The DFI LanParty series is known for its excellent overclocking and spaced-out colors, but with the UT NF680i SLI-T2R the colors have been changed and all of the focus is on the performance. Our latest article investigates whether it has succeeded, or if the power was in the colors.

Ever since I bought my first DFI motherboard, DFI has been the way to go. All of its products, ranging from the Infinity to the LanParty line have all made a really good impression on me.

During the nForce 4 era, which I believe could be called the golden age of the LanParty line of products, I bought everything that DFI released, in terms of motherboards. Without exaggerating, I believe that DFI set a whole new standard on enthusiast and overclocking products. As of today, I’m still unable to find any motherboard manufacturer able to compete with DFI in terms of BIOS and clever designs.

Sadly enough, there hasn’t been all too many DFI products on the store shelves lately. There’s only one LanParty motherboard available for the Core 2 Duo, the DFI LANPARTY UT ICFX3200-T2R/G based on the RD600 chipset from AMD. Unfortunately, the motherboard was a bit of a failure despite of receiving positive reviews. One of the reasons might have been the availability, as it was hard to obtain, especially here in the north…

But now, one year since the introduction of the Core 2 Duo with several new interesting products on the way, it looks as if DFI is finally making its way back to the spotlight. One of the motherboards introduced by DFI this summer is the DFI LanParty UT NF680i SLI-T2R, a motherboard which I’ve been granted the opportunity to have a closer look at.


The DFI LANParty UT NF680i LT SLI-T2R is based on NVIDIA’s 680i LT circuit, which simply is a lightweight version of the 680i circuit. Now, I’m sure you’re thinking ”Why doesn’t DFI use NVIDIA’s’ top-of-the-line circuit instead?”. The answer is quite simple. First of all, in terms of performance the difference is non-existing and secondly, it helps to keep the prices down. Something very much appreciated in this world of overpriced motherboards.

The main differences between the 680i LT and 680i is the support for extra I/O connectors. For instance the 680i LT supports only 8 USB 2.0 connectors while the 680i supports 10. Also the 680i LT has just got one Gigabit Ethernet connector whereas the 680i has two and the third PCI-E connector for physics accelerators has been removed.
Officially the 680i LT only supports 800MHz DDR2 RAM while the 680i has got support for 1200MHz. And lastly but not least, NVIDIA has rated the overclocking ability on the 680i chipset as ”Best” while its lightweight brother only gets ”Great”.

But as we all know, DFI isn’t just an ordinary motherboard manufacturer. A clear example of that is that DFI added all the features that was removed in the light weight version of the 680i. Like a third PCI-E 16x connector for physics cards and a second Gigabit Ethernet connector. The UT NF680i LT SLI-T2R also sports 10 USB2.0 connectors and features two PCI-E 16x connectors (along side with the 16x connector for physics cards), a PCI-E 8x connector, a PCI-E 4x connector and three ordinary PCI connectors.
Another major difference between the ordinary NVIDIA 680i LT and DFI’s’ 680i LT is the overclocking potential. DFI’s 680i LT is one of the best boards when it comes to overclocking and tweaking today.




























































DFI LANParty UT NF680i LT SLI-T2R
Specifications


CPU Support:

LGA 775 socket
Intel Core 2 Quad, Intel Core 2 Extreme,
Intel Core 2 Duo,
Intel Pentium D, Intel Pentium 4

1333*/1066/800MHz FSB
*Only available for CPUs’
supporting the 1333MHz bus

Chipset:

NVIDIA nForce 680i LT SLI MCP
Northbridge: NVIDIA
680i LT SLI
Southbridge: NVIDIA MCP55P

Memory

4 x 240-pin DDR2 DIMM
DDR2 533, DDR2 667, DDR2 800
DIMMs
Dual channel (128-bit)
Non-ECC x8 and x16 unbuffered
DIMMs
NVIDIA SLI-Ready Memory with EPP

Expansion slots:

