XFX nForce 630i Socket 775 mATX Motherboard Page: 1
Introduction
 
Traditionally XFX has been one of the most popular of Tier 1 manufacturers with enthusiasts, especially with regards to their graphics cards. However, in recent times XFX has made a push into the motherboard market (thanks to FOXCONN), producing boards based predominantly around NVIDIA chipsets. Obviously this does make perfect business sense considering that XFX are one of NVIDIA's major customers and now board partners.
 
Today we will be having a look at the baby of the NVIDIA 600 series chipsets, the nForce 630i. XFX's take on this chipset is the XFX nForce 630i Socket 775 mATX Motherboard. The XFX nForce 630i is a board predominantly targeted at the HTPC or SFF enthusiast, but with the inclusion of the NVIDIA 7150 IGPU it may have some gaming ability to boot. According to NVIDIA, the 7150 IGPU in conjunction with the 630i chipset promises "...immersive experiences on the latest applications and games." I guess we'll have to wait for a little later in the review to make that judgement.
 
XFX nForce 630i
 
Anyway, enough of the chit chat, let's get down to business by taking a look at the XFX nForce 630i Socket 775 mATX Motherboard's specifications.
 
Specifications
 
The XFX nForce 630i's specifications were taken directly from XFX's Product Page.
 
PCI-E: (1) PCI-E x16, (1) PCI-E x1
SATA Speed: 3.0Gb/s
System Memory: 240-pin DDR2 up to 4GB (2)
PCI Slot: 2
Supported CPUs: Core 2 Extreme (dual and quad core), Core 2 Duo, Core 2 Quad, Celeron D, Pentium 4, Pentium 4, Pentium D 9XX, Pentium D 8XX
USB: USB 2.0 ports (10)
Chipset: NVIDIA nForce 630i MCP / GeForce 7150
LAN: Integrated Gigabit LAN
RAID: 0,1,0+1,5
Socket: Intel Socket 775
Native Gigabit Ethernet Connections: 1
JEDEC DDR2 Memory: 800 MHz
SATA/PATA Drives: 4/2/1 eSATA
Audio: 8-Channel High Definition Audio
Front Side Bus: 1333 MHz with supporting CPU
 
The XFX nForce 630i Socket 775 mATX Motherboard certainly provides a plethora of connectivity or I/O options, which certainly goes to show that although the board is considerably smaller than its ATX bretheren it can still cut it.


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Packaging
 
The XFX 630i comes in the familiar style of packaging that we have come to expect from XFX and their motherboards. The front of the box features an interesting graphic broken up by diamond inserts. The rear of the box includes the motherboard features and specifications.
 
6301 box front 630i box rear
 
Removing the outer layer of the packaging reveals the cardboard box that houses the motherboard and included accessories. Opening the box further and we can see the motherboard neatly presented in anti-static bag. The motherboard sits very snugly between the walls of the box and should aleviate any issues arriving from man-handling.
 
Motherboard insert Open package
Sachet contents Accessories
 
The white envelope that you can see in the top right includes the motherboard manual, the installation CD and a quick start guide. The accessories are hidden away neatly in the rectangular area to the right of the motherboard.
 
Included in the packaging are:
 
* 2 x SATA cables
* 1 x I/O plate
* 1 x 4-pin molex to SATA connector
* 1 x IDE HDD cable
* 1 x IDE FDD cable
* User manual
* Installation CD
* Quick start guide
 
All things considered it isn't a bad bundle, especially for a budget orientated motherboard. The inclusion of an HDMI cable would have been a welcome addition for those who utilise HDMI, but the cost would have ultimately been forwarded onto you, the prospective purchaser.


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Motherboard Layout
 
Typically, when manufacturers release a budget board there are features that are either reduced or removed completely. Add in the fact that the XFX nForce 630i is an mATX motherboard, and the loss can be far more significant. At first glance the XFX nForce 630i is quite well laid out, and offers a high level of connectivity, interaction and immersion for solid value. There are  some caveats however, and I shall illustrate those to you in a moment.
 
