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DFI LANPARTY LGA775 Showcase: The 925X-T2 & 875P-T
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Date: Dec 31, 2004
Section:Motherboards
Author: Marco Chiappetta
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Introduction & The Chipsets

Over the past year, DFI has made a name for itself with a crowd that is traditionally very hard to please.  A company that once built parts strictly for the OEM / white box folks, is now catering to the enthusiast and overclocking communities with a bold, feature laden line of motherboards.  DFI's "LANPARTY" products build upon their already solid reputation of producing reliable and stable motherboards, by incorporating a full compliment of overclocking and performance tweaking tools on motherboards that are designed to turn some heads.  With dark PCBs and UV reactive orange and yellow connectors, DFI's LANPARTY motherboards don't look like any others. Sure, just about every company that targets enthusiasts are now building flashy motherboards, but you can spot a DFI LANPARTY board from across the room.  You can't say that about motherboards built by some other popular brands.

Today on HotHardware, we're going to take a look at DFI's flagship LANPARTY boards designed for Intel's LGA775 Pentium 4 processors, the 925X-T2 and the 875P-T. As you'll see on the following pages, both of these boards are built with hardcore PC enthusiasts in mind. But before we get into the specifics, let's take a look at the major features of the chipsets powering the LANPARTY 925X-T2 and 875P-T...

Specifications & Features of The 925X
Ready For Intel's Best
_800-MHz FSB enables support for today's highest-performing Intel Pentium 4 processors.

_Optimized for the Intel Pentium 4 Processor supporting HT Technology to enable improved system performance and responsiveness.

_Enhanced performance architecture, with 800-MHz system bus processors and DDR2 memory, optimizes data transfers between the processor and system memory.

_Intel Extended Memory 64 Technology (Intel EM64T) provides workstation application flexibility for future 64-bit code and access to large amounts of memory while running existing 32-bit applications.
_Flexible memory support, with dual-channel DDR2 533/DDR2 400 memory, providing up to 8.53 GB/s memory bandwidth, in configurations up to a maximum of 4 GB of Random Access Memory (RAM).

_PCI Express delivers up to 4 GB/s per direction for graphics bandwidth and up to 500 MB/s concurrent data transfers for I/O to support the most demanding applications.

_Intel Matrix Storage Technology, with integrated Raid 0 and Raid 1 capabilities using the latest SATA interface, for accelerated disk I/O performance.

_Intel HD Audio technology's eight independent DMA audio engines can enable multiple separate, simultaneous audio streams.

Intel's 925X chipset was introduced back in June, to coincide with the launch of the first batch of LGA775 processors.  It incorporated many new technologies, like PCI Express, a DDR2 memory controller, Intel's High-Definition "Azalia" audio, and Intel's Matrix storage technology.  The 925X has since been usurped by the 925XE,which has official support for a 1066MHz front side bus, but other than that their feature sets are identical.  As its name implies, the 925X Northbridge and ICH6RW Southbridge are used on the LANPARTY 925X-T2.

 

Specifications & Features of The i875P
Still Considered "High-End"...
_800/533MHz System Bus Supports platform longevity for the fastest Intel Pentium 4 processor frequencies and delivers greater system bandwidth.

_Intel Hyper-Threading Technology Support Delivers increased system responsiveness and performance.

_Intel Performance Acceleration Technology Increases memory and system-level performance by optimizing internal data paths.

_478-pin Processor Package Compatibility Supports the highest performance Intel Pentium 4 processors plus, the flexibility to support other 478-pin Intel processors. (Also compatible with Socket-T)

_Intel Hub Architecture Dedicated data paths deliver maximum bandwidth for I/O-intensive applications.

_Dual-Channel DDR 400/333 SDRAM Memory with ECC Support. Flexible memory technology allows a full spectrum of DDR usage from highest performance to more cost-effective systems. ECC ensure data reliability and integrity.

_AGP8X Interface enables upgradability to the latest graphics cards.
_Integrated Hi-Speed USB 2.0. Eight ports offer up to 40x greater bandwidth over USB 1.1 for a variety of today's demanding high-speed I/O peripherals.

_Dual Independent Serial ATA Controllers Facilitates high-speed storage transfers and easy hard drive upgrades.

_Integrated Intel RAID Technology. Additional storage performance for Serial ATA hard disk drives(HDD), without the added cost of an external RAID controller.

_Ultra ATA/100 Takes advantage of the existing industry HDD and optical drive interfaces.

_AC '97 Controller Supports Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound(1), delivering six channels of enhanced sound quality.

_Intel Communication Streaming Architecture. Wire-speed GbE with the Dedicated Network Bus for performance network connectivity.

_Low-Power Sleep Mode Saves Energy.

Although the i875P has been around since April of 2003, and Intel has released a whole series of chipsets to replace it, the i875P is still very popular.  The i875P has proven to be fast, stable, and very "overclocker friendly" over its lifetime.  The i875P works with standard AGP graphics cards and DDR memory, and was originally designed for socket 478 Pentium 4 processors.  DFI, however, built the LANPARTY 875P-T for LGA775 processors.