3 x PCI Express x16 slots (2 x 16 / 1x PCI-E 8x Physics)
1
x PCI Express x4
3 x PCI

Storage:
1x IDE / accepts two UltraDMA 133Mbps harddrives.
6 x Serial ATA / NVIDIA MCP55P

– RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 0+1
and RAID 5

2x Serial ATA / Silicon Image SiI 3132

– RAID
0, RAID 1 and RAID 0+1

Internal connectors

2 x USB 2.0/1.1 ( four external USB 2.0/1.1 ports)
1 x
external IEEE 1394 port
1 x external serial port
1 x
Karajan audio module
1 x audio connector (Karajan audio
module)
1 x CD-in internal audio connector (Karajan audio
module)
1 x S/PDIF / optic
1 x IrDA
1
x CIR

1 x floppy
1x IEEE1394 header
100/200/400 Mb/s (VIA VT6307)

External connectors:

1 x mini-DIN-6 PS/2 mouse port
1 x mini-DIN-6 PS/2 keyboard
port
2 x S/PDIF RCA (S/PDIF-in S/PDIF-out)
Karajan audio
module
1 x IEEE 1394
2 x RJ45 LAN
6 x USB 2.0/1.1
EZ
touch (Power and Reset)

Audio:

Karajan audio module
Realtek ALC885 8-channel High
Definition Audio CODEC

LAN:

NVIDIA MCP55P integrated with Gigabit MAC (Media Access
Control) technology
2x Vitesse VSC8601 Gigabit
NVIDIA
DualNet® technology

BIOS:

Award BIOS
CMOS Reloaded
8Mbit flash memory

Power connectors:

1 x 24-pin ATX
1 x 8-pin 12V
2 x 4-pin
5V/12V (FDD)
1 x front panel connector and 6 x fan connectors

Size/layout:

ATX, 24.4cm x 30.5cm

Pricing:

€ 239







The first thing that hit me when I saw the box containing the UT NF680i LT SLI-T2R, was the new design. Earlier most
LanParty boxes had a clearly defined theme, containing a lot of bright colors and associations to LAN parties. But this box features a whole new design, which is much simpler and cleaner compared to the older LANParty boxes. The white with gray stripes on the front stretching over the entire box. On the top left corner, a small DFI logo printed in bright green colors can be found and the motherboards model number and name can be found on the lower right corner, also
printed using the same bright green colors. There’s also a hole on the front side where one can see the southbridge heatsink, which is a pretty nice feature.


Personally, I welcome the change and appreciate the new design,
although I’m sure there’s someone who’ll miss the old LANPARTY theme
found on the older models.










Inside the box we find three smaller boxes. The first one
contains all of the bundled accessories, the second one contains the heatsink and the third is a plastic one containing the motherboard itself.


In the accessories box we find one IDE cable, a floppy cable, four S-ATA cables, power cables for converting from the old molex
connector to the newer S-ATA power connector, SLI bridge, the Karjan Audio module, floppys containing drivers and the motherboard manuals. In other words, nothing really fancy, but considering the pricing on this motherboard, I’m happy. Don’t take me wrong though, I do like a lot of bundled hardware, but only to the extent that it doesn’t increase the price of the motherboard.










Since the DFI LANParty UT NF680i LT is a SLI motherboard, a SLI bridge can be found amongst the accessories. Unlike ASUS, DFI’s decided to use a rigid bridge instead of a flexible one.


Also the SLI bridge is a very short one, due to the relatively
small space between the two PCI-E x16 ports on the motherboard. The bad thing about this is that it limits the use of extreme cooling on the video cards when two cards are used. The good thing is that the third PCI-E connector can be used when using two video cards as well.


In the box of accessories we also find the Karjan Audio Module, an analog sound card which connects directly to the I/O panel. Those of you using a separate sound card, will never need to connect the module..











