DFI LANPARTY UT NF680i LT SLI-T2R Mainboard: Choice of Free, Wealthy and Dedicated Enthusiasts

Today we are going to talk about a DFI LANPARTY UT NF680i LT SLI-T2R mainboard, a solution based on the “lite” (LT) modification of Nvidia nForce 680i SLI chipset. The mainboard makes a very good impression, boasts very rich BIOS functionality, works great with the memory, but in the end it will not fit any overclocking fan. Find out why from our detailed review!

by Doors4ever
07/27/2007 | 04:54 PM

I don’t think I need to tell you who DFI are and what they are famous for. However, I was surprised to find out that DFI Company was founded in 1981. I learned about them much later myself around 2003 when the first LANPARTY mainboards from their well-known series started appearing in the market.

 

It was hardly possible to pass them by: bright colorful packaging, fluorescent cables and PCB connectors glowing in UV light, rich accessories bundle including stickers, modular unit for the case front panel and system carry bag. But it was not only the packaging and accessories that made DFI mainboards stand out. Very soon they became known as the ideal overclocker friendly solutions thanks to numerous flexible settings and rich options for successful processor overclocking.

Today we are going to check out one more member of the LANPARTY family – DFI LANPARTY UT NF680i LT SLI-T2R for Intel processors. So let’s get started!

Package and Accessories

The package of DFI LANPARTY UT NF680i LT SLI-T2R mainboard is dramatically different from all the previous DFI LANPARTY mainboards we reviewed: no killer-bright colors, only geometric strictness and simplicity. The box is vertical, with a carry handle. The front of the box is decorated with inscriptions in green – Nvidia’s traditional color, and you can see a South Bridge cooler through a transparent plastic window. On the back of the box there is a brief list of mainboard features.

Inside the box there is a mainboard sitting in a protective plastic case and two additional smaller boxes with similar design:

One of them contains all the accessories: bright orange Serial ATA cables and round IDE and FDD cables, SATA power supply splitters, SLI bridge, I/O/ Shield, brief installation guide and user’s manual, CD disk with drivers and utilities, three floppy disks (two with chipset drivers for RAID arrays in Windows XP and Vista and one more for the additional RAID controller). The Karajan module is neatly packed into a separate plastic box.

The second box contains the cooler for the chipset North Bridge in protective foam casing:

The North Bridge cooler is pretty tall, so the mainboard cannot be transported with the cooler pre-installed onto the chipset. That is why it comes in a separate box accompanied with the installation guide and “silver” thermal grease.

There is a groove in the base of the aluminum heatsink with a heatpipe going through it. This heatpipe is covered with thin copper plate and soldered. This cooling solution is fastened with four hooks that catch to the loops on the mainboard PCB. The heatsink on this heatpipe features wire retention for additional fan installation.

PCB Design and Functionality

Despite the rich features of this mainboard and evident complexity of its layout, the design of DFI LANPARTY UT NF680i LT SLI-T2R is practically impeccable:

The mainboard is equipped with three PCI Express x16 slots, two of which work full speed and serve to accommodate two graphics cards in SLI configuration. The last slow runs at 8x speed and the graphics card installed in it may deal with physics calculations. Besides, there are three PCI slots and one PCI Express x4 slot. There are also 6 onboard fan connectors available. Power supply connectors are very conveniently positioned, and the installed graphics card will not block the memory slots latches.

Four small aluminum heatsinks cover the warmest components on the PCB. The heatsink for the digital 6-phase processor voltage regulator circuitry stands out by its design and size.

The digital processor voltage regulator circuitry design has numerous advantages, however if it hadn’t been for space limitations the heatsink could have been even bigger. It heats up incredibly during operation: no previous-generation Intel processors, no top of the line Nvidia chipsets, no flagship ATI graphics cards can ever reach temperatures like that. You can hardly feel it for a second – it is so hot.

The South Bridge is cooler with DFI’s traditional “sun-shaped” copper heatsink. The chipset provides a horizontally aligned FDD and six SATA connectors. There is also an additional Silicon Image SiI3132CNU RAID controller brining two more SATA ports to the board. Among other features we should certainly list Power On and Reset buttons, POST code indicator, color-coded set of front panel pin-connectors and three jumpers.