XFX nForce 630i
 
The CPU area on the XFX nForce 630i is quite clean with the exception one lone copper choke and capacitor residing on the top edge of the motherboard. As is par for the course on a budget motherboard, XFX has only run with solid capacitors in the CPU area. The capacitors are low-profile, and subsequently, shouldn't hinder the installation of an aftermarket heatsink.
 
CPU socket General I/O area_1
 
Moving on to the DIMM area of the XFX nForce 630i we can see the first of the exclusions. Since the nForce 630i chipset only supports single channel memory, XFX has included 2 x DIMM slots which I feel is a little cheap, especially when there is clearly room for 4. Currently, there are two alternative mATX motherboards available in this price range which utilise the Intel G33 chipset, and they both supply 4 x DIMM slots. Those who utilise 64-bit Windows may baulk at the lack of available DIMM's.
 
The FDD, IDE and ATXPWR connectors are thoughtfully positioned on the far right hand side of the motherboard. Personally I would have liked to have seen XFX ditch the FDD connector, and instead include an additional IDE connector for those still using older HDD's and PATA optical drives.
 
 
Whilst many manufacturers are now opting for 90 degree SATA port connectors, XFX has run with traditional ones. Neatly placed at the bottom right-hand corner of the motherboard, they should allow for neat routing of SATA cables in your chosen chassis. Furthermore, the ever increasingly popular onboard PWR and RESET buttons make an appearance, as does the digital readout for helping narrow down boot problems with the motherboard. The bottom edge of the motherboard features connectivity options for: 3 additional USB ports; an optional serial port; front panel audio; S/PIDF Output (optional), as well as the inclusion of 2 x 3-pin fan headers.
 
 It is ever so common to find oversights in motherboard layout such as DIMM slot clips obstructed by a primary GPU, SATA ports blocked by a primary GPU, onboard switches blocked, yep, again by a GPU. Forunately, the XFX nForce 630i motherboard suffers from any of these problems...even the CMOS jumper switch is in a really easy to reach position on the motherboard - immediately to the left of the 630i chipset heatsink
 
The inclusion of the PCI-e 1x slot should ride well with end-users looking to impliment PCI-e 1x sound cards, but the additional 2 x PCI slots allow for those with slightly older hardware. The availability of 1 x PCI-e slot also caters for those people who wish to use a discrete graphics card instead of the IGPU.
 
e-SATA port Rear I/O
 
XFX has strangely included a 5th SATA port at the rear end of the motherboard; directly behind the e-SATA/USB hub on the I/O panel.
 
Concluding our tour of the XFX nForce 630i motherboard, we arrive at the rear I/O panel. The amount of connectivity options enabled here is quite impressive for such a cheap motherboard. The options made available are:
 
* PS/2 Keyboard and Mouse ports
* 1 x HDMI port
* 1 x SPIDF Out connector
* 1 x DVI and VGA inputs
* 4 x USB ports
* 1 x e-SATA port
* 1 x LAN connector
* 7.1-channel sound ports.


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BIOS
 
The XFX nForce 630i mATX motherboard uses a Phoenix Award BIOS, similarly to it's bigger brother the XFX nForce 650i. However, that is where the similarities end. I'm not going to bother going through all the marigmarole of what are considered pretty standard BIOS features. The BIOS that you see below is the 'shipping version' for this motherboard, and a quick look on XFX's website revealed that it is the only available version.
 
Phoenix BIOS Advanced BIOS
Advanced Chipset Integrated Peripherals
 
Two features/settings that are sadly missing from this Phoenix Award BIOS is the ability to lock the PCI Express Frequency and/or the PCI Clock Synchronisation. Considering that this board comes with the provision to overclock your processor, the lack of these two settings will certainly reduce the possibility of getting a reasonable boost in performance out of our system.
 
Most enthusiast mainboards allow you to 'lock' the PCI-E frequency to prevent it from increasing as you increase the reference clock frequency. By not having a lockable PCI Clock, we run the risk of PC 'lock-ups' and/or data corruption in extreme cases.
 