In the accessories box we also find a couple of manuals, one user manual and a guide on how to mount and install the motherboard with the northbridge heatsink. According to me, the manuals has improved greatly since the age of the nForce 4. Here’s detailed instructions on everything a user needs to know on connecting and setting up the motherboard.


In the user manual there’s also a chapter dedicated to the BIOS, explaining the function of all the settings. Even though it’s better than before, I’d like a lot more details on the functions of the
settings.


A ”Quick Installation Guide” is also supplied, a short guide on how to install things like the CPU and memory sticks. All in all, an easily understood and good guide which is very appreciated.










The heatsink supplied by DFI doesn’t look like anything used by any other motherboard manufacturer. It does show a slight resemblance to the Thermalright HR-05 with two heatpipes extending from the bottom plate to the cooling fins. DFI’s cooler has a thick aluminum base with some cooling fins on top while the heatpipes extends from the base upwards into a separate set of cooling fins. One could say that this is a weird hybrid between the Thermalright HR-05 and a Zalman NB47J.


The cooler has a special installation system, making it really
easy to mount. And there’s always the ”Quick Installation Guide”
giving thorough instructions on how to mount it.






Just like its predecessors, the DFI LANParty UT NF680i is a good looking motherboard featuring attractive colors with a dark PCB, orange and yellow ports and connectors. Even though it clearly shows a lot of resemblance to the other cards of the LANParty-series, there are some differences between this and its older nForce 4 relatives. For instance, yellow has been replaced by orange as the main color. The only thing yellow is the four memory slots, the IDE connectors and the floppy connector. But as always, all the yellow and orange slots react to UV light.










But colors aren’t the only thing DFI has thought about when it designed the motherboard. A lot of work has been done to the layout of the board as it is simply superb. It isn’t very often that I feel that almost everything is in place. But the DFI UT NF680i LT SLI-T2R is one of those boards. The six S-ATA connectors are angled 90 degrees on the edge of the motherboard, even the floppy connector’s angled by 90 degrees. The front panel connectors can be found at the lower right corner of the board, instead of between the memory slots and the 24pin ATX-header as it was on the reference model. Personally I find that all the changes that have been made since the first release of the reference model has been improving the layout greatly.











The only thing I don’t like about the layout is that the EZ start and reset button will be hard to reach when the third PCI-E slot is populated. Also the FDD connectors can be a little hard to connect when the PCI slots are fully populated, being placed above the first PCI slot and the second above the third PCI-E slot.












The power supply part of the UT NF680i LT SLI-T2R looks like most other high-end boards of today, a 24pin ATX-header and an 8-pin EPS-header. Aside from those it also features two FDD power connectors to help powering SLI systems. This however isn’t a new invention, as it has been used since the times of the nForce 4. Now, a SLI system will run without the two FDD connectors being connected, but during overclocking of a SLI-system, it might help to have them plugged in.


The 24-pin ATX-header is located at the edge of the board, just above the IDE connector and is really simple to plug in. The 8-pin EPS-header is located behind the I/O panel and it too is easy to connect.










There are six fan connectors on the motherboard; five of them has the ordinary three pin connector except for the CPU fan connector, which uses a four pin connector. However, if you haven’t got a CPU fan with the four pin connector, do not despair as a ordinary three pin connector fits as well. All the fans can be monitored in the ”PC Health Status” setting in the BIOS.











On the lower part of the motherboard we find two buttons named EZ Power and EZ Reset. Two buttons to start and restart the system if the front panel connectors haven’t been plugged in yet. This feature’s highly appreciated by overclockers who doesn’t want run their systems inside a computer chassis.


An equally appreciated function is the simplified ”Clear CMOS” function. To clear the CMOS, simply press both the EZ Power and the EZ Restart button at the same time for about four seconds. Then release the power button first then the reset button. This function will hopefully also work with the power on and reset buttons on the chassis.












Instead of using huge heatpipe systems across the motherboard like many other motherboard manufacturers, DFI has chosen a different path. On top of the southbridge we find a reasonably quiet 40mm fan on a pretty heatsink. The heatsink does show some resemblance to an Evercool chipset cooler often used back in the nForce 4 ages. The difference is that this one feels a bit bigger and more robust.


