True tri-SLI support; all SATA ports are forward-facing.
Minimal BIOS tweaking from inside Windows; no X-Fi mobo support.
Motherboards can’t just sit quietly in your case and service your parts anymore. Today, motherboards also must advertise to the entire world that you have one badass system. Hoping to outdo all others, DFI’s LAN Party UT X58 Core i7 motherboard features a massive heat pipe appendage, called the “Flame Chiller,” that juts out the back of your case.
The idea is to transport heat from the heatsinks attached to the board’s power regulators and chipset to outside the case, where it can be cooled by the exhaust from the case. Does it work? The concept makes sense, but we’re a bit skeptical of the small contact patch the heat pipe makes with the board. The external heatsink never got hot in our tests, but we typically don’t overclock test boards far enough to overheat voltage regulators. The Flame Chiller looks cool, though!
This board’s not all about flash and panache, however. The board’s tri-SLI implementation is certainly better than on other X58 boards we’ve tested. While other boards’ x16 PCI-E slot arrangements force you to either buy a specific case enclosure or hack-saw off a portion of your videocard to get a tri-SLI configuration up and running, the LAN Party UT X58’s tri-SLI will work in most cases.
With tri-SLI as one possible config, DFI also properly laid out the SATA ports. All eight of the SATA ports on the board are accessible even with three huge GPUs in place. Another two eSATA ports are available on the backplane, too.
DFI’s audio implementation is also pretty interesting. Instead of an audio card riser that stabs into an x1 slot or some custom slot alternative, the riser board (with Realtek codecs on it to lower board electrical noise) connects to the mobo via a ribbon cable. This lets you place the board wherever it’s convenient. Alas, while other enthusiast boards give you X-Fi compatibility through drivers or licensed hardware, the LAN Party UT X58 sticks to basic Realtek codecs and drivers, which aren’t quite as good.
After spending some time overclocking Intel’s threadbare DX58SO board (see page 40), we really appreciate how the LAN Party UT X58 offers far more switches and knobs to turn. One thing DFI needs to add, though, is a status page, so you can tell what your tweaks have changed. For example, you should be able to see what DRAM frequency you have selected instead of calculating it manually.
In our overclocking tests with the LAN Party UT X58, we didn’t get our engineering sample Core i7-965 to the speeds that we did with the DX58SO (just shy of 4GHz), but we spent considerably more time with the Intel board than we can with any review board. Spending more time learning the intricacies of this board’s BIOS could very well improve the overclocking performance.
Unfortunately, DFI’s board doesn’t distinguish itself on the benchmark performance beat, either—it clocks scores that are very similar to all the other X58 boards we’ve tested. DFI does set its Turbo Mode much higher than other boards, but that didn’t seem to impact performance at all.
So what’s the practical upshot? We still prefer the features and onboard X-Fi of the MSI Eclipse SLI that we reviewed in February, but the DFI LAN Party UT X58 comes in a close second.
|DFI LAN Party UT X58 ||Intel DX58SO|
|PC Mark Vantage x64 ||6,597 ||7,082 |
|ProShow (min:sec) ||10:01 ||9:12 |
|MainConcept (min:sec)||18:10||18:00 |
|3DMark Vantage CPU||46,541 ||45,424 |
|HD Tach (MB/s)||213 ||185|
|Valve Particle Test (fps) ||156 ||155 |
|Quake 4 (fps) ||234.9 ||224 |
|UE Mem Copy (MB/s)||18,768 ||19, 182 |
|UE Mem Latency (ns)||32.8 ||31.9 |
|SiSoft Sandra RAM (GB/s)||26.7 ||26.3 |
Best scores are bolded. Our test bed consists of a Core i7-965 Extreme Edition CPU, 6GB of Corsair DDR3/1600, an EVGA GeForce 280 GTX videocard, a PC Power and Cooling TurboCool 1200 power supply, a WD Raptor 150GB drive, and Vista Home Premium 64-bit. HD Tach scores were achieved using an Intel X25-M SSD.