The red jumper serves for CMOS clearing, although you can achieve the sane effect by simply pressing the Power On and Reset buttons simultaneously. One of the two blue jumpers serves to disable the integrated PC speaker, while the second one will allow you to reboot the system with previous set of parameters in case you over-overclock it and it won’t start, which means you won’t have to reset all BIOS settings to defaults again.

In front of the expansion slots there is ITE IT8718F-S input-output controller, VIA VT6307 IEEE1394 controller and two Gigabit Vitesse VSC8601 controllers. Eight-channel Realtek ALC885 sound controller is relocated onto an add-on daughter-card named after a well-known conductor.

Specifications

For your convenience, let me sum up all the extensive features of the DFI LANPARTY UT NF680i LT SLI-T2R mainboard in a table from the user’s manual:


Closer Look at Nvidia nForce 680i LT SLI Chipset

Now that we have discussed the peculiarities of the DFI LANPARTY UT NF680i LT SLI-T2R mainboard, a very logical question arises: why is it built on the Nvidia nForce 680i LT SLI chipset, and not on a fully-fledged nForce 680i SLI? And what are the differences between the two? The table below may answer some of these questions:

Frankly speaking, I can’t notice any significant differences. According to this table as posted on Nvidia’s official website, they promise that nForce 680i SLI based boards would offer us better choice of overclocking friendly options and parameters, but these are pure allegations: it all depends on what you will compare it to. We have come across some mainboards based on this chipset that boast very mediocre overclocking options and sometimes even really poor ones. As for the fact that the top chipset supports 1200MHz memory, while the LT one – only 800MHz memory, I don’t think this feature is really important as we can manually set any memory frequency and timings we need. As for the factual chipset specs, they are simply the same.

So, why did they need to release a “lite” chipset modification at all? The answer to this question is given on Nvidia’s web-site, too:

So it looks like Nvidia nForce 680i LT SLI chipset model brings the performance level and features of the top-of-the-line chipset at the reference board price of less than $200. How did they manage that? To drop down the price they had to give up some of the excessive and not vitally important features. The reference boards lost the second network card and third PCI Express x16 slot, Power On and Reset buttons, POST code indicator pad, 2 USB ports (there are 8 instead of 10), the cooling system no longer used heatpipes in its design…

And what did DFI do about it? They returned back everything that had been removed, thus bringing the price of the end product to the level of an average Nvidia nForce 680i SLI based solution and even higher. The current price point for this mainboard sits around $300, give or take.

The owner of DFI LANPARTY UT NF680i LT SLI-T2R mainboard doesn’t really lose anything, from a formal standpoint: the mainboard’s features are totally comparable to those of its counterparts built on the top chipset model. Hopefully, they have also taken care of the theoretically weaker overclocking features of the LT chipset model, too. At the same time, if you have this board, you don’t gain anything either: you can easily find an nForce 680i SLI based mainboard these days for about $200-$250, but you will need to pay more for the DFI LANPARTY UT NF680i LT SLI-T2R. As for the manufacturer, they pay less for the LT chipset modification.

System Assembly and First Problems

Since DFI LANPARTY UT NF680i LT SLI-T2R features module configuration, we can’t get to study the BIOS features right away. At first, we need to put the system together first. Karajan audio module with the plastic casing lock can be installed in almost one single move.

I had some concerns about the large chipset heatsink, but it also got in place without any problems. Just put a droplet of thermal grease on the chipset heat-spreader, place the heatsink on top of it and fasten it by catching to the loops on the PCB with the first pair of diagonal hooks, and then with the second pair.

Spring brackets on the heatsink serve to fasten the additional fan should you decide to install one. They can also be moved to the other side of the heatsink, because there are special holes in the fin array for them. I would highly recommend additional air-cooling, because the chipset heats up a lot, especially during overclocking. Even large heat dissipating surface like that turned out not enough sometimes, as we detected the chipset temperature hitting 72?C according to mainboard monitoring system. I believe the best choice of a fan would be 50x15mm, because there is not enough room between the chipset heatsink, CPU cooler and the closest graphics card for a standard 25mm fan. I didn’t have a fan like that at my disposal at the time of tests, so I had to use a 50x10mm fan instead. The retention on the heatsink doesn’t suit for a fan of this size, but luckily I didn’t really need it during the open testbed tests.

