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Reviewed by: Carl Nelson [10.24.05]
Manufactured by: DFI

 

Introduction

Today we're stepping away from the usual motherboard reviews we do. Most often, a motherboard maker will want to send us their latest, greatest, most high end motherboard with all the bells and whistles. This way, their products look great in reviews.

That, and most people don't want to read about boring OEM boards that bring nothing to the table in terms of performance and overclocking ability.

There are some boards out there, however, that are less about 'bells and whistles' and more about pure performance. A while ago we looked at a board like this from Abit - their AN8 SLI. Today it's the DFI Infinity NF4 Standard that is getting our attention.

No, it doesn't have a fancy black PCB board. No, there are no UV reactive expansion ports. No flashy LEDs or heatpipe fans either. The Infinity NF4 is all about bringing the basics, giving budget gamers an affordable, reliable option that can overclock as good as any other.

The Specs
CPU Support AMD Athlon64 Socket 939
Chipset NFORCE4 Standard
Storage Support DMA/ATA-133 (Ultra) x 2, SATA 150 x 4
Expansion Ports USB2.0 x 10
RJ45 LAN Port x 1
FireWire (IEEE1394a) x 2
Serial Port x 1
Parallel Port x 1
PS/2 Mouse x 1
PS/2 Keyboard x 1
Floppy Port x 1
Expansion Slots PCI-E x16 x 1
PCI-E x1 x 2
PCI x 3
Audio Realtek ALC655 CODEC AC'97
Output: SPDIF Coax, 6 Channel Analog
Input: SPDIF Coax, Mic Input, Line In
Networking NF4 Standard 1000 Mbps Ethernet Controller (Vitess VSC8201RX PHY)

At this point, we should go through the differences between the NF4 Standard and NF4 Ultra chipsets. Motherboards such as this one that are based on the standard edition of this chipset sell for approximately $20 less than Ultra. That is why this board can be had for just around $80; to my knowledge, there are no NF4 Ultra boards around for that price.

There are two main differences between NF4 Standard and Ultra. Are you ready? 1) NF4 Standard does not support ActiveArmor, which is a sort of 'hardware accelerator' for the NF4 Gigabit Ethernet controller. 2) NF4 Standard only supports SATA150 transfer rate on the SATA bus.

Let me address each of these. 1) In my experience, ActiveArmor has been broken on NF4 Ultra boards from the day they were released, and has yet to be fixed. You can go through each of our NF4 Ultra and NF4 SLI reviews, and you'll see that ActiveArmor offers very little performance gain over standard Gigabit Ethernet solutions on the PCI-E bus. 2) If you look at our SATA300 Performance Review, you'll see that SATA300 offers little to no performance increase over SATA150, even when RAID0 is used.

It should be noted that when NFORCE4 was first announced, it was stated that only the Ultra and SLI versions would support a full speed 1 GHz HyperTransport bus; NF4 Standard was only to support up to 800 MHz. However the Infinity has support for 1 GHz HT, and it works without flaw. This was the case with the Shuttle SN25P we reviewed as well, so the spec may have been changed since the NFORCE4 was launched.

So if you don't mind losing out on those two very minor issues, then you'll save yourself some money by going with an NF4 Standard board over an NF4 Ultra. Of course, mostĀ boards using the cheaper chipset will be scraping the bottom of he budget board barrell. We're here to find out of the DFI Infinity is an exception.

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