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LANPARTY 925X-T2: Bundle & Specifications

The current flagship in DFI's popular LANPARTY line of enthusiast-class motherboards is the 925X-T2.  This motherboard is powered by the feature-rich Intel 925X chipset, for LGA775 Pentium 4 processors. DFI takes advantage of all of the 925X chipset's inherent capabilities, and they incorporate a few extra features as well, like UV reactive connectors and ports, dual-GigE ethernet, and diagnostic LEDs.  The LANPARTY 925X-T2 also has an impressive assortment of bundled accessories included...

  

Specifications & Features of The LANPARTY 925X-T2
Full-Featured Socket-T Mobo
CPU
_Intel Pentium 4 Prescott processor
_Hyper-Threading Technology
_800MT/s (200MHz) system bus interface
_Socket LGA 775 (LAN Grid Array)

Chipset
_Intel 925X chipset
_Intel 925X Memory Controller Hub (MCH)
_Intel 82801FR I/O Controller Hub (ICH6R)

Memory
_Four 240-pin DDR2 DIMM sockets
_Supports dual channel (128-bit wide) memory interface
_Supports up to 4GB system memory
_Supports DDR2 400 and DDR2 533 DIMMs
_Supports ECC (x8) or non-ECC x8 and x16 DIMMs
_Supports 256Mb and 512Mb DRAM densities
_Supports Performance Acceleration Technology (PAT2)
_Supports unbuffered DIMMs

BIOS
_Award BIOS
_Genie BIOS provides:
- CPU/DRAM overclocking
- CPU/NB/DRAM overvoltage
_4Mbit flash memory

Power Management
_Supports ACPI specification and OS Directed Power Management
_Supports ACPI STR (Suspend to RAM) function
_Wake-On-Events include:
- Wake-On-PS/2 Keyboard/Mouse
- Wake-On-USB Keyboard/Mouse
- Wake-On-Ring (external modem)
- Wake-On-LAN
- RTC timer to power-on the system
_AC power failure recovery

Hardware Monitor
_Monitors CPU/system temperature and overheat alarm
_Monitors 12V/5V/3.3V/Vcore/Vbat/5Vsb/3.3Vsb voltages
_Monitors the speed of the CPU/system fan
_CPU Overheat Protection function monitors CPU temperature and fan during system boot-up - automatic shutdown upon system overheat

Audio
_Azalia audio codec with independent variable sampling rate
_S/PDIF-in/out interface
_8-channel audio output

IDE
_Supports ATA/33, ATA/66 and ATA/100 hard drives
LAN
_Gigabit ethernet controllers - Marvell 88E8053 PCI Express and Marvell 88E8001 PCI
_Full duplex support at both 10 Mbps, 100 Mbps and 1Gbps

Serial ATA with RAID
_Supports four SATA (Serial ATA) interfaces which are compliant with SATA 1.0 specification (1.5Gbps interface)
_Supports RAID 0, RAID 1 and JBOD

IEEE 1394
_Supports two 100/200/400 Mb/sec ports

Rear Panel I/O Ports
_1 mini-DIN-6 PS/2 mouse port
_1 mini-DIN-6 PS/2 keyboard port
_2 S/PDIF RCA jacks (S/PDIF-in and S/PDIF-out)
_Karajan audio card (6 audio jacks)
_1 IEEE 1394 port
_2 RJ45 LAN ports
_6 USB 2.0/1.1 ports

I/O Connectors
_1 connector for 2 additional external USB 2.0/1.1 ports
_1 connector for 1 external IEEE 1394 port
_1 connector for 1 external serial port
_1 front audio connector for external line-out and mic-in jacks
_1 CD-in internal audio connector
_1 S/PDIF connector for optical cable connection
_1 IR connector
_1 CIR connector
_4 Serial ATA connectors
_1 IDE connector
_1 Floppy connector
_2 ATX power supply connectors
_5 fan connectors
_4 diagnostic LEDs
_1 diagnostic LED connector for external 4 diagnostic LEDs display
_EZ touch switches (power switch and reset switch)

Expansion Slots
_1 PCI Express x16 slot
_3 PCI Express x1 slots
_3 PCI slots

Compatibility
_PCI 2.2 and Azalia compliant

PCB
_6 layers, ATX form factor
_24.5cm (9.64") x 30.5cm (12")

  

 

  

Included with the LANPARTY 925X-T2, we found a wide variety of items meant to appeal to LAN gamers who frequently move their systems from one location to another, or just like to show off its internals. Included with the board itself, we found a rounded 80-Wire IDE cable, a single rounded floppy cable and two red SATA cables. We also found a single Dual-SATA-to-Molex power adapter, a case bracket outfitted with a single serial port, and an IDE-to-SATA interface adapter.  There is also a detailed Quick Reference poster and three user's manuals included with the 925X-T2 in addition to a DFI case badge, a large "LANPARTY" decal, and a custom I/O shield. Driver floppies and a driver CD-ROM are also bundled with the board as well, along with a UV reactive cable sleaving kit.  Lastly, DFI included a set of FrontX Multimedia ports, that bring audio, SATA, and USB connectors, and four diagnostic LEDs to the front of a system, and a "PC Transpo" that makes carrying a system and its accessories much easier.  The "PC Transpo" wraps around any tower case, making it much easier to transport between locations.

