DFI Lanparty DK P45-T2RS Plus Page: 1
Introduction
 
DFI are a company that need no introduction on a site such as this. Producing quality motherboards designed for enthusiasts for years, they made their name with what is arguably the best board ever produced - the NF4 SLI-DR. However, I can't help but feel that they have struggled under the weight of their own reputation, with enthusiast expectations being raised to extremely high levels. Still, while the boards that they have produced in recent months may not be able to brand themselves into the memories of enthusiasts as the SLI-DR was, they have been extremely competent and very good performers.
 
Today we have the opportunity to take a good look over a mid-range orientated board. Designed for people who want good performance without the price tag, this has take form of the DFI Lanparty DK P45-TR2 Plus. The DK (short for dark) has been a relatively new line of DFI boards under the Lanparty header that appeared around the time Intel's P35 chipset was adopted, with the intention being to fill the mid-range gap referred to above. It's occupying a space that I for one have felt DFI have been missing for a while, sitting nicely between the Infinity and Lanparty UT (and more recently the LT) ranges. The range, like its elder UT, can be found in all of Intel's chipset flavours, both DDR2 and DDR3 variants, but bears a fraction of the price tag.
 
So let's see what the mid-ranged board has to offer us with a look at the specifications taken directly from DFI's own web page:
 
CPU
# LGA 775 socket for: - Intel® Core2 Quad and Intel® Core2 Duo
# Supports Intel Enhanced Memory 64 Technology (EMT64T)
# Supports Enhanced Intel SpeedStep Technology (EIST)
# Supports Intel Hyper-Threading Technology
# Supports 1333/1066/800MHz FSB

Chipset
# Intel® chipset - Northbridge: Intel® P45 Express chipset Intel® Fast Memory Access technology - Southbridge: Intel® ICH10R

System Memory
# Four 240-pin DDR2 DIMM sockets
# Supports DDR2 1066MHz (O.C 1200MHz)
# Delivers up to 12.8Gb/s bandwidth
# Supports dual channel (128-bit wide) memory interface
# Supports up to 8GB system memory
# Supports unbuffered x8 and x16 DIMMs

Expansion Slots
# 2 PCI Express (Gen 2) x16 slots dimensionally with x16 transfer rate lanes for PCIE2 and x8 transfer rate lanes for PCIE4 (16-lane ports, 8-lane ports) - 2-way CrossFire: One slot operating at x16 (16-lane port) or two slots each operating at x8 (8-lane ports) bandwidth
# 2 PCI Express x1 slots
# 2 PCI slots

BIOS
# Award BIOS
# 8Mbit SPI flash BIOS
# CMOS Reloaded

Audio
# Realtek ALC885 High Definition audio CODEC
# 8-channel audio output
# DAC SNR/ADC SNR of 106dB/101dB
# Full-rate lossless content protection technology
# Optical S/PDIF-out and coaxial RCA S/PDIF-out interfaces

LAN
# Marvell 88E8053 PCIE Gigabit LAN controller
# Fully compliant to IEEE 802.3 (10BASE-T), 802.3u (100BASE-TX) and 802.3ab (1000BASE-T) standards

Serial ATA with RAID
# Intel Matrix Storage technology
# Supports up to 6 SATA devices
# SATA speed up to 3Gb/s
# RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 0+1 and RAID 5

IDE
# JMicron JMB368 PCI Express to PATA host controller
# Supports up to 2 UltraDMA 33/66/100Mbps IDE devices

Rear Panel I/O
# 1 mini-DIN-6 PS/2 mouse port
# 1 mini-DIN-6 PS/2 keyboard port
# 1 optical S/PDIF-out port
# 1 coaxial RCA S/PDIF-out port
# 6 USB 2.0/1.1 ports
# 1 RJ45 LAN port
# Center/subwoofer, rear R/L and side R/L jacks
# Line-in, line-out (front R/L) and mic-in jacks

