Review DFI's popularity has risen steadily ever since it launched its Lanparty range of motherboards a couple of years ago. Since then the Lanparty family has grown with the introduction of a 'lite' version in the shape of the Lanparty UT, writes Lars-Goran Nilsson.
DFI hasn't stripped out all of the features of the Lanparty boards to create the UT range. The only thing you really lose are the extra accessories such as the Front-X and the case carrying straps.
The first board we've looked at in this new series of products from DFI is the Lanparty UT nF4 SLI-D, which is a rather unusual SLi motherboard in several ways. The most obvious difference between the Lanparty UT nF4 SLI-D and the other SLi boards is the layout: the CPU socket has been placed below the memory modules. There could potentially be problems with this layout with certain cases such as the SilverStone TJ06 and Enermax CS-718-S, which have a special cooling setup. This is only an issue with a few cases on the market, but it's worth highlighting.
From this it's clear that DFI didn't follow the Nvidia reference design and further proof of this is that the little piece of PCB that most SLi boards use to change between SLi and non-SLi mode is missing. Instead, DFI uses six blocks of jumpers that have to be moved to change to SLi mode. The problem with this is that the jumper blocks are quite hard to remove, even with the included tool. As the tool hasn't been specifically designed for removing jumpers - it's a BIOS chip removal tool - it takes time and patience to remove the jumper blocks. However, re-fitting them is easy enough and it's not a task that you'll perform more than once or twice in the lifetime of the board anyhow.
The third and final major difference between the Lanparty UT nF4 SLI-D any most other motherboards we've looked is the Karajan audio module. Rather than having the audio codec on the motherboard, DFI has moved it to a small plug-in module, attached to the motherboard via a set of pins. This is meant to reduce EM interference. However, I have to admit that my untrained ears didn't pick up any more noise on other SLI boards than it did with the DFI Karajan module. The Realtek ALC850 AC97 audio codec might hold back the full potential of DFI's audio setup as it isn't the best audio codec on the market partly because it's not HD compliant.
This is also one of few boards available so far with an x4 PCI Express slot, which is physically longer than a x1 slot. How significant that is at the moment is hard to tell, but I have heard whispers about PCI Express soundcards needing a x4 slot to work properly so there might have been some wisdom here on DFIs side.
The x4 slot though only works in x4 mode when SLi is enabled. The nForce 4 SLi chipset has a total of 20 data lanes at its disposal. In non-SLi mode on the Lanparty UT nF4 SLI-D this is split up into one x1 slot, one x2 slot and one x16, meaning that the x4 slot only operates in x1 mode, as there's only one lane of bandwidth left available to it. In SLi mode, however, the x2 and x16 each become x8 slots - leaving four lanes of bandwidth, which are then assigned to the x4 slot. The x1 slot is then disabled.