice in this picture it shows where the board revision is located.

All of the jumpers on the board are easy to get to, especially that critical CMOS reset jumper. Additionally a power and reset button are found onboard, which proved to be useful time and time again during testing. The status indicator LED's were neat, and paying attention to them would allow me to see at what point the motherboard was during boot. Inside the motherboard manual are the error fault codes to go along with the diagnostic LED's should you have any trouble.

A few trouble spots were found however. It seems to me that the placement of all the audio jacks on the bottom left are in bad locations. If PCI cards were installed in all the slots, then reaching all those jacks would be a really big pain. Additionally, I do not know why the CPU fan header is on the other side of the ATX power connector. Looking at the motherboard, the set up is CPU Socket --> ATX power connector --> CPU fan header. Preferably, it should be CPU socket --> CPU fan header --> ATX power connector. Hit us up in the forums if this is still unclear.

BIOS:

The Bios is based on the AwardBIOS, which is common among many boards. It has its convenient menus that most tweakers are familiar with. Inside, DFI included a wealth of options that will keep tweakers busy getting all their settings perfect. All the standard stuff is in here too, like devices and what not.

The RAM timings found in the chipset section are all standard as well.

Looking at all the Genie Bios settings which hold all of the overclocking features we find this:

A whopping 300FSB maximum, more than enough for any AMD part.

22 multiplier options, so there is a lot of overhead here as well.

2 volts on the cpu, where most manufacturers stop at 1.850 or 1.900.

1.8V AGP and 1.9V Chipset to add a little more voltage to keep that higher clock speed stable.

3.3v Ram. Wow, 2.9 is toasty enough for most, but with this, who needs volt mods?

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