Internal I/O
# 3 connectors for 6 additional external USB 2.0 ports
# 1 connector for an external COM port
# 1 front audio connector
# 1 CD-in connector
# 1 IrDA connector
# 6 Serial ATA connectors
# 1 40-pin IDE connector
# 1 floppy connector
# 1 24-pin ATX power connector
# 1 8-pin 12V power connector
# 2 4-pin 5V/12V power connectors (FDD type)
# 1 front panel connector
# 4 fan connectors
# 1 download flash BIOS connector
# 1 diagnostic LED
# EZ touch switches (power switch and reset switch)

Power Management
# Ultimate 4-phase digital PWM with 12 MOSFETs
# ACPI and OS Directed Power Management
# ACPI STR (Suspend to RAM) function
# Wake-On-PS/2 Keyboard/Mouse
# Wake-On-USB Keyboard/Mouse
# Wake-On-LAN
# Wake-On-Ring
# RTC timer to power-on the system
# AC power failure recovery

Hardware Monitor
# Monitors CPU/system/Northbridge temperature and overheat alarm
# Monitors Vcore/Vdimm/Vnb/VCC5/12V/V5sb/Vbat voltages
# Monitors the speed of the cooling fans
# CPU Overheat Protection function monitors CPU temperature and fan during system boot-up - automatic shutdown upon system overheat

PCB
# 4 layers, ATX form factor
# 24.5cm (9.64") x 30.5cm (12")
 
An impressive specs list with a few features I'm very glad to see on there, like the mass of USB ports (6 on the I/O plate + 6 internal), both optical and coaxial SPDIF out and 8 internal SATA ports (6 on chip, 2 controlled by the J-Micron controller). These are often areas that miss out when it comes to budget boards.
 
Next we take a look at the board itself and the packaging it came in...


DFI Lanparty DK P45-T2RS Plus Page: 2
Packaging
 
The T2RS came in a rather standard size box, nothing over the top like you see on a lot of high end boards. In sticking with the dark theme, it shows off a holographic black finish which really looks quite flash - the pictures here simply don't do it justice. A large emblem on the front and the branding under it let you know what's inside from the second you look at it, but aside from a few stickers advertising some of the board's features, there isn't much more to the design until you reach the back.
 
Box_Front Box_back
 
Box_iso_1 Box_Iso_2
 
The back the box enlightens us on the board's main features and what it supports component-wise. It's worth noting the three highlighted features on the bottom right. Being the 'Plus' version of the board, it has a few extra little tricks up its sleeve to set it apart from its sibling, the plain T2RS.
 
Acc_Box Accessories
 
Opening the box, we're presented with the accessories as well as a guide sheet in both traditional and simplified Chinese, as well as Japanese. Digging through the box, there is plenty to help you get a machine up and running. The full accessory list is shown below:
 
* IDE Cable
* Floopy Cable
* SATA Cables (Power & Data)
* Crossfire connector
* Manual
* Quickstart guide
* ABS manual
* Driver CD
* Driver Floopy
 
Empty_Box AS_Bag
 
Under the accessories, we find a protective card layer keeping the motherboard out of harm's way, and obviously below that is the board itself wrapped up in an anti-static bag. Overall the packaging and accessories you get with the T2RS Plus are pretty standard. 
 
The Board
 
Board Board_Back
 
Taking a look over the DK P45 for the first time, I can say that, at least in my opinion, it looks fantastic. The orange and black theme gives it a slightly sinister aura about it, and nothing on the board sticks out like a sore thumb. The back of the board shows us little out of the ordinary. It's noteworthy to see that the northbridge heatsink is bolted on rather than using the traditional push pins.
 
Socket_Area
 
Starting the tour of the board where it counts the most, the socket area is fairly clutter free. The 4 phase power delivery system is the first concern about the board. With overclockers demanding cleaner, more stable voltages to the CPU, it was a bit of a worry whether the system could keep up with the likes of a Quad Core. For the sub-zero users about, it would be no harder to insulate than any other socket area that uses analogue PWM solutions.
 
