For twenty years, has been behind the scenes in the computer industry providing OEM solutions and VARs (Value Added Resellers) from individual components, to embedded and gaming systems, to kiosks, and everything in between. DFI first came into the retail motherboard market in the late second quarter of 2002 with their KT333 offering. Since then they have amassed a strong following, and I myself tested their LanParty KT400A motherboard and was impressed with the motherboard's performance. Now more than a year later I'm reviewing another board targeted at the high-performance community, the LanParty UT 915P-T12. Let's see if the 915P-T12 can stack up to the reputation DFI has gained from me, or if DFI's sense of quality and performance in the midst of pretty UV components has stayed true.
Just about everyone in the reviewing community is familiar with the problems that plagued Intel's 915P (Grantsdale) southbridge, the ICH6. Only a few short days after June 21st, when the 915 chipset was released, Intel told motherboard makers that it had found a flaw in the ICH6 chipset. By early July, Intel was sending out new southbridges to motherboard manufacturers. I would say it's safe to assume that the ICH6 chipsets on DFI's 915-based motherboards are the fixed revision.
The 915P-T12 is loaded with many of the features that are expected on today's high performance motherboards, such as PCI Express, SATA, built-in audio, DDR 400 support, as well as two Gigabit Ethernet controllers and an interesting BIOS backup utility.
|LAN PARTY 915X-T12 exclusive features
- Karajan Audio(Dolby 7.1, 8ch supported)
- Dual Gigabit LAN (1x PCI interface, 1 x PCIe interface)
- SATA/ PATA converting daughter Card
- 100% Japanese Capacitors
- PCI express #16,#1 supported
- CMOS reloaded
- Dual Channel DDR2 533 + DDR 400
- Genie BIOS
- EZ-on / EZ-touch
You can read the full specifications .
The LanParty's box has the same art that all of DFI's LanParty boxes do, a gamer at a LAN party, sitting with energy drinks at his computer. Upon opening the package, everything was securely packed and properly packaged. In addition to the motherboard DFI includes a few cables and some things to make your life easier. Along with the motherboard, the 915P-T12 comes with a Serial ATA to Parallel ATA converter, a rounded IDE and floppy cable, two Serial ATA data cables, one Serial ATA power cable, a DB-9 port (legacy game controller/midi port) an audio daughterboard and of course an I/O shield.
Starting with the orange cables at the top of the photo, there is the included floppy cable and one PATA (IDE) cable. Directly below these cables are the two included SATA cables, and to their direct right is a molex to SATA power converter. While red seems to be the norm for SATA data cable colors, one would have hoped that DFI could have color matched the SATA cables to the same orange as the IDE cables and connectors.
Below the Molex to SATA power splitter is the I/O plate. To its direct left is a rather curious audio daughterboard for the Karajan audio. For the life of this reviewer, it seems somewhat incomprehensible as to why DFI would create a removable daughterboard for these ports. Perhaps if someone installs a PCI or PCI-Express sound card, eliminates the need to discern between the two sets of audio ports, but even in this extreme case, having removable audio ports seems unnecessary, not to mention that the onboard SPDIF ports are not removable. However, for most people, the Karajan audio will be more than enough for music, DVDs and games.
In the lower left hand corner is the game port, and finally above the game port is an included IDE to SATA converter, and a molex connector that has a dongle to power the converter.
Also included with the motherboard is the standard documentation, drivers, and also documentation for the CMOS Reloaded features. More on that a bit later.
The first thing I noticed when looking at the motherboard was the contrast between the color of the PCB and the various sockets and connectors. Upon close examination, the PCI and PCI-Express slots have slightly different colors, but it's only noticeable after staring at them for a while, and it's not something that one should avoid the board because of.
Starting from the top right and going clockwise, we find the I/O ports (with a gap in them for the removable Karajan audio daughterboard.) Six USB ports, one IEEE1394 Firewire port, two gigabit Ethernet ports, SPDIF in and out, and keyboard and mouse PS/2 ports (not including the removable audio card) consist of the external input/output for the board.
One of the more interesting, and confusing things about the 915P-T12 is the removable audio daughterboard. In DFI's documentation it is labeled as an "audio card" but no audio processing actually is performed on the module... it plugs into a set of pins on the motherboard, and routes the audio signals to their respective sockets. Even though the audio module by all means seems to be secured very well to the motherboard by just the connector, DFI's decision to make the audio connectors removable baffles me.
Proceeding to the right on the motherboard we find the LGA775 socket surrounded by capacitors. The board uses a Foxconn LGA socket. As a side note, the socket protector that came with the motherboard had somehow been knocked off by the time I had received the motherboard, however the socket was still perfectly intact; DFI's packaging scheme doesn't really put anything that could damage the socket above it, so even if this is common place, there shouldn't be anything to worry about. Also, I had no problems installing the CPU into the socket, there were no obstructions, or anything that made the installation cumbersome.
Here we can also see the 915P northbridge which is passively cooled.
Below the socket is the motherboard 12v power connector, and below that are the memory sockets. The yellow sockets located closer to the processor socket are for DDR2 memory, and the outer, orange sockets are for DDR1 memory. While the 915P supports dual channel memory, only one type of ram can be used at a given time, which means that no more than two DIMMs at a time can be used for system memory.
Below the sockets is the motherboard's backplane EPS 12V molex connector and the IDE connector. Unfortunately the motherboard comes with only one IDE connector. For some unfathomable reason, DFI felt it necessary to mount the IDE connector at a 90 degree angle on the board instead of having it perpendicular to the PCB. In my mid-sized case, this provided for a very cramped and difficult IDE installation of my CD-ROM, as connecting the cable was difficult, and the IDE cable ended up interfering with one of my hard drives. The placement overall of backplane molex connector and the IDE connector is not exactly stellar, and placing them higher on the board would probably have made installation easier.
Directly to the left of the IDE connector is a set of pins and LEDs for diagnostics.
Traversing the board to the left, one finds the EZ Touch reset and power buttons, which are hardwired onto the motherboard. These buttons are intended to aid hardware enthusiasts who optimize their motherboard before they install it into their case. By using the EZ Touch switches, an enthusiast does not have to hook up a jury-rigged power button. To the left of the EZ Touch buttons is the southbridge, which is passively cooled, as well as the four SATA connectors.
Directly below the SATA connectors is a PCI Express slot (1x) that is meant for any peripheral that doesn't need any sort of access outside of the case, for example, a RAID card. Finally at the bottom of the board is the floppy drive connector.
The 915P-T12 sports a total of four PCI Express slots; one 16x and three 1x slots, as well as three PCI slots. A half-inch above the CMOS battery and to the left is the IEEE1394 breakout pins. Directly below the CMOS battery, directly by a capacitor are the USB breakout pins.
To the right of the expansion slots is the ICH6 southbridge, which, like the northbridge, is passively cooled.
Nestled in-between the PCI Express and PCI slots is the VIA VT6307 (aka Fire IMM) 1394 controller.
Towards the bottom left of the motherboard is the super I/O chip, the ITE IT8712F. Above it lies the Marvell 88E8001, which is the PCI-bus gigabit Ethernet controller. Above that is the rather small Marvell 88E8053, which handles the gigabit Ethernet on the PCI Express bus.