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LANPARTY 925X-T2: The Board & Layout

The LANPARTY 925X-T2 is a well laid out motherboard, with only a few minor issues worth mentioning. Connector placement was very good, and aesthetically speaking it is somewhat unique.  No other company uses the same color scheme as DFI's LANPARTY line of motherboards...

The Board: LANPARTY 925X-T2
She's A Looker

  

  

  

The LANPARTY 925X-T2 is built upon a dark colored PCB with orange and yellow connectors and headers.  The 925X Northbridge is passively cooled by a relatively large all-copper heatsink, and the ICH6R Southbridge is outfitted with a passive aluminum cooler as well.  There is a single PCI Express X16 slot on the 925X-T2, along with three standard PCI slots, and three PCI Express X1 slots.  Two of the X1 slots are located in traditional locations, but one of them is situated at the lower-right corner of the board.  This oddly positioned slot will likely accommodate RAID controllers, or other similar devices, that don't require any external connections.

As we mentioned earlier, this board is equipped with an ICH6R Southbridge, so it is RAID capable and has full support for Intel's "Azalia" High Definition Audio. DFI uses Realtek's ALC880 codec, which supports 24-bit/192kHz audio through eight output channels to compliment the Azalia audio. But DFI implemented the audio solution in a rather unique manner.  The ALC880 and the external inputs and outputs are incorporated onto a separate module, that plugs into a header on the motherboard. According to DFI, confining the audio circuitry to a separate module helps improve audio quality, by reducing electrical noise.

The LANPARTY 925X-T2 is equipped with 4 SATA ports, a single IDE connector, and a single floppy connector.  It's also equipped with dual Gigabit Ethernet controllers, one of which uses the PCI bus and the other uses PCI Express link for improved throughput.  The board has a 24-pin primary power connector, but it is keyed to accept a 20-pin connectors from standard ATX power supplies as well.  The 925X-T2 also has a pair of PCB-mounted power and reset switches, and a set of four diagnostic LEDs that'll light in a specific pattern to report specific POST error codes.  The rear I/O panel houses PS/2 mouse and keyboard connectors, 8 audio connectors - including S/PDIF, 6 USB ports, a single Firewire port, and dual RJ-45 jacks.

The only issues we had with the LANPARTY 925X-T2's layout related to the DIMM slots and PCI Express X16 slot.  The DIMM slots are located a bit too close to the PEG slot, which makes it difficult to install or remove RAM without also removing the video card.  And the retention clip on the PEG slot is also fairly close to a pair of capacitors and a coil mounted to the board.  When removing a graphics card, you've got to be careful not to bend either of the caps or the coil when depressing the retention clip.

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LANPARTY 925X-T2: BIOS & Overclocking

DFI did an excellent job with the LANPARTY 925X-T2's BIOS.  They've incorporated all of the tools necessary to tweak performance and overclock a system, along with some additional features that make it extremely easy to experiment with different configurations...

The BIOS: LANPARTY 925X-T2
Full Of Goodness

  

  

 

The standard BIOS menus house all of the common tools necessary to enable, disable or tweak all of the 925X-T2's on-board peripherals. Most of these menus look just like any other motherboard that is equipped with a Phoenix / Award BIOS.  It's in the "Genie BIOS Setting" and in the "CMOS Reloaded" sections that things get really interesting though.

Overclocking Tools: LANPARTY 925X-T2
What Overclock Lock?

  

  

 

As we browsed through the "Genie BIOS Settings" menu, it was clear DFI had the serious overclocker in mind when they were designing this board. In the "Genie BIOS settings" section, users have the ability to set the CPU core voltage as high as 1.9 volts, in .05 volt increments. Users are also able to adjust the Front Side Bus speed from 200MHz to 380MHz (depending on what type of CPU is installed), in 1MHz increments. The Northbridge voltage can be raised up to 1.8v and the DDR2 memory voltage can be raised up to 2.5v in .1v increments.  The 925X-T2 also has the ability to unlock a lower multiplier when used in conjunction with a P4 560 of P4 550 CPU. Unfortunately, our test CPU is already unlocked so we were unable to properly test this feature.