The problems started where I least expected them to: on the reverse side of the mainboard PCB. The area beneath the processor socket was completely clear, but a group of resistors to the side of it wouldn’t let me install the backplate:

I tried replacing Zalman cooler with Tuniq Tower 120, but it didn’t help much. The X-shaped backplate of the Tuniq cooler is smaller and doesn’t go across the resistors, but the very lowest resistor on the PCB falls right underneath the diagonal line that connects the PCB retention holes. It appeared exactly under one of the metal backplate pads. I couldn’t risk damaging the electronic components on the reverse side of the PCB, so I gave up the idea of fitting Zalman CNPS9700 LED or Tuniq Tower 120 cooler onto DFI LANPARTY UT NF680i LT SLI-T2R. I decided to go with Scythe Mine instead, as it requires no backplate for retention.

DFI LANPARTY UT NF680i LT SLI-T2R started, however the small USB keyboard that I normally use on my testbeds wouldn’t respond. I had to find a regular PS/2 keyboard to get into the BIOS and find out that USB keyboard and mouse support are disabled by default, just like on many other mainboards out there.

Although I have to say that USB keyboards usually work in the BIOS on other mainboards, and enabling this support actually means that the keyboard will also work in the interval between POST and OS booting. Unfortunately, even enabling these options didn’t help: the board still didn’t “see” the keyboard. Moreover, take a look at the second part of the parameter name: USB KB / Storage Support. It actually handles not only keyboard, but all other USB devices, such as USB HDD or USB Flash Drive, for instance. In other words, you can’t boot DFI LANPARTY UT NF680i LT SLI-T2R mainboard from a USB Flash Drive: the flash drive and the UAB keyboard only worked in Windows.

Since we came to speak about the USB devices I have to say that the two USB ports marked as USB 5 and 6 didn’t work at all: the USB devices connected to them wouldn’t be recognized, while there were no problems whatsoever with any of the other 4 ports.

BIOS

DFI LANPARTY UT NF680i LT SLI-T2R mainboard was tested with the latest BIOS version at the time of tests dating back to 05.21.2007. it was interesting to see two different BIOS versions on DFI web-site that were dates identically. One of them was specifically optimized for quad-core processors.

The options in the first BIOS sections are quite standard overall. I was surprised to find no way to disable the IEEE1394 controller. I don’t have anything against it, but there is usually an option that allows disabling it if needed.

PC Health Status section contained one very interesting parameter that I haven’t seen anywhere before: CPU Core Temperature Adjust. The new BIOS versions are know to be correcting the actual processor temperature. They usually report lower temperature than it actually is to prevent users from worrying too much about it. As a result, the CPU temperature may be very different depending on the BIOS version and have nothing in common with the real temperature. CPU Core Temperature Adjust allows correcting the utilities’ reporting scale in the interval between -32?C and +32?C with 2?C increment.

I was very pleased with the fact that you can adjust the rotation speed of three fans out of six depending on the components temperatures. Of course, these are only three fans, and not six, like on abit mainboards featuring uGuru technology, but it is still more than one or two fans by most mainboards out there. Unfortunately, these options turned out purely decorative: they didn’t work although processor fan rotation speed adjustment was listed among the fixes of the latest BIOS version.

Actually, I wasn’t at all bothered by the 1500rpm rotation speed of the Scythe Mine fan: it was very quiet. The 50x10mm fan I used for the chipset North Bridge dates back to the days when two fans like that cooled down a Slot A AMD Athlon processor. At that time I was pretty annoyed with the noise generated by these fans running at 4500rpm. However this time, I didn’t mind them at all, because all sounds were nothing compared to the howling of the South bridge fan rotating at over 6000rpm.

Actually, I can’t say that fan rotation speed adjustment doesn’t work at all. The South Bridge fan started at about 2000rpm but in a few seconds it sped up to 6600-6700rpm, which was very loud. The maximum speed I detected on this fan was 6900rpm. So, the rotation speed adjustment does work, although it is automatic and cannot be altered manually. By the time the tests of DFI LANPARTY UT NF680i LT SLI-T2R mainboard were completed I was ready to state that this was a very serious drawback that may affect the buying decision not in favor of this solution.

