We've had the new CPUs for a few weeks, we've seen new boards from most manufacturers, but one board maker has been secretly working away on their new X58 baby with every intention of giving the rest of the competition a swift kick up the backside.
Bring on the DFI Lanparty UT X58-T3eH8...
DFI, by their own admission have gone the "no expense spared" route with the T3eH8 and it shows. The Thermalright designed cooling certainly looks the business and is possibly the largest on board cooler we've ever seen! - Factor in the highly efficient, server grade, 8 phase Volterra digital PWM plus solid aluminium caps and you have the makings of a thoroughbred overclocking machine!
So far, we have been lucky enough to have had a good play around with the Gigabyte GA-EX58 Extreme and the Asus P6T Deluxe OC Palm, so hopefully we can draw some meaningful comparisons between the three boards, throughout this review.
DFI Lanparty UT X58-T3eH8 - A Closer Look.
DFI have come to market around 3 weeks late with the UT X58-T3eH8 and we have been assured that they've used the time wisely and given it a good, stable BIOS.
There's been a buzz around the forums regarding this board for quite some time and people have been patiently waiting for it to emerge - We almost didn't get our board, it was sent to someone else by mistake and that's why we are a couple of weeks late with the review...back on track.
The UT is a fairly substantial board, well built and weighty, which is what we expect from DFI, especially at this price point. DFI appear to have gone for what I thought looked like a Japanese theme, although after speaking to DFI, they confirmed that the design is of a bird's wing.
The colour scheme is DFI's trademark (love it or hate it) green and yellow slots/sockets and black PCB - the PCB does look blacker than pre UT-P45 boards and is complemented nicely by the large, black north bridge heatsink, but then there's a rather unsightly red sticker across the heatsink - It's growing on me though.
The all new cooling is quite spectacular looking and I have to say that DFI/Thermalright have done an incredible job here. The heatsink for the PWM are is huge and has two Phillips head screws and a clamp that hold the new "Flame Freezer" in place - more on that later.
Let's have a quick look round the board at the key features and other points of interest.
Clockwise, starting with the 8 Pin EPS socket top left:
- 8 Pin EPS Socket
- LGA1366 socket.
- 6x DDR3 slots supporting a maximum of 24GB in a variety of single, dual or triple channel configurations.
- Down the right hand side we have the 24 pin ATX socket and below that is the single PATA socket.
- Below the PATA socket are eight SATA II ports and below that are the on/off/reset/HD_LED jumpers.
Moving to the bottom of the board, we have a single floppy port and directly above that is a back circular item which is the on board speaker.
Above the speaker are three USB 2 headers and several jumpers which we will cover later.
Moving left, we have the LED post code display and then the new style on/off and reset switches which, curiously are facing the wrong way.
Next we have the PCI/PCI-E slots - From top to bottom:
- PCI-E 1 - 16x PCI-E fixed
- PCI-E 2 - 4x PCI-E fixed
- PCI-E 3 - 8x (16x Physical - switches to 8x and also switches PCI-E 4 to 8x when used)
- PCI 1
- PCI-E 4 - 16x PCI-E (switches to 8x when PCI-E 3 is used)
- PCI 2
Finally, the I/O section, from left to right we have:
- PS2 keyboard
- PS2 Mouse
- 1x Large Air Vent
- 6x USB 2
- Dual Gigabit LAN
As you can see from the chart below, what used to be the North Bridge is now the IOH (In/Out hub) and that has two primary functions, the first is to connect the PCI-E bus to the processor and there are 36 lanes available (each at 500MB/sec) in a variety of configurations - the most common is going to be 16x/16/4x and that will allow for SLI/Crossfire and maybe a Physics card, although it should be noted that other, on-board features that use the PCI-E bus will eat into this bandwidth.
The second of the primary functions of the IOH is to connect the South Bridge (ICH10R) to the CPU at speeds of up to 2GB/sec.
There are twelve possible USB 2 connections as well as dual Gigabit LAN.
We also have six SATA II ports, Intel Matrix Storage Technology (RAID) and Intel's Turbo Memory feature with user pinning.
The main link between the IOH and the processor is now called the QPI which is Intel's Quick Path Interconnect Architechture and that will transfer data at a massive 25.6GB/sec.
Another groundbreaking feature of QPI is that each processor now has it's own dedicated scalable memory instead of competing for it via the FSB and memory controller. Should the processor need to access the memory of one of the other processors, it can access it directly via the QPI bus resulting in much less bottlenecking and faster number crunching.
I want to give a special mention to the CPU socket area as I feel this has been particularly well designed. If you take a look at any of the other manufacturers boards around the CPU socket, it's generally a busy, cluttered place with caps everywhere - Sub-Zeroists take a look at this...
With the exception of two capacitors and two jumpers, it's completely clear and flat!
Finally, the back of the board - not something that I would bother with normally, but I want to show you the backplates for the PWM and NB area.
The CPU has the standard LGA1366 back plate.
All the heatsinks are fixed in place with M3 screws and nuts - No plastic spring clips here.
A word of warning though, DFI use a kind of glue/thread locking stuff on the nuts and bolts and it can be a bit tricky to remove, so be very careful that you don't slip and scratch the board.
DFI's UT series boards are renowned for their innovative cooling set ups and the X58-T3eH8 doesn't disappoint. The entire cooling assembly has been reworked from the ground up and we have some impressive looking gear.
