The DFI NB70-SC is a step in the right direction for the
historically conservative motherboard manufacturer. In
the past DFI's products have always been a little light on
the features and devoid of many tweaking options that
HotHardware readers have grown a custom to.
Those of you
that are observant will notice a hint of something new from
DFI, in the middle position shot taken here. There is
a Realtek PLL on this board, the likes of which we have seen
on Abit products and others with BIOS CPU setup options.
Indeed this board has the ability to adjust CPU frequency in
the BIOS in 1MHz. increments. More on this later, in
our setup and installation section.
MSI 845 Ultra-ARU
The board that really
stands out from the crowd here, at least in terms of
features, is the MSI 845 Ultra-ARU. This board has
just about all the latest toys imaginable.
foremost, this board comes equipped on board with the all
new Promise Fastrak ATA133 RAID controller. In
addition to the 2 channels of standard ATA100 support from
the i845, you'll get another two channels that support
the new ATA133 standard being driven by Maxtor as well
as RAID 0 and RAID 1 mode support. Additionally, with
the help of an on board USB 2.0 compliant controller, from
NEC, you'll get the latest in bandwidth and performance that
USB has to offer as well. Finally, MSI doesn't didn't
just settle for an on board AC'97 CODEC to provide audio
functions, they incorporated a CMI8738 audio to provide up
to 6 channels of HRTF supported 3D surround sound. You
have to hand it to MSI, with this board, they pulled out all
Setup and BIOS Features
Once again MSI
shows us how its done
Setup with all
of the i845DDR based boards in this test, was a walk in the
park. All boards were stable and had no issues with
resource allocations or driver setup. However, we
should point out one small issue we did run into with the
For the i845D,
there are certain limitations with respect to loading and
memory bank timing with double sided DDR DIMMs, just as we
have seen in recent tests of nVidia's nForce based product.
Specifically, users can only install 2 double sided DDR
DIMMs into any of the three sockets on the 845 Ultra board.
If you loaded all three slots on this board up with double
sided modules, it wouldn't boot. You can install 2
double sided modules and one single sided stick, without
issue however. This is really a limitation of the i845
chipset and not an issue with this particular MSI board.
Regardless, since there are three DIMM sockets on MSI's 845
Ultra (the DFI and Intel boards only have two), it is
possible to overload the slots with double sided 256MB
modules and that would render the board non-funtional.
How about a look
into the BIOS sections for the DFI and MSI boards?
MSI 845 Ultra-ARU
and Voltage Adjustments
Integrated Peripherals and ATA133 RAID
implementation of this Award BIOS, is fairly robust with the
ability to change CPU FSB speed up to 132MHz. Frankly
however, the DFI BIOS doesn't compare to what MSI gives you
in there offering. Not only do you get the ability to
adjust CPU FSB speeds up to 200MHz. (not that you could ever
utilize that frequency), you also get the ability to adjust
your CPU, DRAM and AGP voltages.
voltage adjustment tops out at 1.85V but we would have
preferred settings higher than even 2V here. Many
times, a stable high end overclock for the P4 requires that
much voltage. Finally, there are a bevy of settings
available to you for tweaking DDR DRAM performance that
could provide the user a little more bandwidth, stability or
Let's boot up...
Overclocking and SiSoftware's Sandra