The "CMOS Reloaded" menu is home to another very useful BIOS feature.  With CMOS Reloaded, users can store different BIOS configuration, and load them by simply selecting them from a menu.  You could have one configuration set up to underclock and undervolt your CPU to keep the system running quietly, and another set up with tweaked memory timings and an overclocked CPU for a hardcore gaming session.  With CMOS reloaded, there is no need to set each option manually.



SANDRA
Max OC=272MHz
To overclock our P4 560 CPU (3.6GHz) with the DFI LANPARTY 925X-T2, we first lowered its multiplier to 14 to see just how high of an FSB we could hit with the board. To help eliminate the possibility that another component being the point of failure, we also lowered our DDR2533 memory to DDR2400 speeds and raised its voltage to 2.0v, we also raised the Northbridge voltage to 1.7v, and raised the CPU voltage by .1v as well.  In the end we were able to hit a completely stable 272MHz FSB, and increase of 72MHz, and a speed high enough to run a 1066MHz FSB P4 CPU.  To hit this speed, we had to set the PCI Express clock to "Auto", however, which meant the PCI Express NIC and video card were running out of spec.  This could cause problems under some circumstances.  With the PCIe clock locked at 100MHz, we couldn't raise the FSB any higher than 225MHz.  DFI also included a handy utility to overclock the system from within Windows.  We found the utility to work well if we raised clock speeds slowly (1MHz or 2MHz at a time).  But if we jumped right from 200MHz to 250MHz, our test system would hang.

 

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LANPARTY 875P-T: Specifications & Bundle

The DFI LANPARTY 875P-T is targeted at enthusiasts looking to upgrade to an LGA775 Pentium 4 processor, without having to purchase a new video card or new RAM.  Due to the fact that the LANPARTY 875P-T is powered by Intel's i875P chipset, it's meant to be used in conjunction with DDR1 memory and AGP video cards.  The 925X chipset, however, requires newer, more expensive, DDR2 memory and a PCI Express video card. But just because the LANPARTY 875P-T is equipped with Intel's older "Canterwood" chipset, doesn't mean users will have to sacrifice much in terms of features and performance.  The LANPARTY 875P-T is every bit as feature-rich as the 925X-T2, for the most part.

  

Specifications & Features of The LANPARTY 875P-T
Canterwood Meets Socket-T
CPU
_Intel Pentium 4 Prescott processor
_Hyper-Threading Technology
_533MT/s and 800MT/s (200MHz) system bus interface
_Socket LGA 775 (LAN Grid Array)

Chipset
_Intel 875P chipset
_Intel 82875P Memory Controller Hub (MCH)
_Supports Intel Performance Acceleration Technology (PAT)
_Intel 82801ER I/O Controller Hub (ICH5R)

Memory
_Four 184-pin DDR DIMM sockets
_Each channel supports 2 DIMM sockets
_Supports dual channel (128-bit wide) memory interface
_Supports up to 4GB system memory
_Supports ECC/non-ECC x8 and x16 DIMMs
_Supports up to 512Mb DRAM densities
_Supports unbuffered DIMMs

BIOS
_Award BIOS
_CMOS Reloaded
_CPU/DRAM overclocking
_CPU/DIMM/AGP overvoltage
_4Mbit flash memory

Power Management
_Supports ACPI STR (Suspend to RAM) function
_Wake-On-Events include:
- Wake-On-PS/2 Keyboard/Mouse
- Wake-On-USB Keyboard/Mouse
- Wake-On-Ring (external modem)
- Wake-On-LAN
- RTC timer to power-on the system
_AC power failure recovery

Hardware Monitor
_Monitors CPU/system temperature and overheat alarm
_Monitors 12V/5V/3.3V/Vcore/Vbat/5Vsb/1.5V AGP voltages
_Monitors the speed of the CPU fan and system fan
_CPU Overheat Protection function monitors CPU temperature and fan during system boot-up - automatic shutdown upon system overheat

Audio
_6-channel audio CODEC
_S/PDIF-in/out interface

LAN
_Marvell 88E8001 Gigabit PCI LAN controller
_Full duplex support at 10 Mbps, 100 Mbps and 1Gbps
IDE
_Supports up to UltraDMA 100Mbps hard drives

Serial ATA with RAID
_Supports two SATA (Serial ATA) interfaces which are compliant with SATA 1.0 specification (1.5Gbps interface)
_Supports RAID 0 and RAID 1

IEEE 1394
_Supports two 100/200/400 Mb/sec ports

Rear Panel I/O Ports
_1 mini-DIN-6 PS/2 mouse port
_1 mini-DIN-6 PS/2 keyboard port
_2 S/PDIF RCA jacks
_S/PDIF-in and S/PDIF-out
_1 DB-25 parallel port
_1 DB-9 serial port
_1 IEEE 1394 port
_1 RJ45 LAN port
_4 USB 2.0 ports
_Line-in
_Line-out
_Mic-in jacks

