DFI have very kindly sent us their LT X38-T2R LanParty, which is currently their top of the range Intel motherboard.
We all know of DFI's legendary reputation for making immensely tweakable motherboards, but will their X38 based offering, hit heights that the P35 couldn't reach?, or, with the Intel-imposed delays of the DFI LT X48-T3R, will the X38 be the new weapon of choice for the overclocking enthusiast? Read on to find out...
For those not familiar with our "living reviews", here's what happens - Over the next few weeks, I will add info and results here, and what we end up with is an ongoing/rolling review which also doubles as a help thread for other users
Following on from the DFI LP UT P35-T2R which I reviewed, the DFI LT X38-T2R (or X38 as we will call it from now on) is virtually identical to look at, aside from the onboard cooling, more on that later.
Firstly we have the retail packaging - noticably smaller and lighter than the P35 version and the reason will become clear later.
A similar layout to the older DFI packaging.
An inner box for the accessories.
The board is wrapped in an anti-static bag.
First Impressions - The Motherboard
If hardware makes you drool, look away now
This colour scheme is definitely an acquired taste. Personally, I think it is much better than some of the boards we have seen over the last year, but as with everything aesthetical, it is down to personal preference, so enough of me waffling on, see what you make of it.
The board, as it comes out of the bag - Note that there is no NorthBridge heatsink, just the now familiar (and much needed) IHS (Integrated Heat Spreader), and you will see why, a bit further down.
A nice clear CPU socket area, and as always, will win favour with people that want to insulate that area to protect from condensation for sub zero cooling (Watch this space ).
One niggle I had with the P35's layout, was the fact that you needed to remove the graphics card to remove the RAM. As the X38 has dual 16x PCI-E 2 slots, single card users could place the card in the lower slot, but at this stage, I'm not sure how the board will react to this, and indeed if my watercooling loop will allow this.
Let's have a look at the notable features around the board.
- Bottom right corner, pretty much identical to the P35
- 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)
Note that the SouthBridge heatsink is a seperate unit. This is a really welcome addition to any enthusiast board in my opinion. How many of us grab a motherboard and remove the stock cooling? I know I do, and there have been occasions where I would have used some of it, but it didn't seperate from the main NorthBridge/PWM/SouthBridge heatpipe assembly, so it looks like DFI have listened to their customers this time.
Here are the onboard power & reset switches, and these also double up as a CMOS clearing switch if you keep them both pressed for 4 seconds.
Moving to the bottom left corner, the points of note are:
- Two - PCI-E 2 slots and another physical 16x slot running at 4x (16x+16x+4x Crossfire+Physics or 16x+16x Crossfire).
- One - PCI-E 4x slot.
- One - PCI-E 1x slot
- Three - PCI slots
Let's see what the I/O section looks like.
Pretty standard stuff here as far as connections go, but as this is an overclocking board, the PWM heatsink is a great addition, and I know that it works really well after experimenting with the P35 version and the black anodising is a nice upgrade as well.
So, we have sockets for:
- PS2 Keyboard
- PS2 Mouse
- Six USB2
- One Firewire
- Two Gigabit Lan
PATA socket, 24 Pin ATX socket, and to the right, the soldered on heatsink for the RAM voltage regulation.
The Accessories & NorthBridge Heatsink
Inside the main box is a box of accessories.
There are plenty of bits and pieces inside to keep most people happy.
- 1x NorthBridge Heatsink
- 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
The NorthBridge heatsink looks very impressive indeed. The construction is solid and as with the P35 Transpiper, it looks very "Thermalright" in it's construction.
It comes with fan clips, but no fan. It looks to be a 60mm or 70mm fan that is required, I will confirm this later.
A single, fat heatpipe certainly looks like it will do the job well. One slight niggle is that they have reverted back to the plastic clips to hold this beastie in place. It is quite weighty (especially with a fan), so I would have liked to see the little nuts and bolts that held the P35 heatpipe down.
The base of the heatsink is copper and nicely flat, but mine came with some fingerprints that appear to be tar or something similar.
And after cleaning It's flat and it's shiney, but not quite a mirror finish
The Bernstein Audio Module
The LT X38 T2R comes with a Bernstein Audio Module. This simply plugs into the board via the supplied ribbon cable.
The usual suspects are here:
- Coaxial SPDIF IN
- Coaxial SPDIF OUT
- Line in
- Line out
- Mic in
- Rear R/L
- Side R/L
Test Setup & Notes
Here is the list of all the parts, in no particular order, backups/alternatives in bold.
- CPU - Q6600 G0/E8400 Wolfdale/Q6600 G0 (replacement).
- RAM - Crucial Ballistix PC2-8500 2x1GiB/Crucial Ballistix Tracer PC2-8500 2x1GiB/ Geil 2x2GiB PC2-6400 Black Dragon.
- Cooling - Thermalright Ultra 120 Extreme/LittleDevil's Single Stage Phase Unit.
- Graphics - 8800GTX/Nvidia 6200 Generic.
- PSU - Corsair HX620W
The system will be built up on my desk on a box as per usual.
The NorthBridge heatsink fitted.
Here we have the board with the NorthBridge heatsink fitted.
It is easy to do, I just applied a blob of Ceramique to the IHS, lowered the heatink into place, gave it a twist and then pressed the two pushpins into place.
I would also like to point out that earlier in the review, I wasn't keen on the pushpins and feared that they might not support the weight of the heatsink, well I'm pleased to say that the springs on the pushpins have a good strong tension, and as such, there are no problems here, even with a fan.
During the fitting of the Thermalright 120 Ultra Extreme, I found that I was unable to fit it in the traditional method (upright with the fan blowing out the back of the case) due to the UE's widest heatpipe touching the NorthBridge heatsink, but all isn't lost, mounting it the opposite way allows your CPU fan to cool the NorthBridge as well.
This is how I have it fitted.
An awesome array of features as per usual from DFI.
Please also see my DFI BIOS guide for further explanations on what does what
- Genie BIOS Settings Main Page.
- CPU Feature.
- DRAM Timings Top.
- DRAM Timings Bottom.
- Clock Setting Fine Delay - Top.
- Clock Setting Fine Delay - Bottom.