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DFI Infinity P965-S Dark S775 Motherboard Review

by sswilson     |     June 11, 2007




INFINITY P965-S DARK




Price: $166.31 CDN DirectCanada
Availability: In Stock
Manufacturer's Part Number: P965-S
Warranty: 1 Year

Table of Contents
  1. Introduction
  2. Packaging
  3. Features
  4. Motherboard Layout
  5. Bios Features
  6. Overclocking
  7. Benchmarks
  8. Long term testing
  9. Conclusion
Introduction

DFI made a name for itself in the enthusiast community by being one of the first motherboard manufacturers to recognize the market for a full range of bios settings "right out of the box" which beforehand were only available on engineering samples, or modded bios'.

Overclocking features like extended memory settings and the ability to apply ultra-high voltages to CPUs, Memory, and Chipsets are something we now take for granted, yet it's only been recently that such features have been available on mainstream motherboards.

DFI's Lanparty series was instrumental in bringing those enthusiast's features to the masses.

Today we're going to be looking at the Infinity P965-S Dark which is their offering to the current mid price range motherboard market







Packaging


This motherboard generated a lot of behind the scenes chatter prior to its release to the North American market. The exterior box takes advantage of that hype with an effective dark theme.

This is the farthest thing from a typical Lanparty design. Gone are the bright pastel colours, instead we are offered an almost ominous design which hints at the forbidden secrets contained within.



The included accessories are typical of a motherboard in this price range. The right angle power connectors on the Sata adapter are a nice touch, and both the included manual and the driver disk continue with the dark theme.


Features


This motherboard offers a full set of features designed to meet any need. The specs can be found on their website here Infinity P965-S Features List .
  • Supports full range of S775 1066/800 FSB CPUs
  • Supports up to 8GB DDR2 533/667/800 Dual Channel
  • PCIe X16 in single mode and X16/X4 in Crossfire
  • 2 PCIe X1 slots / 3 PCI slots
  • Realtek ALC882 8 channel audio with HD CODEC & both COAX and Optical S/PDIF interface
  • Realtek RTL8111B Gigabit LAN
  • Supports 1 IDE / 1 Floppy / 6 SATAII ports
  • RAID 0 / RAID 1 / RAID 0+1 / RAID 5
  • Supports Intel Matrix Storage Technology for Windows based Raid management
  • 4 external USB / 3 motherboard headers for total of 10 USB
  • EZ touch on-board power and reset switches
  • All solid Aluminum Capacitors
Motherboard Layout




Everything is well laid out and easily accessible. The muted “DARK” theme continues on with black PCB and passive heatsinks.

Dram slots follow the industry standard of using same colour slots for dual channel mode.

The third set of SATA connectors are hard to make out in these pictures, but they're there. The black blends in with the black PCB of the board.

Note the passive cooling for both the NB and the SB. This paired with the orientation of the memory slots (up and down vice front to back) suggests that a case side fan would greatly aid in keeping components cool during heavy overclocking.




Plenty of clearance for the stock cooler, and tower style aftermarket coolers shouldn't pose a problem. Care should be taken for the “flower” style coolers with a larger footprint than a stock cooler. The NB heatsink is quite high and as you can see, fairly close to the stock cooler.

The NB heatsink uses the hook style mounts. Most aftermarket heatsinks support this, but be aware if looking for an active cooling solution that you should check for compatibility.




On-board power and reset buttons as well as the c-mos reset jumper (JP4) are easily accessed on the bottom / right of the motherboard. On-board power buttons are great for initial setup and out-of-case faultfinding, but once an overclocking motherboard is installed in the case, we would get a lot more use out of a c-mos reset button rather than jumpers.



Standard rear plate layout. 4 USB, Firewire, LAN, and Audio.

Of special note is the inclusion of both Coax (RCA) & Optical S/PDIF as well as legacy parallel/serial ports.





I saved the best for last. If it isn't already, the placement of all receptacles on this board should become an industry standard.

Located on the upper left hand of the board, the two power receptacles are perfectly positioned for the shortest route possible to the PSU. IDE, Floppy, & SATA receptacles are also well positioned for minimal distance to drives.