It’s definitely a good thing to equip the motherboard with a
reasonably good heatsink right from the start, as a lot of the future owners will probably be overclockers. And since overclockers do tend to put a lot of voltage through components, a sturdy heatsink is mcuh appreciated.


In addition to the chipset heatsink, there are numerous smaller heatsinks on a multitude of components on the board to help the components to stay cool.












To all the people who’re interested in running something heavier than air cooling, the UT NF680i LT SLI-T2R has got loads of free room around the CPU socket thanks to the six phase digital PWM, which also helps with the overclocking. There’s also a lot of free space around the chipset, making it possible to use extreme cooling techniques here too. However, as the chipset heatsink uses a special kind of
retention mechanism it might be a bit hard installing a new chipset heatsink.












When delivered, the motherboard comes without the northbridge heatsink being attached to the motherboard. Our guess is that this is because the motherboard wouldn’t fit inside the box with the heatsink attached. This however gives the end users the wonderful opportunity to apply their own thermal paste, without having to remove the heatsink and then wash it clean from the old thermal paste.


On the DFI 680i LT we find four PCI-E connectors, two being 16x wide and used for SLI configurations.
The third one is an 8x connector and can be utilized by other expansion cards, like physics cards. The last connector is only 4x wide and can be used by less bandwidth intensive cards, such as network cards for example. Space isn’t directly a problem, although I would’ve preferred if the first and third PCI-E slots were used in SLI, not the first and the second one. Using the first two connectors for SLI does have an advantage though. Since a physics accelerator card wouldn’t be stuck between two video cards, which often happens on other 680i motherboards.
Aside from the PCI-E connectors we also have three older 32bit PCI connectors. But due to their placement, anyone running SLI won’t be able to use them. Since the video cards will block the connectors.
The memory slots can be found on the upper right part of the motherboard.

I/O panel looks pretty ordinary, compared to most other motherboards of today. The main difference being the Karjan Audio Module. The Karjan Audio Module’s a sound card using Realteks’ ALC885 8-channel HD sound codec. The module is placed in between the USB ports and the S/PDIF RCA and installs easily.
In total, the I/O panel consists of six USB connectors, one IEE1394 (a.k.a. firewire), two Gigabit LAN connectors, S/PDIF-in and out and two PS2 connectors used for older mice and keyboards. This should be enough for most people.


DFI’s probably best known for its advanced and thought-through BIOS in the LanParty-series, featuring numerous settings to help enthusiasts and overclockers around the globe. Here, the DFI 680i LT is no exception.

DFI uses a Phoenix BIOS with the UT NF680i LT SLI-T2R, just like the LanParty series. A lot of the layout and the most basic settings looks just the same here as on earlier models, which might be helpful for new users as well as older ones. For those of you not all too familiar with the DFI BIOS, the manual contains detailed instructions on almost every feature. Help can also be found in the BIOS as some of the settings there do have a small description to the right when highlighted. Sorry to say, this information does tend to be very rudimentary but in some cases it might be helpful.

The most basic settings are pretty standard. Under Advanced BIOS Features we find the ordinary boot sequence settings, full screen logo, Delay for HDD, CPU L1-L2-L2 cache settings and Quick POST (Power On Self Test). The only thing one does change here is the boot sequence and perhaps the full screen logo.
Advanced Chipset Features contains three settings. DFI recommends these not to be changed, but left at their default values.

Integrated Peripherals contains all of the USB, IDE and RAID settings. The LAN and audio settings can also be found here. Settings include turning of one or both LAN ports, choosing between USB 1.1 or 2.0 and of course, configuring the harddrives in RAID, etc.
PC Health Status is just what it sounds like, fan speed and temperature monitoring mostly. Settings include turning off the computer if the CPU reach a specific temperature, fan speed at a specific temperature, etc. The CPU temperature can also be calibrated if it’s malfunctioning and displaying an incorrect temperature. A rather unique function as well as a welcome one, as most motherboards measures the temperature in seemingly strange ways.