Another thing in PC Health Status section that may concern you, is the absence of processor Vcore monitoring. However, don’t panic: some of the voltages are displayed in the Voltage Control section:

It seems like a very smart idea to display the voltages in the section where you can actually adjust them rather than among all other monitored parameters of the system.

Just like on abit mainboards supporting uGuru technology, almost all overclocking-friendly settings are put into a single section called Genie BIOS Setting. It is even more convenient than on abit boards, because the memory timings are also here. At the same time it was pretty strange to see additional Silicon Image RAID controller management in this very section with RAID enabled by default.

Let’s start our discussion of Genie BIOS Setting with Voltage Control section. As I have already said, this is where all the current voltages are listed. However, the difference between the actual voltage settings and the ones you select is quite noticeable.

Processor Vcore may be adjusted from 0.44375V to 1.6V with an incredibly small increment of only 0.00625V.

This increment is half the size of what most contemporary mainboards offer, however, this feature didn’t prove very useful in reality. To successfully overclock the processor we used for our tests, we had to raise its Vcore to 1.408-1.41V. Asus Commando mainboard also lowers this voltage setting that is why it is set at 1.45V in the BIOS. I believe that the tiny increment on DFI LANPARTY UT NF680i LT SLI-T2R mainboard would let me set the exact voltage I needed, but the mainboard monitoring reports showed that it was jumping up and down and turned out either set at 1.42V, which was too high, or at 1.4V, which was too low. So, I had to go with 1.45V Vcore setting during our test session, because I would rather put up with a slightly higher core voltage than lower one.

But let’s get back to the Voltage Control section and its features. CPU VID Special Add allows raising the processor voltage up to 121.25%.

No one really knows what the CPU Drive Strength and DRAM Drive Strength parameters actually do: there is no mention of them in the user’s manual. As for the memory voltage, it can be adjusted between 1.7V and 3.04V with variable increment.

DFI very often uses variable voltage increment. And even more often you can come across identical repeated values. The picture above doesn’t demonstrate them, as I didn’t specifically set the intervals for that, but later in this review you will see a few repeated values. The same is true for the DRAM Voltage Control setting.

The chipset North Bridge voltage can be adjusted from 1.3V to 1.74V with variable increment:

The chipset South Bridge voltage – between 1.52V and 1.82V with variable increment:

By the way, here are some repeated values for you: 1.52V and 1.52V:

HyperTransport bus voltage can be changed between 1.22V and 1.57V:

CPU VTT Voltage – between 1.21V and 1.6V with variable increment:

The next group of setting is called GTL REF Voltage Control. The user’s manual says only one thing about them: leave this in its default setting. Short and clear :)

The next Genie BIOS Setting section is FSB & Frequency Setting.

Everything here is pretty similar to what we see on other mainboards based on Nvidia nForce 680i SLI chipset that we have been reviewing since last year. FSB frequency can be changed from 400MHz to 2500MHz in quadruple QDR values, or from 100MHz to 625MHz if we translate it into more common values. You can set the memory work mode to synchronous or asynchronous and in the latter case the memory frequency may be adjusted in the 400-1400MHz interval. If you set it to synchronous mode, the memory frequency can be changed using a few dividers:

PCI Express bus frequency supports 100-131MHz interval with 1MHz increment. The frequency range is not as big as on other mainboards, but it is more than enough. The frequency of the HyperTransport bus between the chipset bridges can be changed in the range from 200MHz to 500MHz.

1x-5x multipliers serve to change the actual HyperTransport bus frequency, i.e. its speed may vary between 200MHz and 1000MHz. The CPU BSelect parameter wasn’t mentioned anywhere in the user’s manual.

As we go on with our Genie BIOS Setting discussion, we get to the CPU Feature section, where all the power-saving functions are disabled by default for some reason. However, the much rarer used Virtualization technology is enabled, just like on many other mainboards.

The last but not the least is the Memory Timing Setting section:

All parameters may be left at default values. However, you can also manually adjust some of them, leaving the rest to the mainboard. The info column displays the actual parameter values. Everything seems to be very conveniently implemented.

