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
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.