In addition to the default settings, DFI has also included their famous Geni BIOS. Here you can find overclocking settings, and the 680i doesn’t disappoint. Geni BIOS includes voltage settings, latencies, CPU settings and a lot of other tweaks that will enhance the end result. This is the most competent Core 2 Due overclocking BIOS that I have seen so far. DFI has put a lot of effort into the voltage settings. And there is the possibility that, if you’re not careful, you could burn every part of this motherboard.
Apart from the most common voltage settings like CPU Vid Control, Dram voltage, NB voltage and SB voltage there are also a few new settings, e.g. GTL ref controll, CPU GTL 0/1/2/3 ref voltage, Northbridge GTL ref voltage. These settings favor Quad Core-users who wants to increase the FSB. As most know, there have been problems with high FSB overclocking on the 680i when used together with Kentsfield CPUs, but it seems like DFI has solved this by implementing the GTL ref-settings.

The FSB & Frequency part of the Genie BIOS contains the speed of the different buses. This part looks a lot like the 680i reference motherboards except some differences like e.g. CPU B-Select. Here you can find Unlinked/Linked for FSB and the memory, multipliers for the CPU, PCI-E SPP <-> MCP Ref Clock. The FSB can be increased all the way to 625MHz which should be enough for most people. The memory can be increased to 700 which also should be enough.
The last part used for overclocking is the memory latencies. This part is not as extensive as in the days of the nForce 4; this is probably because the latency doesn’t have as much effect on the performance when using DDR2 memory.
But although this part doesn’t have as many settings as earlier, they are sufficient. The only thing I really miss is TRFC.

Voltage Setting
Min
Max
CPU VID Control
0.44375
1.6v
CPU Vid Special ADD
100.01%
121.25%
CPU Drive Strenght
Weak
Strong
Dram Drive Strenght
Weak
Strong
Dram Voltage Control
1.7v
3.04v
NB Core Voltage
1.3v
1.74v
SB Core Voltage
1.52v
1.82v
SB Dual Voltage
1.52v
1.83v
LDT Voltage Control
1.22v
1.57v
CPU VTT Voltage
1.21v
1.6v
GTL Ref Voltage Control
0
255
CPU GTL 1 Ref volt
0
255
CPU GTL 0/2/3 R5 Volt
0
255
North Bridge GTL Ref Volt
0
255


Test system
Motherboard: DFI’s LANParty UT nForce 680i LT SLI/ BIOS 4CTST521
Asus Striker Extreme nForce-680i SLI/ BIOS 1202
Processor
Kentsfield QX6700 2.66Ghz
Memory OCZ DDR2 PC9200 2x1024MB FlexXLC CL5-5-5-18
Graphics card
2x Asus GeForce 8800Ultra 768MB GDDR3 384bit
Power supply Silverstone Olympia 1000W
Harddrives Western Digital Raptor 74GB SATA 16MB 10000RPM
Western Digital Raptor 36GB SATA 16MB 10000RPM

Software
Operating system Windows XP (SP2)
Drivers nForce 680i SLI/680i LT SLI.v. 9.53 WHQL
ForceWare.v.158.22 WHQL
Monitoring software CPU-Z. v1.4 / Everest Ultimate Edition 2006
Benchmarks 3DMark06 v.110
3DMark03 v.3.6.0
3DMark01 v.330
AquaMark 3
F.E.A.R
Half Life 2
Everest Ultimate Edition 2006
SiSoftware Sandra 2007
SuperPi 1.5
HD Tach.v.3.0.1.0
WinRAR 3.7 Beta

There are no problems in WinRAR, UT NF680i LT SLI-T2R stands up well to other 680i motherboards.