Power Management PnP/PCI configuration
PC Health Status
 
The Frequency/Voltage Control section of the BIOS features some welcome settings, but nothing in the league of what we've come to expect from performance orintated motherboards. The XFX nForce 630i is able to run in Linked or Unlinked mode which is pretty handy if you're running less than stellar RAM. The Memory Timing section allows for very good tweaking of your RAM's timings and sub-timings.
 
Frequency and voltage control FSB and Memory Config
 Memory Timings Linked and Unlinked
 
Voltage control on the XFX nForce 630i is a little lean to say the least. Allowing a maximum of: 1.575V on the CPU; 0.15V increase on DRAM voltage; 0.35V increase on the chipset, and a 0.3V increase on the CPU/FSB voltage. Although in the XFX nForce 630i's defence, it really isn't marketed as a performance motherboard - and some performance increase is better than none.
 
Frequency voltage controls CPU Voltage control
Chipset Voltage Control CPU/FSB Voltage Control
 
A BIOS revision may be able to provide support for the few points I have highlighted here today. But all things considered the XFX nForce 630i's BIOS provides a reasonable amount of tweaking for such a low-end motherboard.


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Test Setup
 
To ensure that all reviews on Overclock3D are fair, consistent and unbiased, a standard set of hardware and software is used whenever possible during the comparative testing of two or more products. The configuration used in this review can be seen below:
 
Motherboard(s)
XFX MG-630I-7159 (630i)
ASUS P5KPL-VM (G31)

Processor
• Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 "G0" 2.4GHz 2x4MB

Memory Modules
• OCZ FlexXLC PC2-6400 CL3 DDR2-800 (4-4-4-12)

Hard Disk
• Western Digital 80GB SATA2 7200RPM 8mb

Operating System
• Microsoft Windows XP SP2 (Latest Updates)
 
 During the testing of the boards above, special care was taken to ensure that the BIOS settings used matched whenever possible. A fresh install of Windows Vista was also used between switching boards, preventing any possible performance issues due to left-over drivers from the previous motherboard install.

To guarantee a broad range of results, the following benchmark utilities were used:
 
Synthetic CPU & Memory Subsystem
• Sisoft Sandra XI SP1 2007
• Lavalys Everest 4.0

File Compression & Encoding
• River Past ViMark

Disk I/O Performance
• HDTach 3.0.4.0
• Sisoft Sandra XI SP1 2007

3D / Rendering Benchmarks
• Cinebench 10
• 3DMark05
• 3DMark06

3D Games
• Quake 4
• Bioshock
 
Overclocking
 
The maximum stable overclock that I was able to obtain with the XFX nForce 630i motherboard was a disappointing 2897Mhz. The board would boot into Windows just shy of 3.0Ghz, but would lock-up.  In order to achieve this lacklustre result, I had to run the RAM in Asynchronous or 'Unlinked' mode. However, I am  pleased to say that the XFX 630i recovered from a bad overclock extremely well without having to clear the CMOS at anytime.
 
Max Overclock
 
Dropping the multiplyer to [6], and applying a little voltage to both MCH and CPU/FSB respectively, and ramping up the CPU Frequency netted a maximum stable FSB speed of 321.8Mhz.  Any higher than this and the machine would lock-up or fail to boot.
 
Max FSB
 
 During the overclocking phase of this review it is interesting to note that the chipset heatsink was frightfully hot to the touch, and more than likely detrimental to the overall performance of the motherboard. Better cooling hardware and some increased voltage options courtesy of a BIOS revision may provide better results.


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SiSoftware
 
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.
 
Sandra CPU Arithmatic Drystone
 
Dandra CPU Arithmatic Whetstone
 
Sandra CPU Multimedia Int
 
Sandra CPU Multimedia Float
 
SiSoft Sandra Memory Bandwidth
 
SiSoft Sandra Memory Bandwidth - Float  
 
Everest
 
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 3.
 
Everest Read 
 
Everest Write
 
Everest Latency
 
Result Observations
 
The XFX nForce 630i performed quite well in comparison to the 'BearLake' equipped P5KPL-VM motherboard as far as Sandra's CPU Multimedia and CPU Arithmatic benchmarks. However, the inclusion of single channel memory on the XFX nForce 630i became apparent in both the Sandra and Everest memory benchmarks.