Now we should only check out the CMOS Reloaded section that hasn’t changed at all, so you should be pretty familiar with it if you have dealt with DFI mainboards before.

Every time the POST is passed successfully, the configuration is being saved in the CMOS. If you make any dramatic changes in the BIOS later on so that the board won’t boot or pass the POST stage, you will simply have to reset the jumper to restore previous operational settings. It is a very useful option for overclockers. Only most other manufacturers have long implemented it in a jumper-free way.

This section also allows saving four different BIOS configuration profiles with detailed descriptions, so that you could load them quickly when needed. Another great feature to have onboard, no doubt.

Overclocking

DFI LANPARTY UT NF680i LT SLI-T2R mainboard is claimed to be designed for extreme overclocking. It is really convincing, taking into account the richest theoretical features we have just discussed in the previous parts of this article. Maybe it will help us hit unprecedented heights of extreme overclocking, but our experiments proved that it doesn’t quite suit for traditional overclocking attempts.

Some time ago I reviewed abit IP35 Pro mainboard, which proved ideally suited for overclocking. Since I already knew what Intel Core 2 Duo E6300 processor was capable of, I set the FSB frequency to 490MHz right away, raised the processor Vcore, Vmem and North Bridge voltage a little bit. It took me a few minutes to do all this. After that we checked the system stability and performance in different applications, and that was it.

I tried to perform the same on DFI LANPARTY UT NF680i LT SLI-T2R mainboard this time, but it took me not just a few hours, but even a few days to finally get through with it.

We performed our tests in an open testbed of the following configuration:

I increased the processor voltage to 1.45V, memory voltage to 2.18V and set synchronous memory work mode. However, the board wouldn’t boot at 450MHz FSB. Then I decided to take it easy and start with 400MHz FSB, because most mainboards work stably at this frequency without any additional voltage changes. Not the DFI board: it froze dead during POST. The board didn’t react to processor Vcore increase, but started working fine as soon as I pushed up the North Bridge voltage setting.

So, looked like overclocking success depended a lot on that particular parameter. I tried 450MHz FSB again – no luck. 425MHz – yes, success! However the board couldn’t perform the stability test at this speed even for a minute. I kept increasing the chipset North Bridge voltage step by step until I moved from the nominal 1.3V to 1.51V. This is when I managed to get the board run stably in OCCT for 56 second. If the NBcore was set to 1.54V or higher, the board shut down immediately. The changes in any other voltages or corresponding parameters (such as CPU Drive Strength, for example) didn’t help, too.

The board didn’t restart after over-overclocking and I had to use the jumper to get back to the previous operational configuration. Sometimes, it would start, though, and I could see all keyboard LED indicators blinking very fast up until Windows started booting. However, the keyboard didn’t work in Windows and didn’t work before that. And the mouse didn’t work either. However, since POST had been passed, the wrong setting got recorded in CMOS, so the jumper couldn’t help any more. To clear CMOS in this case I had to either use the other jumper or simultaneously press Power On and Reset buttons. In the latter case, unlike using the jumper, the power shouldn’t be cut off: the board should keep receiving default power.

I used the buttons instead of the jumper once. CMOS did get cleared, the mainboard stopped on boot-up offering to access the BIOS and correct the settings or continue booting with the defaults. Unfortunately, the keyboard was still blinking with LED indicators but didn’t work, so later on I only used the jumper, because thanks to CMOS Reloaded I had a few profiles saved for situations like that.

I was pretty sure that the board will work just fine at 412.5MHz. This strange value comes from the fact that Nvidia based mainboards for Intel processors set the FSB in quadrupled values, and I was changing it with 50MHz increment. For example, for 425MHz it equals 1700MHz QDR. If I lower this value by 50MHz and set it to 1650MHz in the BIOS, we will get this “non-rounded” value of 412.5MHz. Later in this article I will lose the decimals.

Well, my hopes turned out vain. The mainboard worked for a few minutes and even a few tens of minutes at 412MHz FSB, but in the end it would inevitably freeze, or the OCCT utility would report errors. In despair I tried to get beyond the non-operational frequency interval by setting 475MHz FSB (1900MHz QDR). I picked this frequency at random, but my guess was a success as we will see later on. I would have failed at anything above or below that, but at 475MHz DFI LANPARTY UT NF680i LT SLI-T2R passed the short 15-minute OCCT test for the first time!