HD Tach:

DFI LANParty UT NF680i LT SLI-T2R
Asus Striker Extreme

HD Tach is a program that measures the performance of the harddrive. Both DFI 680i LT and the Striker Extreme use the NVIDIA MCP55P which, theoretically, should give a similar result, which is also true. DFI and Asus are quite equal.


We ran Processor Arithmetic and Multimedia with both the Striker Extreme and the UT NF680i LT SLI-T2R motherboard in order to get a picture of the performance. The UT NF680i LT SLI-T2R lies side by side with the Asus Striker Extreme in both tests and the two are only separated by a few points.
The DFI motherboard wins the Processor Arithmetic test with a few points while the Striker Extreme has a somewhat bigger margin in the Multimedia test.

Super PI 1M:

DFI LANParty UT NF680i LT SLI-T2R
Asus Striker Extreme

The Striker Extreme takes a small lead in the Super PI test. Out of ten Super PI sessions, the DFI won three and the Striker Extreme seven, which shows that it’s the circumstances that determines who wins and not that one card is faster than the other.


Everest is a great application for testing the CPU and memory performance and we’ve used it to test the CPU on both the UT NF680i LT SLI-T2R and the Striker Extreme. As you can see, the UT NF680i LT SLI-T2R does somewhat better than the Striker Extreme in most tests.


In order to actually see how the motherboard performs in 3D applications like games, I have chosen two popular PC-games which I have tested on both the DFI 680i LT and the Striker Extreme. I also made a few tests with SLI in F.E.A.R in order to get a better picture of the performance when using two video cards with the 680i LT compared to other 680i motherboards.

The DFI 680i LT and the Asus Striker Extreme are side by side and it’s very hard to proclaim a winner of these game tests, in most cases there is a maximal difference of 2-5 fps between them. Besides, none of the tests really separates the two motherboards, some are won by DFI and some by Asus and since the margins are so small I proclaim this round a tie which is not bad for DFI, because it’s a much cheaper motherboard than the Striker Extreme.


3DMark is a benchmark often used by enthusiasts and especially by overclockers in order to measure performance. Since these tests paints a good picture of how the system performs on the whole, it’s also one of the most important tests too many.

Just as on the previous pages, you can see how close the 680i LT and the 680i are regarding the performance, I proclaim DFI the winner because the UT NF680i LT SLI-T2R wins most off the tests.


With almost limitless possibilities in the BIOS and very smart layouts, DFI is without doubt a manufacturer for the enthusiasts and overclockers. DFI LANParty UT NF680i LT SLI-T2R is a very good example of this. Both the BIOS and the layout of the board truly is amazing and leaves the end user with enormous possibilities, in terms of overclocking and extreme cooling.

When I first got the motherboard, I was a bit worried about the overclocking part since I use a Kentsfield CPU. Most other 680i-based motherboards has been experiencing problems when trying to reach higher FSBs. But the DFI board didn’t disappoint me, since the BIOS includes some settings that makes Kentsfield overclocking much easier. One setting I especially like is the GTL ref voltage setting, which does wonders on FSB overclocking. Alongside GTL ref voltage we have CPU GTL ref 1 Volt, CPU GTL ref 0/2/3 volt, North Bridge GTL rev volt and CPU VTT, which all more or less helps when trying to achieve a higher FSB.
I think that the voltage settings is the thing that impresses me the most with the DFI LANParty UT NF680i SLI-T2Rs’ BIOS. If you have the right cooling, then voltages shouldn’t be the limiting factor.
One of the improvements DFI has done since the nForce 4 era is that CPU Vid Special can be set with significantly smaller increments than before. Also the CPU Vid Control can be set using smaller increments than before.

Another major difference between other 680i/680i LT based boards and this DFI is that the voltages set in the BIOS are quite near the real voltage. The voltages don’t seem to fluctuate much under load either, which’s always a good thing.