DIMM_Slots
 
Moving down to the area sporting the DIMM slots, 24 pin power and IDE connectors, there isn't really any clutter here either. A single phase supplies the RAM with the necessary power. The IDE & 24 pin ATX connectors are in pretty much the ideal place. It's noteworthy that DFI has seen fit to move the floppy connector however. This is probably a smart move, as no one really uses them anymore, but the RAID drivers are supplied on a diskette and therefore one may be needed.
 
Southbridge
 
Underneath the DIMM slots, we find the ICH10R southbridge that's covered by a small, black aluminium sink. To the immediate right of that are the eight 90° SATA connectors controlled by both the southbridge and JMicron controller. I for one am glad no straight connectors were used, as they have too much of a tendency to pull right off the board when disconnecting cables. Beneath the southbridge chip is the LCD post code display along with the EZ switches and a built-in speaker. Once again, these are all welcome additions and I'm happy to see them on a mid-range board. It means that this board is geared up not only for 24/7 use, but for a testing environment as well. Also in this section, we see two fan headers along with the internal USB and front port I/O headers.
 
PCI-Slots
 
Next on the tour of the board we come to the PCI slot area. Being an ATX board, it makes use of six of the seven possible expansion slots; assumingly the components surrounding the northbridge got in the way of a seventh. But no fear, the board still comes with 2 of the following: PCI-E x1, PCI-E x16 and standard PCI - plenty of room for all but the most card loving among us. We also find our floppy connector located under the slots. As I stated earlier, it's not a massive deal as no-one uses them anymore really, but if you need the raid drivers it could be a hassle if your FDD cable is too short.
 
I/OPlate
 
Finally we come to the I/O backplate. It's not the busiest of places, but it has everything that I for one would need. The Clear CMOS EZ jumper is a nice touch, but a switch would have been a bit nicer for the back plate. Six 3.5mm jacks and both SPDIF connectors should provide all the audio-out options you could ask of a mid-range board. The lack of Firewire might concern some, but it's another standard that is just not that widely used.

Cooling_Off Heatsinks
 
The cooling on the board is a point that interested me. There have been some very elaborate solutions about recently (see the Foxconn Blackops and Gigabyte P45 Extreme reviews) and the DFI has nothing but a simple heatsink connected to the two PWM sinks by a single heat pipe. The board's cooling certainly looks good, with the black and chrome working well together. I was happy to see that DFI weren't trying to pass it off as copper. Having worked with P45 boards before, the fact that the heatsink was no monster didn't raise a concern as the northbridge isn't the hottest of chips. As for the southbridge, it probably doesn't even need a heatsink, but DFI added one on anyways.

Moving on we take a look around the board's BIOS...


DFI Lanparty DK P45-T2RS Plus Page: 3
BIOS
 
The BIOS is sometimes the make or break factor in mid-range boards, especially the ones that are aimed at enthusiasts. DFI have once again gone for a Phoenix Award Bios, so veteran DFI users should feel right at home right from the getgo. Starting off by looking at the flashing procedures available to us, we can see that the slightly dated floppy disk is still the preferred method of updating the BIOS. Of course, you can always use a correctly formatted USB stick to feel a bit more modern. Unfortunately, DFI are yet to implement a nice, easy flash program into their boards as Asus and other manufacturers' have done. There is a Windows tool, but do we really want to go there?
 
Splash Main_Bios
 
Upon boot, you're greeted with a splash screen inviting you to select either the Anti-lock Breaking System Auto Boost System feature, which is essentially a one button overclock, or enter the BIOS. The overly familiar menu is presented upon loading, and of course we went straight over to the Genie BIOS settings section to take a peek at the tweaking options.
 