The NB (or IOH as it's now called) heatsink in a long black oddly shaped affair and the top part of it unscrews to reveal a nickel plated copper rod that acts as a conductor of heat between the upper and lower parts of the heatsink, see the Flame Freezer section to see what I mean.
When I first saw pictures of the NB heatsink, I thought it might impede airflow because of the length of it, but if you look at it from other angles, you soon see that that isn't the case.
It's actually a really nice piece of engineering, well thought out and in this picture, you can see the Nickel plated rod passing through. Also note the huge PWM heatsink to the left, we will get to that later.
Side view of the NB heatsink - Plenty of surface area to effectively dissipate heat. To the bottom left, you can see the spikey fins from the SB heatsink and also the heatpipe snaking it's way through.
The south bridge is also an interesting looking thing with that bird wing theme continuing. I have a feeling that those fan blade things (feathers?) are just stuck on, so I'll see if I can remove them without damaging them. The heatsink also extends upwards towards the RAM slots - Maybe it's covering a VRM? - I will report back about this later.
The PWM heatsink is a bit of a monster! It runs the length of approximately one quarter of the motherboard and keeps those Volterra 8 Phase digital PWMs in check, although they are perfectly safe up to 135c before they switch themselves off.
PWM heatsink is around 2-3 times the size of the Gigabyte Extreme's coolers and around 4-5 times the size of the P6T deluxe's.
Hiding at the back of the PWM heatsink are two Phillips head screws that hold down a black metal clamp - This is to hold the Flame freezer in place....What on earth is a Flame Freezer?...keep reading...
The Flame Freezer Fitted.
We've seen the various incarnations of this starting with the Transpiper on the UT P35 and then the original Flame Freezer on the UT-X48 boards, but this one is a little different and a little more refined.
The heatpipe on the Flame Freezer can be connected to the motherboard in a number of ways, I suspect that most people will fix it to the PWM heatsink and have it outside the case, but you can in fact bolt it to the NB heatsink. Remember the Nickel plated rod from earlier in the review? Well, with that removed, you have enough space to drop in the Flame Freezer, giving you extra cooling in that area if needed.
For the review, we are going to be using the Flame Freezer on the PWM heatsink and it is out of the way and there's less chance of grazed knuckles .
Also doubles up as a Tesco trolley
The Flame Freezer is made from a single 8mm Nickel plated sintered heatpipe - This basically means that the heatpipe's wick material is embedded into the wall of the pipe, this ensures an even transfer of heat and will work at any angle.
The heatpipe has a set of fins on either end and are bent round and held together with a pair of aluminium heatsinks.
With the two Phillips head screws removed from the NB/IOH heatsink, the top part simply lifts off to reveal the Nickel Plated Copper rod that we mentioned earlier. One thing that has puzzled me is why DFI didn't apply any thermal paste to the rod? Seems like a logical thing to do between metal surfaces - I may try this during testing.
The Nickel plater Copper rod.
First, let's have a look at the Flame Freezer fitted to the NB/IOH heatsink. To fit the Flame Freezer in this way, you'll need a stubby Phillips screwdriver.
Next we have the Flame Freezer fitted onto the PWM heatsink. I was unable to tighten the screws enough to stop the Flame Freezer moving around, which would indicate that the contact is pretty poor, at least on our sample. It was a similar story for the NB/IOH heatsink too, although that was a slightly tighter fit.
I think maybe a shim or a fatter heatpipe could be the answer here, assuming that this one isn't a one off.
DFI Lanparty UT X58-T3eH8 - Voltage Measuring Points.
DFI have made it much simpler to measure your voltages on the UT-X58, all the key voltage points are located at the bottom right corner of the board. They have tried to label the points, but as they are all so close together, it can get a little confusing, so here's a big photo to help you out.
Test Set Up & Notes.
The test set up is as follows:
- DFI UT X58-T3eH8
- Intel 920 - Water Cooled - Custom D-Tek Fuzion/Thermochill PA120.2/DDC+Petras Top.
- Corsair Dominator 1600MHz 6GB Kit/OCZ 2000Mhz
- PowerColor 4870 PCS+
- Corsair HX620
- Initial set up went without a hitch, Vista x64 configured almost everything nicely, and the supplied driver disc did the rest.
As I was installing the UT onto my test bench, I noticed that some of the mounting holes were slightly obscured by their surroundings, which could possibly make installation in a standard case a little tricky.
As I mentioned earlier, I managed to remove the "feathers" from the south bridge heat sink and I have to say that I think it looks 100% better now it's been plucked...
Another thing I noticed when I removed the "feathers" was the the south bridge heatsink was extremely hot to the touch, the north bridge/IOH and PWM heatsinks were quite hot too and this was just from booting to windows and installing a few drivers - I will keep an eye on this during testing and report back.
A point worth mentioning is that DFI have adopted a new style "Clam shell" BIOS chip holder which they previewed on the UT-P45 T2RS) - To replace the chip, simply flip open the plastic shell and lift out the tiny chip, it's important to make sure that the chip is the correct way round.
A minor gripe is that if you have the Flame Freezer fitted to the PWM heatsink, many USB devices won't be able to be plugged into the closest set of USB sockets - You can just about get away with a slimline USB stick/transmitter/plug, but anything else like a chunky pen drive will not fit.