Overclocking on air:

DDR2:

The first results that I want to show you are these, the memory.
First up is 1T 431MHz 3-3-3-10-22 at 2.34V, the second result is 1T 470 4-4-4-10-22. This was done using 2.34 V.
These sticks are guaranteed by OCZ to be able to hold 2.5V but as the temperature was so high I decided to stop at 2.3V. This does however show us that this DFI board does have some potential in terms of memory overclocking, especially using 1T.

Strangely enough, it seems that I can’t get past 1100MHz using 4-4-4-10 timings. I know that the sticks can do it, but no matter what I did, I only got errors past 1100MHz.
As I started investigating the problem, I discovered that there were some problems running high speeds with 2T on the UT NF680i LT SLI-T2R. I hope that this is something that’ll be fixed in later BIOS revisions.

CPU: Quad Core overclocking

I was astonished over how good the DFI 680i LT handled Quad Cores and FSB since most other 680i motherboards have problems with just this, most other 680i motherboards seems to have a limit between 300-330 MHz FSB.
But DFI fixed this problem by implementing the GTL rev voltage in the BIOS, so the end user can adjust it and find the most optimal setting by him or herself.
At first I only changed the CPU-VTT and NB Core Voltage settings a bit, and left the GTL ref Voltage at default. This enabled me reaching 410MHz FSB without any stability issues.
Tinkering with the GTL ref Voltage made it possible to run 471 MHz and I’m quite positive that further adjusting and testing would take this board closer to or over 500MHz FSB.

Sorry to say, I couldn’t overclock the CPU as much as I wanted due to the fact that I didn’t have any good cooler around at the time. Quad Cores do get really hot during overclocking sessions, making it harder to attain a stable system when using an ordinary cooler. But to show you the possibilities of this board I did some 3DMark rounds at 3580MHz and 1.44V. This is really good since I needed to feed the CPU with closer to 1.48V to get it 3D stable at the same frequency with another board. The big difference comes from the relatively small fluctuations on the CPU Vcore.

This motherboard’s quite extraordinary in terms of overclocking. The competition isn’t close to the stability or the overclocking potential of the DFI UT NF680i LT SLI-T2R.
The most surprising thing was the incredible high FSB I managed to get when overclocking my Kentsfield QX6700 CPU. The NF680i LT SLI-T2R is without doubt one of the best motherboards in terms of overclocking the Core 2 Duo and Kentsfields of today.


Stability
DFI LanParty UT NF680i SLI-T2R is a motherboard where the manufacturer leaves a lot of responsibility on the end user when it comes to the BIOS settings. Getting one setting wrong might make your system unstable and unable to boot. At the same time you can achieve greater stability by being able to control a greater number of settings. This is especially important during overclocking sessions, as fine-tuning the system might be enough to gain those last points needed to break a world record.
The thing that surprised me with the DFI 680i LT is that I had almost no stability problems at all, even though I’ve been fiddling around with settings in the BIOS. A little increment here and decrement there and the hardware just kept playing along. I believe that the considerable small amount of stability problems has to do with DFI shipping this board with a really good BIOS to begin with. Something not very common amongst motherboard manufacturers.
DFI has also equipped the motherboard with good cooling to battle the heat problems that may arise when doing some heavy overclocking.
All in all, it feels that DFI has done something extra with this motherboard.

Performance:
In terms of performance, the DFI 680i LT really surprised me. In most of the tests we find that the ASUS Striker Extreme, based on NVIDIA’s’ top-of-the-line circuit 680i and DFI’s’ 680i LT is side by side. One board was always just marginally faster than the other in the tests and we noticed that DFI won approximately 50% of the tests and ASUS won the other 50%.
We did however have some tests that differed a little more, such as the Everest tests where DFI were ahead of ASUS, and SuperPI where ASUS won over DFI.

