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AMD - DFI Lanparty NFII Ultra

DFI is a name that many may remember from the days of Socket 7 motherboards, although it has been fairly quiet in the market place since then. DFI has recently made a massive comeback and launched a range of high-end motherboards targeting the enthusiast market. However, looking at the amount of kit you get for your money, as well as DFI’s excellent installation instructions and manuals you could easily think that this motherboard was from one of the more well know manufacturers.

The NFII Ultra is an impressive motherboard with a wide range of features and everything you would expect it to come with and more is in the box. As the name implies it’s based on the nVidia nForce2 Ultra 400 chipset and DFI has also gone for the MCP-T southbridge that offers Dolby Digital 5.1 hardware decoding. A Realtek ALC650 audio codec completes the audio features of the NFII Ultra. DFI has made good use of the MCP-T and the NFII Ultra features both nVidia 10/100Mbit LAN and Firewire.

You also get a second 10/100Mbit network controller from Realtek, which makes this motherboard a good solution for Internet connection sharing if you have broadband modem that connects via Ethernet. The list of features continues with a Highpoint IDE Raid controller as well as a single S-ATA port. A clever feature for those that like to tinker around with their motherboard is the two micro switches that function as power and reset switches. A novelty feature of all DFI’s Lanparty boards is that the plastic has been treated with UV sensitive colouring and if you have a case with UV lights in it the board will glow in the dark.

On top of all the features of the board itself, DFI has included a box stuffed full of brackets, cables and other goodies. The standard accessories include a bracket with electrical S/PDIF in and out, a Firewire bracket, a game port bracket and both S-ATA data and power cable. As with many high-end motherboards DFI has also included a front mounted bay that allows you to access some of the ports from a more convenient front mounted position.

We weren’t that impressed by the FrontX device that DFI shipped however, as it looks and feel cheap. The advantage however of the FrontX is that it is customisable, which gives you the option to add other connectors to it which can be purchased online from FrontX. The supplied ports consist of two USB 2.0 ports, a single Firewire port and headphone and microphone connectors.

The final piece of kit you get in the box is what DFI calls a PC Transpo, which is a harness for carrying your PC to and from a Lanparty. Now, this might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but as a novelty item it’s definitely not a bad inclusion. DFI is a bit weak on the software side, but you do get a full copy of InterVideo WinCinema that consists of WinDVD and WinRip. Not a terrible bundle, but not the best on test.

As mentioned at the start of this review, DFI has provided an excellent setup sheet as well as quality manuals, although they lack information about how to set up the BIOS.

DFI fared well in all our benchmarks, although not the fastest motherboard in any one category it was always among the fastest across the board. The DFI Lanparty NFII Ultra impressed us and even though it is the most expensive Socket A board on test, it still offers great value for money, excellent performance and a good bundle. With little hesitation we decided to award the NFII Ultra our Editors Choice Award.

Verdict

A true eye opener, as we didn’t expect something like this from DFI. It might not suit everyone, but the Lanparty NFII Ultra is an amazing product that offers excellent features and performance. A big thumbs up to DFI and we hope to see more exciting products soon.

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