Genie_Bios
 
As you can see in the above screenshot, the board doesn't disappoint in tweakable settings. DFI have gone with their usual ploy of throwing the accepted naming conventions for settings out the window and coming up with their own, so getting to grips with everything can take a minute or two. As you can see, there are all of the basic settings you would need for a decent enough overclock. The ridiculous degree of settings that can be found in the BIOS' of the high-end DFI boards isn't present here, which to be quite frank I found welcoming. It makes the board feel like it was designed to be used by anyone, rather than people who spend more time in the BIOS that in their OS.
 
CPU_feature RAM_settings
 
Voltage_Settings
 
Three menus are available from the Genie page: the "CPU Feature", "DRAM Timing" and "Voltage Setting" pages. Separating these options keeps things nice and organised. The CPU feature hosts the usual settings that most enthusiasts just turn off on first boot, as well as an interesting 'Core Multi-Processing' option that cuts the CPU down to one core when enabled. The DRAM Timing menu possessed a decent number of customisable settings without going over the top. Finally, in the Genie BIOS settings there is the "Voltage Setting" menu which does pretty much what it says on the tin, with no unnecessary settings.
 
CMOS_Reloaded PC_Health
 
The second page of interest was the CMOS Reloaded menu. This allows you to save various profiles to the BIOS for future use. This is a feature which is seen on a lot of boards these days, and rightly so as trying to remember every setting can be tricky. The page allows the saving of three separate profiles with descriptions so that you know what each profile does. The last page of the BIOS we see is the "PC Health Status", providing all the information you'll need and a little more about temperatures, voltages and fan speeds.
 
Overall, I'm very impressed by the BIOS on the T2RS Plus. It has plenty of options and tweaks that you see on the high-end without going completely over the top. It should allow for some decent overclocks while not scaring the poor user to just knock up the FSB until unstable for fear of what the other settings might do.

Over the page we go into the test setup and overclocking for the T2RS...


DFI Lanparty DK P45-T2RS Plus Page: 4
Test Setup
 
To put the T2RS Plus through its paces, it was compared against three other boards all using similar hardware and settings (except in the case of the DDR2 and DDR3 RAM). The hardware that was used for this review consisted of the following:
 
Processor: Intel Xeon 3070 @ 3.6ghz
Cooling: OCZ Vendetta II
Motherboard:  DFI LanParty DK T2RS Plus, Abit IP35 Pro, MSI P45D3 Platinum, Asus Blitz Extreme
Memory: Crucial Balistix PC2-5300 (1:1 5-5-5-15 2t), OCZ Platinum PC3-12800 (1:1 7-7-7-23 2t)
GPU: Sparkle 8800GT 512MB
Power Suply:
  Cooler Master Real Power Pro 850w
HDD:
Hitachi Deskstar 7200RPM 80GB
OS: Vista Ultimate 64bit + SP1
 
 
Overclocking
 
I was looking forward to this section of the review, going on my past experiences with DFI's range of boards and a few snippets I'd read on the web before being given a chance to review this board. As usual, I started with a low voltage test. Sticking to approximately 1.35v (+240Mv BIOS setting), I increased the FSB until the chip became unstable. I wasn't too surprised to find this maxing out at 3600MHz (3.6ghz), as this is the sweet spot for my veteran chip.
 
3600
 
Showing it was capable of maxing out the chip on a low voltage setting, I continued to bump the Vcore up to around 1.6v (+450Mv BIOS setting) and went for even higher. A fair bit of tweaking later and the T2RS managed an reasonable 3900MHz (3.9GHz). Now this is not a blistering speed by any means as I've seen the chip do 4GHz, and likened to the 45nm Wolfdales it's pretty average. I felt that the main issue was due to temperatures and that the board was capable of more but would require better cooling and a lot more tweaking time.

3900
 
The next test was, of course, a maximum FSB test. Leaving the voltage high, jacking up a few more settings and fiddling with GTL settings lead to a maximum bootable and stable FSB of 475Mhz.
 
