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DFI Ultra LANParty UT nF4 Ultra-D DFI Ultra LANParty UT nF4 Ultra-D: Based on the nForce4 Ultra chipset and sporting two PCIe Graphics slots, we see what else this board has to offer.
Date: December 8, 2005
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The BIOS is probably one of the top 10 reasons someone would build their own PC instead of buying it off of an assembly line. The assembly line ~$400 PC’s are fixed; you get what you get, with minimal ability to modify performance. DFI uses the Award BIOS (with the additional features Such as CMOS reloaded) as a base for the BIOS on the Ultra-D.

Your intro screen into the BIOS is something most of us are familiar with, nothing out of the ordinary here. The same goes for the “Advanced BIOS Features”, “Advanced Chipset Features”, “Integrated Peripherals” etc. Looking further, we quickly move over to the header that catches my eye (did you see it too?), “Genie BIOS Setting”.

Once in the sub-menu of the Genie BIOS we can see this is where all of the excitement happens. We have “DRAM Configuration”, Frequency controls and Voltage Controls. The FSB Bus Frequency is 200 by default for the Venice core AMD Athlon 64's but you can go as high as 456MHz here, a lofty goal for sure. The LDT/FSB Frequency Ratio option configures the speed of the HT link through the use of multipliers. Although we can not see what the “Auto” selection uses for a multiplier, if we did select the maximum of 5x on a stock 200MHz, then the HT link speed would be 1000MHz. The LDT Bus Transfer Width controls the size of the upload and download transfer pipe available. Everything I have read says to leave it at the default of 16 up and 16 down. Nothing truly explains it well, so unfortunately I must leave it incomplete as well.

CPU/FSB Ratio is the multiplier, remember with AMD64 CPU's you can step down the multiplier to 4x all day long with no modifications required, you just can't go higher then its stock multiplier. You can even manipulate the PCI Express frequency, although at this early a stage I am a little gun shy manipulating the PCIe bus. The K8 cool and quiet support is basically a throttle on the CPU, which allows it to reduce operating frequency and VCore according to the current workload of the CPU.

CPU VID StartUp Value is the initial boost of VCore you want applied. This can assist a picky CPU from the initial boot failure and then quickly let the VCore drop down to a lower setting. I can see this helping in certain scenarios, but I wonder if it is more confusion then help in a lot of cases?

CPU VID Control is actually the VCore adjustment; you don't want to know how long it took me to figure this one out. You are able to raise the VCore to 1.550V here, although I am still unsure as to what “VID” actually stands for.

Then there is CPU VID Control Special … hrmmm, comments? Well, according to the downloaded manual, this is for “more options to further adjust the voltage of the CPU”. Clear as mud, right? Well further digging shows that this feature allows us to go beyond the 1.550V ceiling in the CPU VID Control section, all the way to 2.108V by way of percentage overdrive of your VID. Your cooling better be up to the task if you choose anything beyond 1.550V, but with support up to and beyond 2.1 volts, those with extreme cooling setups will find this a boon.

LDT and Chipset Voltage Control are just that, 2 things you don't see in many manufacturers BIOS settings. Initially I thought this might be gimmicky, and as to LDT, it still could be, but as to Chipset, I saw some definite ability to advance performance above and beyond the base when this was tweaked a little higher. Good thing, in this case, that DFI employs an active cooling mechanism for the Chipset.

Delving into the DRAM sub menu we see all of the variables any memory tweaker would ever want to see. I have to be totally honest here, I didn't even know what everything on this page did without research, and I wonder if there are more than 10 people who actually would. However, there are definitely enough items here to tweak to your hearts content and to others misery of confusion. The main item is the DRAM voltage option which allows for a maximum of 3.2v for your memory. This should be enough for even the most hardened overclocker, but if you really must have more, DFI have you covered, since the board can supply up to 4v to the memory (should you have the balls and the cooling for this) via a jumper on the motherboard. DRAM memory frequency is set via a series of ratios against the CPU bus speed.

CMOS Reload is a unique feature to DFI. This gives the user the ability to save different BIOS settings and recall them at POST with a simple Hot Key that you assign. I can see several advantages to this in the review world as well as a few in the real world, especially when tweaking for that ultimate overclock.

Test System: DFI LANParty nF4 Ultra-D Motherboard, 1GB (2x512 in Dual DDR Mode) Patriot, PC3200 / PC4200, AMD Athlon 64 3200+ (Venice Core), ASUS N5900 Extreme 128MB, Hitachi Deskstar 80GB, 8MB buffer, 7200 RPM, SATA Drive, Windows XP SP2

Comparison System: ASUS P5GDC-Deluxe Motherboard, 1GB (2x512 in PC2), Kingston HyperX PC2-5400, Intel Pentium 520 (2.8 GHz), HIS X850XT IceQ Turbo-II, Seagate 120GB, 8MB buffer, 7200 RPM, SATA Drive, Windows XP SP2

Although the comparison system is of a higher clock speed, the PR ratings of the AMD are higher then the Intel system. I am trying to show system efficiencies rather than brute performance as a comparison, hopefully that comes through.

- Our standard synthetic benchmark suite, updated to version 2005. While it doesn't provide real-world information, it does give us a base for the rest of the tests.

- Sysmark 2004 is BAPCo's latest revision of the mainstream office productivity and Internet content creation benchmark used to characterize the performance of the business client. It uses a number of real-world applications and runs them through a series of tests. We tested with the office and content creation benchmarks.

- We used a computation of 10000000 digits of Pi, Chudnovsky method, 1024 K FFT, and no disk memory. Note that lower scores are better, and times are in seconds.

- We used an Animatrix file, titled The Second Renaissance Part 1, and a WAV created from VirtualDub. The movie was then converted it into a DVD compliant MPEG-2 file with a bitrate of 5000. Times are in minutes, seconds, and lower is better.

Unreal Tournament 2004 - run at 640x480 with minimal detail to test CPU/Subsystem performance.

Similar to SiSoft in that it does not necessarily give us real world indication of performance but does allow for baseline testing and efficiency reports of CPU utilization at maximum hard drive transfer rates.

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