Up close and personal
This board certainly has the DFI Lanparty signature all over the place : black PCB, UV reactive expansion slots, a familiar chipset cooler, and in case you hadn't noticed yet, my two favorite features on any board : on/off and reset switches directly on the pcb, and a post code indicator in case things "just happen" to go wrong ;-) Let's have a further look now.
In the thumbnails below we get a look at the different sections of the mainboard, click them to enlarge the pictures.
The first thumb shows the CPU area with a large heatsink on the Mosfets which provide power to the Intel S775 CPU. In the upper right hand corner you can see the 680i chipset which still sits naked without its cooler. The Karajan module will - or should - be installed in the open space at the bottom, right where it says "audio" (duh).
The second thumb shows us the four DDR2 Ram slots, which can take up to 2Gb each, or 8Gb of total system memory. At the bottom you can see the 24 pin power connection, and the IDE cable connector together with a couple of the S-ATA ports which have an angled mounting, which is quite practical when the board is mounted into your case.
In the fourth and last thumbnail you get a close up of the bottom right corner of the board, which features the front panel connectors, the "EZ touch" connectors to power up (and reset) the board when mounted outside your case, and the diagnostics LED which is a necessary tool for any enthusiast. Also visible are the USB headers and the last two (out of eight) S-ATA connectors.
As we mentioned before, the board comes without the northbridge cooler installed: the cooler comes in its separate box and you have to install it yourself. The manual for installation is very clear, but I rather dislike the disclaimer which says: warranty void if installed improperly. If this is an issue, please install it from the start DFI...
I could think of several reasons though why the heatsink is not yet applied. First and most important reason of course is the fact that the heatsink is huge - for a northbridge chip anyway. Mounting the heatsink on the board for shipping could complicate things a little, risk damage to the northbridge, and require a much larger shipping container. A second reason might be an unwritten enthusiast's law: never trust the thermal paste of a manufacturer. By applying the heatsink yourself you make sure the application is done right, and the thermal paste is applied in the right way, with exactly the right thickness.
Talking about the heatsink itself, it's a reasonable simple heatpipe design, with two heatpipes feeding the lamellate top section of the cooler. The top section can be equipped with an 80mm fan ensemble, something I'd surely recommend when you're planning to OC the chipset to supreme heights (and over volt it accordingly).
Left and right : Northbridge heatsink, northbridge SPP chip : nVidia 680i LTInstallation
After installing the heatsink onto the Northbridge, I quickly installed all components onto the board, as I wanted to get started as soon as possible. As installations go, and when you have installed so many mainboards, things go rather quickly, and sometimes deceptively easy. So I have to admit that the deception this time was all mine, as I ran into a few difficulties. Luckily, many of my recent cases include a removable motherboard tray, which means installing and re-installing does not take all day...
I actually ran into two separate difficulties when trying to install a large heatpipe tower cooler for the CPU. The heatpipe tower I used is the TTIC
"big", which we tested here
. The issues described here should be an incentive for anyone to check the compatibility of your cooler when you're about to purchase this board.
Anyway, in the thumbs below the two issues are pictured very clearly. When trying to mount the TTIC Big in a first direction, the Karajan Audio module is obstructing the mounting of the CPU cooler. When trying to mount the TTIC Big in the other direction, the Chipset cooler which I just installed obstructs a proper mounting. You could "adapt" the TTIC cooler a little so it would fit in one direction or another (by cutting a few fins), but as I didn’t' want to break anything; I decided to forget about the Karajan Audio module and test the board without Audio. Not applying the Northbridge cooler was out of the question anyway. I realize of course that testing the board without Audio could be a slight advantage in the test results, so I disabled Audio in the other test candidate as well.
Left and right : Karajan clearance issue, Northbridge clearance issue
Let's have a look at the extensive bios next -->