I/O Connectors
_2 connectors for 4 additional external USB 2.0 ports
_1 IEEE 1394 connector
_1 front audio connector for external line-out and mic-in jacks
_1 CD-in internal audio connector
_1 S/PDIF connector for optical cable connection
_1 15-pin game connector
_1 IR connector
_2 Serial ATA connectors
_2 IDE connectors
_1 floppy connector
_1 24-pin ATX power connector
_1 4-pin ATX 12V power connector
_1 front panel connector
_3 fan connectors
_1 diagnostic LED connector for external 4 diagnostic LEDs display
_EZ touch switches (power switch and reset switch)

Expansion Slots

_1 AGP 8x/4x slot
_4 PCI slots

PCB
_ATX form factor
_30.5cm (12.01") x 24.5cm (9.65")

  

  

 

The DFI LANPARTY 875P-T ships with essentially the same bundle as the 925X-T2's, minus the SATA-to-IDE adapter, but with an additional rounded IDE cable.  Included with the LANPARTY 875P-T, we found 2 rounded 80-Wire IDE cables, a single rounded floppy cable and two red SATA cables. We also found a single Dual-SATA-to-Molex power adapter, a case bracket outfitted with a single serial port, and an IDE-to-SATA interface adapter. There is also a detailed Quick Reference poster and three user's manuals included with the 875P-T in addition to a DFI case badge, a large "LANPARTY" decal, and a custom I/O shield. Driver floppies and a driver CD-ROM are also bundled with the board as well, along with a UV reactive cable sleaving kit. Lastly, DFI included a set of FrontX Multimedia ports, that bring audio, SATA, and USB connectors, and four diagnostic LEDs to the front of a system, and a "PC Transpo" that makes carrying a system and its accessories much easier.

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LANPARTY 875P-T: The Board & Layout

When designing the LANPARTY 875P-T, DFI obviously put a lot of thought into the board's layout and connector placement.  With the exception of a couple of a headers that aren't in ideal locations, this motherboard's layout is near perfect...

The Board: LANPARTY 875P-T
AGP & Socket-T

          

          

          

Just like the other motherboards in the LANPARTY line-up, this 875P-T is built upon a dark PCB with UV reactive orange and yellow connectors.  Because it's based on the i875P chipset, it uses standard DDR1 RAM and AGP graphics cards.  There is a single AGP slot, and 4 PCI slot available, along with two SATA ports, two IDE ports, and a lone floppy connector.

ATX power connectors are located at the upper-right corner of the board, adjacent to the DIMM slots, and the IDE and floppy connectors are located along the front edge of the motherboard.  The i875P Northbridge is outfitted with a large aluminum heatsink, but the ICH5R Southbridge is bare.  and like the 925X-T2, the LANPARTY 875P-T also has a pair of power and reset switches mounted to the board.

Audio duties are handled by the Realtek ALC655 chip which is a 16-bit, full-duplex AC'97 Rev. 2.3 compatible six-channel audio CODEC.  Gigabit networking duties are handled by a Marvell Yukon 88E8001 32-bit ethernet controller.  Unlike the 925X-T2 though, the 875P-T has only a single ethernet controller.  The externally accessible rear I/O cluster houses a pair of PS/2 ports, 5 audio jacks including S/PDIF ins and outs, a single 9-pin serial port, a parallel port, 4 USB ports, a single Firewire jack, and as single RJ45 LAN jack.

The only concerns we had with the LANPARTY 875P-T's layout relate to a pair of extra USB headers.  These headers are located between PCI slots 1 and 2, and slots 2 and 3.  If you install an additional bracket with USB ports, the cables will have to be floating around right in the middle of the board.  We would have liked it better if these headers were located along the bottom edge of the board to make it easier to hide the cables, and keep the internal case wiring clean.

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LANPARTY 875P-T: BIOS & Overclocking

DFI also did a good job with the LANPARTY 875P-T's BIOS.  Everything that hardcore overclockers look for in a Canterwood motherboard is there, along with the same useful extras found on the LANPARTY 925X-T2...

The BIOS: LANPARTY 875P-T
Geared for Overclockers

  

  

 

Just like the 925X-T2, and just about every other motherboard available, the standard BIOS menus house all of the common tools necessary to enable, disable or tweak all of the board's integrated peripherals. These menus look just like any other motherboard that is equipped with a Phoenix / Award BIOS.  But it's in the "Genie BIOS Menu" and in the "CMOS Reloaded" menu that you'll find all the good stuff...

Overclocking Tools: LANPARTY 875P-T
Who Needs the i925, When We've Got Canterwood?

  

  

The LANPARTY 875P-T's Genie BIOS Settings menu is home to all of the board's overclocking tools.  From here, users can lock the PCI and AGP clocks, alter voltages, and alter Front Side Bus speeds.  The CPU voltage can be set as high as 1.975v in .025v increments, and FSB speeds between 100MHz and 400MHz are available in 1MHz increments.  The DDR memory voltage can be set as high as a whopping 3.2v, in .1v increments and AGP voltages between 1.5v and 1.8v are available in .1v increments.  And the LANPARTY 875P-T is also equipped with the very same CMOS Reloaded options found on the 925X-T2, which make it a breeze to save and re-load multiple BIOS configurations.



