LANParty KT400A from DFI

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The "LAN Party" KT400A from DFI
A Different Approach from DFI

By: Jeff Bouton
June 11th, 2003

Features of the DFI LAN Party KT400A Motherboard Continued...
They've Got it All


One way DFI is attempting to get your attention is with a completely redesigned package both inside and out.  The box we received for review seemed more like a small suit case than a motherboard box, leaving us anxious to delve deeper.  Inside the package we removed the KT400A "LAN Party" motherboard and located the manuals and accompanying software.  Aside from a detailed User's Manual and Features Guide, we found an excellent Quick Installation Guide.  The Quick Installation Guide was a clear, oversized booklet that covered the entire installation process of the motherboard and accessories, although the BIOS section was rather brief.  Complimenting the printed materials was a Setup/Drivers CD, a floppy disk with RAID drivers and a copy of Intervideo's WinCinema which includes full versions of WinDVD and WinRip.  Last but not least, a large "LAN Party" case decal and a case badge were included as well.  Next we moved on to the first of 4 other smaller boxes in the package.

The first box we opened was labeled "Accessories" and contained some of the more critical items users may need.  We found a single SATA data cable and SATA power adapter to connect a standard power cable to a SATA drive.  We also found an I/O shield, DB-15 joystick bracket and S/PDIF bracket which connects to the onboard audio controller to provide S/PDIF In/Out functionality.  There was a small bag of 5 additional jumpers and a packet of thermal paste too.  The second box was labeled "Round Cables" which contained 2 80-PIN round IDE cables and one round Floppy Cable.


The third box was labeled "FrontX" which is a device for relocating USB, FireWire, MIC and Headphone ports to the front of the case, using a 5 1/4" bay.  We've reviewed an older version of the FrontX before and found it to be useful, routing a lot of the features from the rear of the case to the front.  The downside was the FrontX required a lot of cabling to run through the case to get the job done.  This particular model, however, is designed to connect to the headers on the motherboard itself which is a far more efficient design.  This model came with one FireWire connector, 2 USB ports, and two separate 1/8" audio ports which connects to the "front audio" header on the motherboard.  What we really like about the FrontX is that it is fully customizable and additional ports can be purchased separately for your specific needs.  Visit www.frontx.com for more details.  Lastly, we opened the fourth box labeled "PC Transpo" which contained a case harness for making it easy to carry your new "LAN Party" PC to the LAN Party.

As we said earlier, the DFI LAN Party KT400A ships with one of the most comprehensive motherboard packages we've ever seen.  DFI has really gone out of their way to make the LAN party experience a good one.  We were thrilled to see the attention to detail, including all of the necessary hardware the user could ever need to access all of the motherboards features.  Instead of focusing on out dated video game CDs and shareware, DFI gives you things you want to use and left the frivolous things out.

 

Quality and Setup of the DFI "LAN Party" KT400A
Nothing Left to Desire

The DFI "LAN Party" KT400A motherboard is one of those products that the more you look at it the more you like it.  Some of that impression has to do with its black PCB and green components that are designed to glow brightly under the proper lighting.  But the real substance lies with the board's overall construction and layout.  For the most part, the layout is intelligent and clean.  Virtually every jumper and connector on the board has clear labeling, a finer point that seems to have become less popular with manufacturers these days.  In fact, unless you have a question about a specific component, most will be able to install this board by referencing the component labels alone.

Driving the system's components is the VIA KT400A Northbridge and the VT8235CE Southbridge.  Since the VT8237 is still in development, DFI needed another way to offer SATA support.  Their solution was a Marvell 88i8030 chip which is compliant with the SATA 1.0 specification and is capable of a peak 1.5Gbps.  The board offers a single SATA connection as well as 2 RAID capable IDE ports driven by a High Point HPT372N chip.  The High Point chip is RAID 1.5 compliant which offers the ability to set up a RAID 0+1 with only two drives.  Unfortunately the system is not set up to offer RAID with SATA.  DFI did a nice job of positioning the IDE , RAID IDE, SATA and Floppy connectors on the edge of the board which will help keep the cabling from interfering with proper airflow.

The "LAN Party" comes with a total of 5 PCI slots and 1 AGP slot, allowing more than enough room for expansion.  We were pleased to see that DFI left a lot of room between the AGP slot and the 3 DIMM Slots so the video card doesn't have to be removed when swapping memory modules.  To the right of the IDE connectors, behind the DIMM Slots, is a series of 4 dipswitches for setting the bus speed.  This doesn't lock the bus speed entirely, but it does lock it within a range.  When the bus is set for a specific speed,100,133,166 or 200MHz, a range of bus speeds becomes available in the BIOS based on the selected dipswitch setting.

At the rear of the board are the ATX power connectors.  This model supports all legacy connections as well as 4 USB 2.0 and 2 10/100Mbps Ethernet ports.  One Ethernet port is powered by a VIA VT6103 Phy chip while the other uses a RealTek RTL8101L fast Ethernet controller.  With the growing popularity of Gigabit Ethernet, we were a little disappointed to see the "LAN Party" was limited to 10/100Mbps, although it is not a huge strike against it.  To the far right is the audio connectors driven by the AC'97 Codec, offering 6-channel output.  The board also has headers for two additional USB 2.0 ports and an IEEE 1394 port, both of which can be connected to the FrontX unit.

It seems that DFI has all of the bases covered with the "LAN Party" KT400A motherboard.  The board offers a lot of options and room for expansion, although the board has virtually everything a system needs integrated already.  Next we'll take a look at the BIOS and see how all of this is tied together.
 

 

The BIOS, HH Test System and Overclocking

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