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ViMark
 
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.
 
Windows Media
 
Quick time
 
AVI
 
GIF
 
Result Observations

Interestingly, the XFX nForce 630i performed equally as good as our ASUS P5KPL-VM motherboard when it came to encoding benchmarks courtesy of ViMark.


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HD Tach
 
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.
 
Burst Speed
 
Avg Read Speed
 
Random Access
 
CPU Utilisation
 
SiSoftware
 
SiSoftware Disk Read
 
SiSoftware Disk Read Access
 
Result Observations
 
The XFX nForce 630i performed almost as well as our ASUS board during our I/O testing of the hard disk sub-system. Both HDTach and SiSoft Sandra reported comparable results, but the 630i experienced slightly higher CPU Utilization and higher Disk Read Access speed.


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Cinebench
 
Cinebench 10 is a benchmarking tool based on the powerful 3D software Cinema 4D. The suite uses complex renders to guage 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.
 
1x CPU
 
4x CPU
 
OpenGL
 
 
3DMARK05 3DMARK06
 
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.
 
3DMARK05
 
3DMARK06
 
Result Observations
 
The Cinebench results were very close including the OpenGL test, but in the OpenGL test we see the XFX nForce 630i take the lead. Which one would expect considering NVIDIA' penchant for all things OpenGL.


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QUAKE 4
 
Quake 4 is a game built on the Doom 3 engine. Benchmarking was performed using Quake4Bench and a custom timedemo recording along with 0xAA, 0xAF settings at a resolution of 1024x768. The benchmark was set to run a total of 5 times, with Quake4Bench automatically calculating an average result at the end of the run.
 
Quake 4
 
 
BIOSHOCK
 
Bioshock is a recent FPS shooter by 2K games. Based on the UT3 engine it has a large amount of advanced DirectX techniques including excellent water rendering and superb lighting and smoke techniques. All results were recorded using F.R.A.P.S with a total of 5 identical runs through the same area of the game. The highest and lowest results were then removed, with an average being calculated from the remaining 3 results.
 
BIOSHOCK
 
 
Result Observations
 
During the 3D gaming phase we see very little difference between the two motherboards. Quake 4 results are almost dead even, and the difference of 1 FPS in BIOSHOCK is hardly worth splitting hairs over. However, looking at the results for both Quake 4 and BIOSHOCK we can see that both motherboards and their integrated graphics solutions simply do not supply enough fire power to make the games playable, nor enjoyable. The inclusion of a discrete graphics card is a must if you are looking at gaming on any recent releases.


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Conclusion
 
So how well did the XFX nForce 630i mATX motherboard perform in todays review?
 
The first thing that we need to take into account when assessing the board is that it is targeted firmly towards the HTPC owner instead of the performance enthusiast. The ability to configure this motherboard as a dedicated HTPC work horse is very apparent, and it is certainly capable of providing many hours of enjoyment within that capacity. The motherboard is very solidly constructed, although it would have been nice to have seen the inclusion of solid capacitors instead of the prolific electrolytic variety. I say this purely from a viewpoint of longevity.
 
Overclocking on the motherboard is a little hit and miss, but allows for a little extra performance regardless. Better chipset cooling and perhaps a BIOS revision would perhaps facilitate better results. Recovery from a bad overclock was so painless, that it warrants a mention too. It is certainly testament to the motherboards build quality.
 
Pricing for the XFX nForce 630i is well positioned and the bundle that comes with it is quite acceptable. Komplett.co.uk have the XFX nForce 630i mATX motherboard available from £54.00 inc 17.5% VAT. So if you are in the market for a cheap HTPC motherboard with plenty of connectivity options, then you could do well to have a look at the XFX nForce 630i.
 
Komplett Recommended Retailer
 
The Good
• Price
• Quality
• Good connectivity for a budget based board
• BIOS is easily navigated
 
The Mediocre
• Single Channel memory
• Hot chipset
• Overclocking
 
The Bad
• Nothing to report
 
Recommended Award
 
Overclock3D would like to thank XFX for supplying todays review sample.
 
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