475FSB

Overall, the T2RS is not going to be the stem of any record breaking overclocks based on what can be seen here, but it's perfectly capable of putting out some very reasonable speeds. I felt that the board would be much better suited toward a user who would spend a few hours tweaking to seek out the sweet spot for their chip between clock speed and voltage, then run at said settings until the next upgrade.

Next up we move on to the benchmarks...


DFI Lanparty DK P45-T2RS Plus Page: 5
 
SiSoftware Sandra (the System ANalyser, Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant) is an information & diagnostic utility capable of benchmarking the performance of individual components inside a PC. Each of the benchmarks below were run a total of five times with the highest and lowest scores being discarded and an average being calculated from the remaining three.
 
 
 
   
 
Everest is in many ways similar to Sisoft Sandra. Focusing mainly on software and hardware information reporting, Everest also comes with a benchmark utility suitable for testing the read, write and latency performance of the memory subsystem. Each of these benchmarks were performed a total of 5 times with the highest and lowest scores being discarded and an average calculated from the remaining three.
 
 
 
Observations
 
The results presented from the CPU and Memory benchmarks show some rather predictable results. The T2RS Plus keeps up with all the other boards tested, although it is slightly overshadowed by the IP35 Pro on the DDR2 front. The only real fluctuation between results that we can see is those boards which utilise DDR2 versus DDR3 memory.


DFI Lanparty DK P45-T2RS Plus Page: 6
 
ViMark is the latest addition to the OC3D motherboard testing process and a relatively new benchmarking application in general. Designed to take the inaccuracies and guesswork out of measuring the time taken to encode video files, ViMark produces easily comparable and consistent results for encoding raw video into Windows Media, Quicktime, AVI and Gif formats. As always, a total of 5 benchmark runs were performed with the highest and lowest scores removed and an average calculated from the remaining 3 scores.
 
 
 
 
 
 
7-Zip is an open source Winzip-style file compression utility that has the ability to compress and decompress many file formats including its own .7z compression scheme. 7-Zip also comes complete with its own benchmarking utility for gauging the compression and decompression speed of the system that it is installed on.
 

 
 Result Observations
 
When it came to the encoding benchmarks, the performance of the boards were pretty much neck and neck. The deviation from this trend came during the Quicktime encoding tests, where the DK P45 actually came out on top. A similar trend to the CPU and memory benchmarks emerges in the compression & decompression tests, with the DK being a bit slower than the IP35.



DFI Lanparty DK P45-T2RS Plus Page: 7
 
HDTach is a free hard disk benchmarking program from SimpliSoftware. This benchmark is not only capable of producing results on hard disk access times but also CPU usage required during disk access. The "Long bench" was run a total of 5 times with the highest and lowest results being omitted and an average calculated from the remaining 3 results.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
SiSoftware Sandra (the System ANalyser, Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant) is an information & diagnostic utility capable of benchmarking the performance of individual components inside a PC. Each of the benchmarks below were run a total of five times with the highest and lowest scores being discarded and an average being calculated from the remaining three.
 
 

 
Observations
 
This page shows there really isn't much of a gap between any of the boards, whether they utilise the ICH9R or ICH10R chips. The DFI won out very slightly on the HDTach Burst Transfer rate, but the difference was in no way significant. A slightly anomalous result came from the P45D3 on the Sandra Disk read indexing test, but after the 5 runs the results were consistent.


DFI Lanparty DK P45-T2RS Plus Page: 8
 
Cinebench 10 is a benchmarking tool based on the powerful 3D software Cinema 4D. The suite uses complex renders to gauge the performance of the entire PC system in both single-core and multi-core modes. Testing was performed a total of 5 times with the highest and lowest results being omitted and an average created from the remaining 3 results.
 