Extras:
On the DFI 680i LT we find a lot of extras that enhances and simplifies everyday usage and overclocking. Most of the time I think that those kind things are quite unnecessary, but on the DFI 680i LT it feels right. As the extras does have a purpose.
First up we find the EZ Power and Reset buttons, making it real easy for those of you running your system outside a computer case. Now, most 680i motherboards does have similar power up and reset buttons but DFI decided to implement a Clear CMOS function in their version. Just press the two EZ buttons for five seconds, release them in the correct order and the CMOS’s cleared. This also works with the on/off buttons on the case, if they’re connected.
Another important feature is the so called ”CPU Core Temperature Adjust”. As some of you might guess, it’s used to adjust the value of the temperature displayed in the BIOS. This is used if the temperature reading isn’t accurate and/or misleading.

Noise and cooling:
Most hardcore overclockers don’t care if the noise level produced by their computers equals to that of three elephants entering supersonic speed. Whilst gamers and other enthusiasts, not to mention the ordinary user, prefers a silent system.
The DFI 680i LT has a good balance between noise level and cooling capacity. The southbridge is cooled by a small heatsink and a fairly quiet fan. If the fan isn’t quiet enough, the BIOS features a setting for lowering the fan speed at a specific temperature. The BIOS also features a similar setting for the CPU fan.
On the northbridge DFI lets the user decide for him or herself. The cooler works flawless without a fan, but if one wants to feel a bit more secure about their temperatures, a fan can be added easily.

Sorry to say the backside of the motherboard’s covered with small transistors and circuits. Making any cooler which uses a special retention bracket on the backside of the motherboard, useless. To be able to use a backplate, several holes would have to be cut out so that the small circuits on the backside wouldn’t be crushed. Another thing is that the northbridge cooler’s so big that some CPU coolers might not fit.

Overclocking:
In terms of overclocking, DFI has created a very good motherboard with a superb layout and a really good BIOS. By using its experience in designing and creating enthusiast hardware, the DFI 680i LT is without doubt one of the best boards for Core 2 and Kentsfield overclocking today. Here we find the best features from the older LanParty series combined into an almost perfect board.

The overclocking ability of the DFI 680i LT is quite extraordinary, as this board’s far ahead any other board based on the 680i/680i LT circuit of today. As I overclocked my QX6700, I reached 400MHz FSB on the first try, without changing any other setting. This indicates that the DFI 680i LT overclocks really good with both dual and quad core CPUs’.
Even the memory performance is incredible with the DFI 680i LT, especially running the RAM at 1T command rate, where DFI virtually didn’t have any competition at all.
But the superb BIOS isn’t the only reason why this board performs incredibly good, as the design, layout and cooling of the board is equally important. The area surrounding the CPU socket and northbridge circuit is quite free of components. Making it easy for the extreme enthusiasts to use heavier cooling on both the CPU and the northbridge. This goes for the video cards as well, as it shouldn’t be too hard to replace the stock cooler with something heavier.

DFI has also managed to get rid of the problem where Vcore drops and fluctuates under load. A problem that many 680i/680i LT boards suffers from. Besides from getting rid of the fluctuation problems, the Vcore set in the BIOS’s quite close to the actual Vcore supplied to the CPU.

In the end, I don’t have anything to complain about when it comes to overclocking the DFI 680i LT. This board really is one of the best boards I’ve tested so far in my life.

Conclusion:
This time, DFI’s managed to design and create an extremely good motherboard. By using a cheaper alternative to the 680i circuit and then implement the missing functions directly to the motherboard instead, DFI’s managed to create a product that not only is better than the competition, but also cheaper.
We’re truly impressed.

DFI LanParty UT NF680i SLI-T2R

Pros:
+Good layout
+Good cooling on the motherboard
+Really good overclocker, GTL Ref Voltage for Quad Core
+BIOS and voltage settings

+Small Vdrop under load
+6 phase digital PWM
+Good BIOS instructions
+None of the negative aspects of the 680i LT can be found

+Price

Cons:
-Not all coolers fits the board
-Components on the backside of the motherboard
-No holes around the northbridge
-PCI-slots unusable when using two video cards
-BIOS doesn’t read voltages correctly

Annons

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