SANDRA
Max OC=266MHz
We also spent some time overclocking with the LANPARTY 875P-T. To complete our overclocking tests, we first locked the APG/PCI clocks to 66MHz/33MHz and relaxed the memory timings a bit.  We then raised the memory voltage to 2.9v, the AGP voltage to 1.6v, and raised our processor voltage by .1v.  We then lowered our processor's default multiplier from 18 to 14, and begun raising the front side bus speed until the test system was no longer stable.  We were able to hit an FSB of 266MHz with the LANPARTY 875P-T, an increase of 66MHz.  Had we jacked voltages up a bit more, and used PC4400 RAM instead of PC3500, this board would likely have gone even higher...

 

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Test Systems & SiSoft SANDRA

How we configured our test systems: When configuring the test systems for this review, we first entered the system BIOS and set each board to its "Optimized" or "High-Performance Defaults."  We then manually configured our RAM to run at 200MHz (DDR400), with the timings set by the SPD.  The hard drives were then formatted, and Windows XP Professional (SP1) was installed. When the installation was complete, we hit the Windows Update site and downloaded all of the available updates, with the exception of the ones related to Windows Messenger. Then we installed all of the necessary drivers and removed Windows Messenger from the system altogether. Auto-Updating, drive indexing, and System Restore were also disabled, and we set up a 768MB permanent page file on the same partition as the Windows installation. Lastly, we set Windows XP's Visual Effects to "best performance," installed all of our benchmarking software, defragged the hard drives, and ran all of the tests...

Test System Specifications
"Intel Inside!"
SYSTEM 1:
Intel Pentium 4 560 3.6GHz - LGA775

DFI LANPARTY 925X-T2

i925X Motherboard

2x512MB Kingston DDR2 533

CL 3, 3, 3, 8

NVIDIA GeForce 6800 GT


On-Board 10/100 Ethernet
On-Board Audio

WD "Raptor" 36GB Hard Drive
10,000 RPM SATA

Windows XP Pro SP2
NVIDIA Forceware v66.81
DirectX 9.0c
SYSTEM 2:
Intel Pentium 4 560 3.6GHz - LGA775

DFI LANPARTY 875P-T

i875 Motherboard

2x512MB Kingston PC3500

CL 2, 2, 2, 5

NVIDIA GeForce 6800 GT


On-Board 10/100 Ethernet
On-Board Audio

WD "Raptor" 36GB Hard Drive
10,000 RPM SATA

Windows XP Pro SP2
NVIDIA Forceware v66.81
DirectX 9.0c
SYSTEM 3:
Intel Pentium 4 560 3.6GHz - LGA775

Intel D925XECV2

i925XE Motherboard

2x512MB Kingston DDR2 533

CL 3, 3, 3, 8

NVIDIA GeForce 6800 GT


On-Board 10/100 Ethernet
On-Board Audio

WD "Raptor" 36GB Hard Drive
10,000 RPM SATA

Windows XP Pro SP2
NVIDIA Forceware v66.81
DirectX 9.0c
SYSTEM 4:
Intel Pentium 4 560 3.6GHz - LGA775

Shuttle SB77G5 - FB77

i875 Motherboard

2x512MB Kingston PC3500

CL 2, 2, 2, 5

NVIDIA GeForce 6800 GT


On-Board 10/100 Ethernet
On-Board Audio

WD "Raptor" 36GB Hard Drive
10,000 RPM SATA

Windows XP Pro SP2
NVIDIA Forceware v66.81
DirectX 9.0c
Preliminary Benchmarks With SiSoft SANDRA 2004
Synthetic Testing

We began our testing with SiSoftware's SANDRA, the System ANalyzer, Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant. SANDRA consists of a set of information and diagnostic utilities that can provide a host of useful information about your hardware and operating system. We ran three of the built-in subsystem tests that partially comprise the SANDRA 2004 suite (CPU, Multimedia, and Memory).  All of these tests were run with our processor set to its default clock speed of 3.6GHz (18x200MHz). 

 

 

All four of the systems we tested performed similarly in the three SiSoft SADNRA modules we ran.  In the CPU and Multimedia tests, there aren't any significant differences in performance worth mentioning.  In the Memory Bandwidth test though, while performance was similarly, there is something worth pointing out.  The 925X based DFI LANPARTY 925X-T2 and 925XE Intel D925XECV2 boards were equipped with higher-clocked (533MHz), higher-latency (3-3-3-8), DDR2 memory.  The i875P powered boards were equipped with lower-clocked (400MHz), low-latency (2-2-2-5) DDR1 memory.  Although the i875 isn't quite as new as the 925X, its memory performance holds up well thanks to the low-latency memory we used.  The 925s peaked a bit higher at about 5GB/s, but the i875s were right behind them at about 4.9GB/s.