You may think that 475MHz FSB (1900MHz QDR) is only one step away from the 490MHz maximum for our test processor, but this part of our experiment also took a lot of time to complete. No matter what I did, what voltage settings I chose – the board just wouldn’t work.

After a short time-out I decided to return to the last stable frequency of 475MHz. All this time the chipset North Bridge voltage was set at the maximum possible 1.51V. With this particular voltage setting the board was running stably for the longest period of time at 425MHz and passed the stability check at 475MHz. All my experience with DFI LANPARTY UT NF680i LT SLI-T2R so far showed that the higher was the NBcore setting, the better, bust starting from 1.54V the board would shut down immediately.

I decided to check out if the NBcore can be reduced, because the temperature was still too high despite the additional air-cooling. To my surprise, at 475MHz the board only failed OCCT stability check once, when I dropped NBcore to 1.32V. But even in this case it could at least boost the Windows OS. So, it turned out that high NBcore wasn’t helping overclocking: it was hindering it! After that it was all a matter of experience: the mainboard did manage to overclock the CPU to 490MHz FSB with the NBcore raised to just 1.39V.

Nvidia chipsets are known to be more flexible when working with the memory than Intel chipsets. During our test session the memory was working in synchronous mode with higher timing settings. We failed to set Command Rate to 1T, but S&M utility showed that the memory can work just fine at 980MHz with 4-4-4-12 timings. I have never managed to achieve this result on any other Intel based mainboard before. With the memory working with 4-4-4-12 timings at 980MHz and the CPU overclocked to 490MHz FSB the system passed a 30-minute OCCT stability test and over a dozen of performance tests in different applications.

When we almost finished our exhausting overclocking experiments and I was about to get to the next part of our test session, one more unexpected thing happened. We got to testing in 7-zip utility, which refused to work. It reported buffer overflow, decoding error or just froze without reason.

At first I thought that memory subsystem was the one to blame, but neither higher memory timings nor higher memory voltage settings helped. NBcore increase also had no effect as well as reinstallation of the application from scratch. In the nominal work mode, however, all tests were passed without any issues. The solution to the problem turned out the CPU VTT Voltage parameter that needed to be increased quite significantly. Z-zip started working fine as soon as we pushed this voltage setting from the nominal 1.21V to 1.34V, but maximum stability was achieved only at 1.44V CPU VTT Voltage.

Very interesting effect. I usually use SuperPi test (4-8- million decimal digits) or 15-minute OCCT test for the preliminary stability check of the overclocked processor. If I manage to confirm the efficiency of 7-zip utility on other chipsets as well, I might switch to it eventually, because it reports the first results in 15 second, or doesn’t report anything at all.

FSB Strap on DFI LANPARTY UT NF680i LT SLI-T2R

To complete our portrait of DFI LANPARTY UT NF680i LT SLI-T2R mainboard we need to check out a few more things. The next test was used to determine at what frequency FSBP Strap on DFI LANPARTY UT NF680i LT SLI-T2R mainboard changes. We used Everest tool in the interval between 325MHz and 490MHz FSB with 12.5MHz increment (50MHz QDR).

Here are some comments to the chart above. At 462MHz FSB the mainboard booted the Windows but failed even a simple test like one-time memory speed measurement in Everest. At 450MHz and 437MHz the board wouldn’t even start. At 425MHz it passed the test and then showed a BSOD. As we already know it also failed to run stably at 412MHz FSB. In other words, DFI LANPARTY UT NF680i LT SLI-T2R is hardly operational at all in the FSB frequency interval between 400MHz and 475MHz. That is why it was just my luck when I attempted to “jump” over the FSB Hole right to 475MHz, no higher and no lower.

The chart shows very clearly that FSB Strap changes somewhere within this interval. And the performance drops so dramatically that even at 490MHz FSB we couldn’t hit the same result as at 425MHz FSB. During our tests the timings were locked at 5-5-5-15, but as we will see in the next part of our test session, even more aggressive timings of 4-4-4-12 won’t let us close the gap.