 
 
 
3DMark is a popular synthetic gaming benchmark used by many gamers and overclockers to gauge the performance of their PC's. All 3DMark runs were performed a total of 5 times with the highest and lowest results being removed and an average calculated from the remaining 3 results. Also included are the CrossfireX results to give an indication of how 8x PCIe lanes perform.
 
 
 
 
 
Observations
 
Another slightly mixed bag of results. The DFI kept beating the other boards across a few of the benchmarks here. Interestingly it came out on top in both 3DMarks and the Cinebench OpenGL tests, but took the middle ground for the Single-core and Multi-core benchmarks.


DFI Lanparty DK P45-T2RS Plus Page: 9
 
Call of Duty 4 is a stunning DirectX 9.0c based game that really looks awesome and has a very full feature set. With lots of advanced lighting, smoke and water effects, the game has excellent explosions along with fast gameplay.
 
CoD4
 
 
 
Crysis is without doubt one of the most visually stunning and hardware-challenging games to date. By using CrysisBench - a tool developed independently of Crysis - we performed a total of 5 timedemo benchmarks using a GPU-intensive pre-recorded demo. To ensure the most accurate results, the highest and lowest benchmark scores were then removed and an average calculated from the remaining three.
 
Crysis_results




Race Driver: Grid is a visually taxing game that presents a challenge to any graphics system. Results were recorded using FRAPS to log the average FPS over a playback of a 3 lap race. To ensure consistency, the same track, car and general path of travel was used in each of the 5 benchmark runs for each graphics card, with an average FPS being calculated from the median three results.



Observations

The results are pretty much as expected from the gaming tests, with each board managing to score so close that there can be no real clear winner here - the differences detected can possibly be put down to slight variations in the averages taken.


DFI Lanparty DK P45-T2RS Plus Page: 10
Conclusion
 
Well, it's time to wrap up the last 9 pages in a few paragraphs and draw some final thoughts on the DK P45-T2RS Plus. In short, the board is a well thought out and cost effective motherboard most suited for 24/7 use. To start with, the layout is pretty much everything you could want, with no silly ATX power connector placement and all the connectors are close to the edge of the board. There's also plenty of space to fit large air coolers to the CPU. If you wanted to be really picky, you could gripe about the fact that the two PCI-E slots are quite close, which means that running two cards in Crossfire may prove tricky if they have large GPU coolers. Some may find the Clear CMOS jumper to be obscured by the GPU in the first slot as well, but that argument  doesn't hold much weight given that there is one on the I/O plate which does exactly the same thing.
 
The T2RS's performance, while not ground breaking, was quite commendable. It held its own against the other boards it was compared too, even beating them in a fair few areas. It showed some muscle in the 3DMark suites and a similar pattern was seen with the two FPS games tested with the T2RS. Although it was by the smallest of margins, the demos showed the T2RS to be the fastest. Overclocking on the DK P45-T2RS was a little disappointing, but I felt this wasn't entirely the fault of the board as there are ample options and potential.
 
The price for the LP DK T2RS Plus sits in at £114.59 over at Ebuyer at the time of writing, making it a good price point to be considered against the likes of the P5Q-E and EP45-UD3P. In my opinion, it's a fantastic price for the board. The features you only found on high-end boards a few years ago have trickled down to the mid-range and are on display with the DK P45.
 
The final question about this board is, of course, should you buy it? This depends on a number of factors. If you're looking for a stable, practical board that has the potential for some good 24/7 overclocks at a decent price then I wouldn't hesitate to recommend the DFI DK P45-T2RS. If you're looking for bells, whistles, over-sized heatsinks and BIOS features you wouldn't use without LN2, then you'd do better to look elsewhere.
 
The Good:
+ Solid performance
+ Decent price
+ No over the top BIOS settings
+ Plenty of Features
 
The Medicore:
* High-end overclocking
 
The Bad:
- Nothing
 
 
Thanks go out to DFI for providing the review sample.
 
Discuss in the fourms.