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PCMark04: CPU & Memory

In this next round of benchmarks, we ran the CPU and Memory performance modules built into Futuremark's PCMark04 suite.  For those interested in more than just the graphs, we've got a couple of quotes from Futuremark that explain exactly what these tests do and how they work.

Futuremark PCMark04
More Synthetic CPU and Memory Benchmarks

"The CPU test suite is a collection of tests that are run to isolate the performance of the CPU. There are nine tests in all. Two pairs of tests are run multithreaded - each test in the pair is run in its own thread.  The remaining five tests are run single threaded. These tests include such functions as file encryption, decryption, compression and decompression, grammar check, audio conversion, WMV and DivX video compression."

Considering we used the exact same CPU in all four test systems, we expected all of the systems to perform similarly in PCMark04's CPU performance module. And while the DFI LANPARTY 925X-T2 did take the top spot, its margin of victory was quite small.  There is only a 1.3% performance delta separating the highest and lowest scores in this test.


"The Memory test suite is a collection of tests that isolate the performance of the memory subsystem. The memory subsystem consists of various devices on the PC. This includes the main memory, the CPU internal cache (known as the L1 cache) and the external cache (known as the L2 cache). As it is difficult to find applications that only stress the memory, we explicitly developed a set of tests geared for this purpose. The tests are written in C++ and assembly. They include: Reading data blocks from memory, Writing data blocks to memory performing copy operations on data blocks, random access to data items and latency testing."

PCMark04's memory performance module showed a bit more disparity between the test systems.  Just like we saw with SANDRA, the 925X powered systems, with their higher-clocked DDR2 RAM, nudged slightly ahead of their i875 / DDR1 equipped counterparts.  Once again though, the performance deltas were relatively small, and may not translate into any "real-world" differences in performance.

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The Winstones: Business & Content Creation

Synthetic benchmarks only tell part of the performance story, so we took all four of these test systems to task in some "real-world" scenarios, as well.  For our first set of real-world tests, we did some benchmarking with Ziff Davis' Business Winstone 2004 suite, followed by the more demanding Content Creation Winstone 2004 suite.

Business & Content Creation Winstones
Real-World Application Performance

The PC Magazine Business Winstone 2004 test utilizes the following applications in its benchmark.

  • Microsoft Access 2002
  • Microsoft Excel 2002
  • Microsoft FrontPage 2002
  • Microsoft Outlook 2002
  • Microsoft PowerPoint 2002
  • Microsoft Project 2002
  • Microsoft Word 2002
  • Norton Antivirus Professional Edition 2003
  • WinZip 8.1

Looking at the above results, it seems like the Business Winstone 2004 test suite performs better on the i875 chipset. The DFI LANPARTY 875P-T took top honors here, followed by the Shuttle SB775G5, then the DFI LANPARTY 925X-T2 and lastly the Intel D925XECV2. This test isn't starved for memory bandwidth, so even though the i875s technically offered less bandwidth than the 925s, the lower-latency RAM helps them nudge passed the newer platform.


The PC Magazine Content Creation Winstone 2004 test utilizes the following applications in its benchmark.

  • Adobe Photoshop 7.0.1
  • Adobe Premiere 6.50
  • Macromedia Director MX 9.0
  • Macromedia Dreamweaver MX 6.1
  • Microsoft Windows Media Encoder 9 Version 9.00.00.2980
  • NewTek's LightWave 3D 7.5b
  • Steinberg WaveLab 4.0f

The Content Creation Winstone 2004 suite is more intensive then the Business Winstone suite, and this time around the 925X powered boards took top honors.  Specifically, the DFI LANPARTY 925X-T2 was the victor in this benchmark, followed closely behind by the other boards.  The LANPARTY 875P-T and Shuttle SB775G5 posted the same score of 33.5, which was approximately 1.1% lower than the LANPARTY 925X-T2; not a major difference by any measure.

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3DMark05 & Windows Media Encoder

We continued our testing with another application from Futuremark, 3DMark05, and with a video encoding benchmark, Windows Media Encoder 9.  In the WME9 test, we took a 416MB Digital Video file and encoded to WMV9 format.  Times were recorded in minutes:seconds, with lower times indicating better performance.

Windows Media Encoder 9
More Digital Video Encoding

Our custom Windows Media Encoder 9 benchmark showed quite a bit of a performance delta separating the 925 and i875 powered motherboards.  The DFI LANPARTY 925X-T2 and Intel D925XECV2 were both able to complete the encode process in 2 minutes 20 seconds.  But the DFI LANPARTY 875P-T and Shuttle SB775G5 took 2 minutes 30 seconds and 2 minutes 31 seconds to complete the very same process. If video encoding is one of the primary uses for your computer, you'll definitely want to look into a 925X based motherboard.