Performance

We wanted to offer you a more illustrative performance comparison between mainboards based on different chipsets. Therefore, we took the results obtained for MSI P35 Platinum (on Intel P35 Express chipset) and Asus Commando (on Intel P965 Express chipset). The CPU was overclocked to the same level in all cases, we used the same testbed configuration and same driver versions. DFI LANPARTY UT NF680i LT SLI-T2R mainboard has one advantage though; much more aggressive memory timings.

The Refresh Cycle Time parameter value seems to be too high, but the board sets it automatically and it is not among the adjustable parameters, anyway.

The first tests show indisputable advantage of DFI LANPARTY UT NF680i LT SLI-T2R mainboard due to more efficient timings settings. The board looks pretty good in HDD tests as well as GPU tests:

I actually repeated the GPU tests monitoring the frequencies: they remained intact. Although Nvidia LinkBoost technology improving the graphics card performance shouldn’t be working in this case, I still have to admit that there are some optimizations there. Otherwise, where does the advantage of the system on Nvidia chipset with Nvidia graphics card come from? The advantage is not big, but noticeable.

And after that the results are no longer that optimistic for DFI mainboard any more. The memory subsystem latency appeared the highest on DFI LANPARTY UT NF680i LT SLI-T2R.

In some cases all three mainboards perform comparably. Sometimes DFI LANPARTY UT NF680i LT SLI-T2R falls behind only MSI P35 Platinum that doesn’t suffer from significant performance drop during FSB Strap changing. And sometimes it even falls behind Asus Commando, which does have a significant performance drop on FSB Strap threshold. MSI and Asus mainboards performed in equal conditions, but even lower timings didn’t help DFI win.

Conclusion

And now, for those who don’t read the articles but only look through the conclusions and picture, we would like to sum up the results of our today’s detailed discussion of DFI LANPARTY UT NF680i LT SLI-T2R mainboard features and performance. The mainboard makes a very good impression, boasts very rich BIOS functionality, works great with the memory, but:

There is an opinion that you should use expensive mainboards to overclock expensive processors. Why save on small things, if you got an expensive board, buy one of the top CPUs and you won’t be dealing with issues at up to 500MHz FSB and up. But wait a minute, if DFI LANPARTY UT NF680i LT SLI-T2R doesn’t really work in a pretty large frequency range from 400 to 475MHz FSB, what processor can you actually use with it? You may start experiencing problems not only during overclocking of the youngest Core 2 Duo processors using 7x multiplier. Even CPUs with 8x multiplier may stall at the modest 3.2GHz speed. And taking into account that the new processor core revisions boast much higher overclocking potential than the previous ones, the problems may even occur with the CPUs supporting 9x clock frequency multiplier.

Processor overclocking is a pretty unpredictable thing that depends not only on skill and experience but also on luck. As a rule, you don’t have the chance to choose the most overclockable processor from the batch. You overclock whatever you’ve got. But when it comes to mainboards, you shouldn’t rely on luck here, but take into account the performance results and products reviews, to make sure that the board you choose doesn’t ruin the potential of a good CPU, doesn’t become a bottleneck during overclocking experiments.

This is when a logical question pops up: who might actually need a mainboard like DFI LANPARTY UT NF680i LT SLI-T2R? I believe that the potential DFI LANPARTY UT NF680i LT SLI-T2R owner should have enough free time to find the most optimal parameters for his system. Besides, he should be quite wealthy to afford processors with at least 10x clock frequency multiplier or have CPUs with an unlocked multiplier. And of course, he should be a dedicated enthusiast, because only dedicated enthusiasts can never be satisfied with a single graphics card; they always need two. Or at least, he should dislike ATI/AMD and Intel chipsets enough.

However, common sense suggests that these requirements are not everything that should be mentioned in this respect. Nvidia nForce 680i SLI based mainboards, just like powerful GeForce 8800 graphics cards have been in the market for over half a year now. I believe that true enthusiasts have already got themselves a nice set. So, our potential DFI LANPARTY UT NF680i LT SLI-T2R owner should also be not only free, dedicated and wealthy, he should also be a DFI fan. If you are the guy, then DFI LANPARTY UT NF680i LT SLI-T2R would be a great choice for you :)