DFI LanParty and Abit AN7 NFII Ultra Motherboards - HotHardware

DFI LanParty and Abit AN7 NFII Ultra Motherboards

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DFI LANParty NFII Ultra B vs. ABIT AN7
The Clash of the nForce2 Ultra's

By: Tom Laverriere
February 29, 2004

     

The DFI LANParty series of motherboards are anything but typical.  The LANParty motherboard garners its name from not only its looks, but all the goodies that are bundled along with it, making it an excellent centerpiece for a LAN gaming rig. 

Did Someone Say Party?
Look At All the Purdy Colors

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As you can see by the bundle, DFI doesn't skimp on trimmings.  There are three manuals included with this motherboard providing ample documentation on all aspects of the product from quick installation procedures to all the entire feature set and how to use every last piece of equipment.  The accessory kit comes with a pair of SATA cables as well as the SATA power connector.  A rear USB bracket and a packet of thermal grease round out the accessory kit.  A FrontX panel also ships with the LANParty motherboard and offers USB, IEEE-1394, sound, and diagnostic capabilities at the front of the case for easy accessibility.  Just slip the FrontX panel into an empty 5.25" bay, make the appropriate connections to the motherboard and you're off and running.  One minor drawback of the FrontX panel is the fact that it only comes in a beige color.  It would be nice to see an option for black, since a lot of today's cases are no longer the typical beige color.  A pair of round, UV reactive cables are thrown in for good measure.  One floppy disk cable and an EIDE cable are in the box.  On the down side, there was only 1 PATA cable with our unit.  We can remember the days of one EIDE cable being sufficient, but that tends to be the exception rather than the norm in today's Desktop PC.  Sticking with the LANParty theme, DFI throws in what they like to call the "PC Transpo".  The PC Transpo is perfect for lugging ATX cases from point A to point B.  Besides a few minor drawbacks this has to be one of the, if not the most complete bundle we've seen from a motherboard manufacturer.  Now, let's take a closer look at the motherboard itself.

   

     

   

     

 

Obviously, DFI has chosen a green UV sensitive motif for its NFII Ultra B motherboard.  The DIMM slots, FDD and EIDE connectors, as well as the expansion slots are all composed of the green UV reactive material.  Put this motherboard in a case with a window and a black light and it really comes to life.  Besides the physical aesthetics being quite extravagant on this motherboard, there is more under the hood than meets the eye.  This motherboard is packed with add-on features.  Dual LAN, four SATA connectors, three IEEE-1394 connectors, and up to 6 USB 2.0 ports to name a few.  That's a lot of IOs to stuff onto one motherboard so let's cover the layout a bit.

The Layout of the motherboard is well done with only a few setbacks.  The CPU socket area is a bit tight and we had some trouble installing our Thermaltake Volcano 11+ heatsink onto this motherboard.  So all of those with an oversized after market heatsink in mind, should check to be sure it will fit on this motherboard.  The ATX power connector is slammed right up against the CPU fan power header which makes the wire organization a bit awkward and messy.  The other two fan headers on this motherboard, chassis fan and utility fan, are squeezed in at the very bottom of the motherboard, just on the other side of the last PCI slot, making them extremely hard to reach, especially over PCI add in cards.  Other than those minor quibbles, we liked the design of this motherboard in terms of the EIDE and FDD connectors which are the top, right hand side of the motherboard.  This is an ideal placement for even full-sized towers.  The DIMM slots will not interfere with the AGP slot as we were able to change memory modules without the removal of the video card.  Overall, this is well designed motherboard and one we find little fault with.

There are a few proprietary add-in features to this motherboard.  DFI adds a reset and power button on the bottom of the motherboard which makes this motherboard extremely easy to use when sitting outside of a case.  This comes is extremely handy when troubleshooting any problems the motherboard may have.  A passive heatsink was placed on the Southbridge chip of this motherboard, which is a nice touch since it does get hot during operation.  A larger, passive heatsink was used on the Northbridge chip as well.  While these passive heatsinks do provide some head room in terms of overclocking the motherboard, a heatsink fan combination is preferable of course , especially on the Northbridge.  Four SATA headers provide a wealth of RAID configurations such as RAID 0, 1,0+1, and JBOD.  The Dual LAN on this motherboard includes both a 10/100 connection as well as a Gigabit connection.  Overall we were very impressed with all the options the DFI LANParty NFII Ultra B motherboard has to offer.

DFI LANParty BIOS Setup
CMOS Reloaded

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If you were impressed with this motherboard's hardware, be sure the the BIOS firmware will not let you down either.  The DFI LANparty motherboard incorporates the Phoenix AWARD BIOS.  There are a lot of details to mention here so let's dive right in.  The advanced chipset screen allows the timings of the RAM to be set to many different combinations.  Entering the "Genie BIOS" screen is where you'll find the heart and soul of this BIOS.  For those of you with unlocked Athlon processors, there is wide array of multipliers to choose from.  To compliment this multipliers, the CPU clock can bet set from 100 MHz all the way up to 300 MHz in 1 MHz increments.  The DRAM clock is just as adjustable with ratios of "By SPD", 1:1, 2:1, 5:4 and 6:5 to name a few.  The AGP clock can be set to anything from 50 MHz, or 66 MHz all the way to 100MHz in 1 MHz increments.  

On to the voltages... We have the option to change the CPU core voltage from "Auto" all the way up to 2.000V in 0.025V increments.  The DRAM voltage is adjustable all the way up to 3.30V in 0.1V increments.  The AGP and chipset voltages are also changeable and have five options each.  Now if all these options don't tickle your fancy, then we're sure this next one will.  DFI has called it "CMOS Reloaded" and it allows the user to save different BIOS profiles for fast switching.  The user can save up to four different BIOS configurations and distinctly name each one of those.  This screen comes in extremely handy in the event the BIOS needs to be reset.  We were very impressed with the LANParty NFII Ultra B's BIOS, due to the fact it is geared directly toward the enthusiast and has every option you would like to see in such a motherboard.  Let's see how the ABIT AN7 compares.

ABIT and UGuru For You

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