I had been keen to try a new P35 board, so I thought I would have a look at DFI's P35 offering, and due to the X38 frenzy, I'm a bit late with this one, so I'll keep it brief (ish).
It has been a while since I used a DFI board, in fact it was a 939 SLI-D, which was widely regarded as one of the finest 939 boards ever made.
I had "almost" grabbed a couple of different Intel DFI boards over the last year or so, but stopped myself, and was glad later when I saw the results (think ATI chipset).
I have been following the progress of their P35 board, given it a couple of weeks from launch and bagged myself one for testing.
Before we start, I will admit that I am a little bit sceptical that this board will give me any day to day performance improvements over my P5K Deluxe & Q6600 G0, but, this is one of those occasions where I would like my suspicions to be wrong! I am, however, expecting some nice benching results
The place that I got the board from, just sent the DFI box bare, not even in a bag, so the box is a bit dirty and there is a bit of damage to the PWM heatsink fins as you will see later.
First up, the box - Nothing much to see.
The Kawasaki flavoured board in it's foam bottomed, protective shell - adequate protection.
The board itself - It is certainly different looking!
Let's have a look round the board
Bottom left corner, nothing much to note here, apart from the on board switches, but they get their own pic further down.
Bottom right corner - A few bits worth mentioning here.
- Removable BIOS chip (centre left)
- 3x USB 2 Headers (centre)
- On board Reset & Power Switches (bottom left)
- Floppy Connector (centre bottom)
- HD LED/Power/LED/Reset headers (bottom right)
- 8x Angled SATA 2 ports (right)
- Southbridge Heatsink (centre)
- Fan Headers (centre x2, below SB heatsink, and bottom left x1)
- Battery (centre left)
- Post Code Display (left centre)
On board Reset and Power switches and the LCD post code display.
In this corner, we have:
- 4x DDR2 RAM slots
- PATA connector (bottom left)
- 24 pin ATX connector (bottom centre right)
- 2x Mosfet Heatsinks (centre left and bottom right) - more on these later.
Here we have the PWM area heatsink - Note the screw holes, I'll show you what they are for, a bit further down. Also note the damaged fins, not DFI's fault, just poor packing from the retailer.
A fantastically clear CPU area, great news for sub zero mentalists.
Next, the Northbridge heatsink - Pretty standard, cast aluminium heatsink, with a slightly dirty finish to it (not sure if this was intentional, see pic further down). The mounting holes look to be close enough together to fit a waterblock, but be aware that if you intend fitting a waterblock to the NB, you will need to source some kind of cooling for the PWM area and Southbridge, as the heatpipe assembly doesn't appear to separate.
We have sockets for:
- PS/2 Keyboard
- PS/2 Mouse
- 1x Firewire
- 6x USB 2
- Dual Gbit LAN
It is sparse, but functional - I would have liked to see E-SATA, but we have the monster cooling instead .
Lets have a quick look at the back of the board
The only thing of note, and I really like this....Instead of those horrible retention clips that other manufacturers use to hold their heatsinks in place, DFI have opted for nuts, bolts and plastic washers, smothered in, what looks to be some kind of silicon/glue stuff - simple, yet effective.
Flipping the board back over, we can have a look at some of the other features.
The Southbridge heatsink has an unusual shape, I wonder what that is for?...all will be revealed
We can also see the CMOS clear jumper here, not that it is needed, as this board has EZClear, and all that means, is that you hold down the onboard Reset and Power switches for four seconds, and that will clear the CMOS - Marvellous!
There are three 16x PCI-E slots. According to the manual, PCI-E1 runs at 16x and PCI-E3 at 4x, or PCI-E1 at 16x and PCI-E2 and PCI-E3 at 1x. Got that?
There is also a PCI-E 1x slot and three PCI slots.
Next up, the SATA 2 connectors - 6x Intel and 2x Jmicron.
At first, I thought this was a 4 pin fan connector, but on closer inspection, it is a 12v power connector of the floppy drive variety, there is another one above PCIE 2. It will be interesting to see what use these have with regards to stability.
The included Bundle Of Stuff.
There are two boxes of accessories inside the main box, the first of them, is the Transpiper.
So, what is the Transpiper then? - It is DFI's elaborate cooling solution for the PWM area, the CPU (yes, the CPU), the Northbridge and the Southbridge.
The packaging is awesome, and strangely familiar...looks like Thermalright to me!
Hidden in the packing are:
- 1x Transpiper
- 1x Right Angled Heat Pipe
- 1x Bag of Mountings and Screws
- 1x tube of thermal goop
- 1x Heat Minator () - This is a piece of cardboard for spreading the thermal goop.
Mediaeval torturers kit.
The second of the two accessory boxes contains all the bits and bobs that you would normally expect to find on a high end enthusiast motherboard.
- 1x UV Green Rounded Floppy Cable
- 1x UV Green Rounded PATA Cable
- 4x UV Green SATA Cables
- 2x Molex to SATA Power Cable Adaptors
- 1x Copper CPU Shim (for the Transpiper)
- 1x Bernstein Audio Module
- 1x Bernstein Audio Module Cable
- 1x I/O Shield
- 1x Floppy Disc with RAID Drivers
- 1x Driver/Utils CD
So, all in all, a highly impressive bundle of stuff.
Lets get it built up with the Transpiper fitted and see what it can do.
So, I just removed the heatpipe assembly, which was a bit fiddly because of the silicon/glue type stuff they put on the nuts and bolts, and I can conclude that, if you want to fit a waterblock to the Northbridge, you will need to dump all of the on board cooling for the PWMs and Northbridge and Southbridge as it is an all in one unit and doesn't look like it would separate without damaging the heatpipes.
This isn't a problem because the large PWM heatsink is only actually cooling a single line of digital PWMs, so it looks like a Thermalright HR-09 will fit.
DFI thermal goop on the Southbridge heatsink - It's nice to see a copper base here.
Complete with shim and copper base, this is the Northbridge heatsink.
This one surprised me - For some reason, I expected the PWMs to be underneath the part of the heatsink with the fins, but they just live under the very edge (see pic). As I mentioned above, it appears as though a Thermalright HR-09 will fit here without any problem, so when I move over to the watercooled test set up, I will have a go at fitting one.
Also, note the piece of sticky plastic, over the heatpipe, it would seem that it is to stop any shorts, so definitely something to take into consideration if fitting some after market cooling.
Here are the 8 phase PWMs, complete with DFI thermal goop - I replaced the goop with Arctic Silver Ceramique, and I have marked the line of them with a red dot so that you can see where the heatsink sits.
PWM heatsink cleaned and ready for refitting.
Northbridge heatsink, cleaned and ready - quite a nice flat finish for a stock heatsink.
Southbridge heatsink, cleaned, but had a bit of a scrape on it where the nuts and bolts had been overtightened slightly - no biggie though.
The Transpiper fitted - I used this method because I have the board set up on a box on my desk, and this way keeps it out of the way.
While I was building this up, I couldn't help but think that the joints would benefit from the addition of some thermal paste, so I will try them without, first of all, and then later with some Ceramique on them.
Now that we are all built up, let's fire her up and have a look at the BIOS.
As, I'm trying to keep this review brief, I'll go straight to the Genie part of the BIOS, where all the goodies are.
Please also see my DFI BIOS guide for further explanations of what does what.