3DMark05: CPU Test
DirectX Gaming Performance - Sort Of

It's not an actual game, but 3DMark05's built-in CPU test is a "gaming related" DirectX metric that's useful for comparing relative performance among similarly equipped systems.  This test consists of two different 3D scenes that are generated with a software renderer, which is dependant on the host CPU's performance.  This means that the calculations normally reserved for your 3D accelerator are instead sent to the central processor.  The number of frames generated per second in each test are used to determine the final score.

3DMark05's CPU Performance tests also put the 925X powered systems ahead of their i875 equipped counterparts. The DFI LANPARTY 925X-T2 and Intel D925XECV2 posted 3DMark05 CPU scores roughly 100 points higher than the LANPARTY 875P-T and Shuttle SB775G5. 100 points equates to roughly a 2% performance delta though, which actually falls within the margin of error in this test.

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Wolf: ET & UT 2004

To start our in-game testing, we ran through a batch of time demos with the OpenGL game Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory.  Wolfenstein: ET is a free, standalone multiplayer game that is based on the original Return to Castle Wolfenstein that was released a few years back. It uses a heavily modified version of the Quake III engine, which makes it a very easy-to-use benchmarking tool.  We ran the test using the "Fastest" setting at a low resolution of 640 X 480, using 16-bit color and textures.  Running this test with a high-end graphics card, at these minimal settings, isolates processor and memory performance without being limited by the graphics subsystem.

Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory
OpenGL Quake Engine Gaming

The DFI LANPARTY 925X-T2 and Intel D925XECV2 were the highest performing boards in our custom Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory benchmark, but not by much.  The 925X-T2 posted a framerate about 5 frames per second higher than the 875P-T, our roughly 3.7% higher.

Unreal Tournament 2004
DirectX Gaming Performance

Lastly, we did some benchmarking with Epic's Unreal Tournament 2004.  When we tested these systems with UT 2004, we ensured that all of them were being benchmarked with the exact same in-game settings and graphical options and we dropped the resolution and detail levels to isolate CPU and memory performance.

The results of our custom Unreal Tournament 2004 benchmark were the exact opposite of Wolfenstein's. Here, the i875 powered boards outpaced the 925s by a small margin.  This time the DFI LANPARTY 875P-T was the top performer, posting a framerate about 2 FPS, or 1.6%, higher than the LANPARTY 925X-T2.

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Summary & Conclusion

Benchmark Summary: Both the DFI LANPARTY 925X-T2 and LANPARTY 875P-T performed very well throughout our battery of tests.  Each board had its share of benchmark victories, but the 925X-T2, thanks to its chipset, use of higher-clocked DDR2 RAM, and its PCI Express interface, was the "faster" board overall.  The 875P-T, however, is a great performer as well.  It kept pace with the more advanced 925X-T2 and it outran a similarly equipped board in the majority of tests.

DFI LANPARTY 925X-T2:
DFI's LANPARTY 925X-T2 should be considered among of the best Intel 925X motherboards on the market.  DFI has done a great job with this board, equipping it with an excellent BIOS, a plethora of useful integrated features and an impressive accessory bundle.  The 925X-T2 is also quite a "looker" in our opinion, and it's very overclocker friendly.  About the only thing some potential buyers might be turned off by is the relatively high price tag.  The DFI LANPARTY 925X-T2 is currently selling for about $200 on-line, which make it one of the more expensive 925X based motherboards presently available.  Couple that with the fact that new memory and a video card would likely need to be purchased as well, and upgrading to a board like this becomes a significant investment.  New system builders, however, would be well served by the LANPARTY 925X-T2. If you're in the market for a Pentium 4, this motherboard should definitely be on your short list.  We'd also like to note that we've been using the DFI LANPARTY 925X-T2 for PCI Express graphics card testing for the last few weeks and have had zero compatibility problems with about 8 different cards.  This is a top-notch motherboard.  We're giving the DFI LANPARTY a 9 on the Heat Meter...


 

DFI LANPARTY 875P-T:
The LANPARTY 875P-T is also a very well designed motherboard, that should more than satisfy a very large portion of market.  As we mentioned in the 925X-T2's conclusion, upgrading to a 925 chipset based motherboard and an LGA775 processor will likely mean a new video card and DDR2 RAM are in your future as well.  Should you already own some fast DDR1 RAM and a decent video card though, there's no need to upgrade your entire system with the LANPARTY 875P-T.  Your current video card and memory will do just fine, which we think will be appealing to many enthusiasts. And like the 925X-T2, the LANPARTY 875P-T is also equipped with an excellent BIOS and an the same outstanding accessory bundle.  The 925X-T2 has superior integrated audio and dual-gigabit ethernet, but other than that the 875P-T is every bit as feature rich.  And at about $175 on-line, the LANPARTY 875P-T is approximately 22% cheaper than the 925X-T.  We're giving the 875P-T a solid 8.5 on the Heat Meter.

 

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