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Life in the Fast Lane: New Boards for the Athlon 64

DFI LANParty UT NF4 Ultra-D

Board Revision : A

BIOS Version : 3/10/2005

The LANParty UT NF4 Ultra-D comes across as an extravagant interpretation of the nForce4 chipset. On this board, DFI offers not only the usual features, but also two x16 PCIe slots. The reason for this is that the SLI boards and this "ultra" version share a common layout. This lets you operate two graphics cards, a feature called Dual Xpress Graphics (DXG).

Six jumper blocks lie between the two slots, which have to reconfigured to let the boards operate in SLI mode ; a search on the Web will turn up simpler methods to make these boards SLI-capable. One argument against doing this is the prospect that NVIDIA will sooner or later halt this practice in later driver versions. What’s more, the LANParty UT nF4 Ultra-D is not equipped with the necessary SLI bridge that connects the two graphics cards, and stores generally don’t sell the item separately. Based on all of those issues, we recommend that you not buy this board based on dreams of SLI.

The board’s other features are current though, and look very promising. DFI has in fact produced a layout that sets it far apart from the crowd. The DIMM sockets are on the top edge, thereby receiving the cooling benefit of a case fan. All important transformers have also been given cooling elements.

The NVIDIA chipset has four SATA ports and the Gigabit LAN controller ; DFI also thought to implant a second network chip on the board. It has a FireWire port, power and reset buttons directly on the board (see picture below left), a piezo loudspeaker and four usable fan connections. UV-active components also stand out nicely when black light shines onto the board.

But we also found an oddity : the board only starts when the memory bar is set to dual channel. Even with just one DIMM, the unit can’t get going at all. It also failed to read the timings on our Corsair DIMMs correctly (TRCD with 3 instead of 2 clocks).

The back panel from DFI is replete with everything you could think of.

The noise given off by the chipset fan stays within reasonable limits.

These jumper pincers are supposed to help you set the jumper blocks. This solution is much too fiddly, however ; other manufacturers use a board you can just rotate 180°.

Wrapped IDE cables are ideal as they don’t hinder the flow of air in the case.