Bios Features




In the past, enhanced Bios settings has been what set DFI motherboards apart from the rest of the pack. The Dark's bios features don't disappoint.

Here's a few shots of the Genie Bios settings offered on this board for overclocking.





Main Genie settings page, and CPU Features page.

Only real difference here from other boards is the “Exit Setup Shutdown” mode on the main page. Selecting mode 2 on this feature will raise a few eyebrows when first used as it forces a full shutdown and cold restart whenever FSB is adjusted. Takes a little bit to get used to, but it seems to provide better stability results during post while overclocking.





Full range of DRAM tweaks are available. Don't be intimidated by them if you are a first time DFI user, the “Auto” settings worked right out of the box during testing.











Voltage settings in Bios are something that DFI excels at. Be forewarned though, selecting ultra-high voltages for your CPU or DRAM stands a pretty good chance of turning your “smoking rig” into exactly that.

Overall, a very nice feature set for BIOS. The only thing former Lanparty users will find lacking is the absence of a C-MOS Reloaded feature.


Overclocking


Test Setup
  • Intel E6420 (L644G289 stepping)
  • 2X 1Gig Supertalent PC6400 T800UX2GC4
  • OCZ 600W GameXstream PSU
  • Sapphire X1950pro
  • Seagate ST3250620AS 250 Gig HD
  • Creative Audigy2
  • TT Bigwater 745 water cooling for CPU
Benchmark / Stability tests were performed using fully updated Windows XP Home SP2. Motherboard drivers were those provided on the install disk. ATI Cat 7.5 drivers were used for graphics benchmarks. Bios version was initial release (update just made available). Memory set to 533 for 1-1. Max OC was 9 hours Orthos / 3DMark '06 / Dual Super-Pi stable. Temps were as recorded by Speedfan.



Initial post at stock speeds went without a hitch. First boot gets the heart pumping as this board reboots (full shutdown & restart) itself 3 times after a c-mos reset while it finds optimum settings. Board correctly detected CPU & Memory SPD settings. Initial DRAM voltage set to 1.9, & DDR 800.

After setting DRAM voltage to 2.2V and manually inputing 4-4-4-12 (Supertalent sets SPD higher than rated specs) Ram manually set to 533 (1-1) CPU speed of 3400/FSB 425 was achieved without the need for any voltage adjustments other than CPU.

Above FSB 425, voltage adjustments were required to VTT & NB to achieve a maximum “windows bootable” FSB of 450 (cpu multi dropped to take it out of OC, and mem timings loosened) and a maximum stable OC of 3560 with FSB of 445, and Memory at 4-4-4-10 DDR 890 (1-1).



VTT required to reach a stable FSB 445 was maximum the board would allow, and bumping NB voltage beyond 1.45 had no effect on stability or the ability to boot into windows.

Numerous attempts were made to push this combination of components closer to the holy grail of 500 FSB, but in the end they just refused to play nice together at anything more than FSB 445.


Benchmarks

Test gear was relatively new so no head to head comparison benchmarks were available, these are offered solely for those who feel the need for facts and figures. Please feel free to scroll through to the next section if you feel your eyes starting to roll back into your head.


As mentioned previously, OC was CPU 3560 / DDR 890 4-4-4-10 1-1 / FSB 445




Subjective benchmarks of Oblivion at 1280 X 1024 while OC'd allowed selection of mid range AA & AF while still remaining above 24 FPS in outdoor combat.




Recorded CPU temps are obviously not accurate, and the low 10c delta on the NB is surprising considering the passive heatsink.


Everest memory benchmarks were:
  • Stock – 6439MB/s Read / 2187MB/s Write / 72.4ns Latency
  • OC - 8610MB/s Read / 2689MB/s Write / 53.9ns Latency
HD Tach Benchmarks were:
  • Stock - 259.2MB/s Burst / 13.4ms Random Access / 2% CPU / 66.5MB/s Average Read
  • OC - 262.7MB/s Burst / 13.4ms Random Access / 3% CPU / 67MB/s Average Read
Super-Pi scores were: Stock – 23.521 Sec / OC – 14.172


Long-term testing


I've been using this motherboard in my main rig for two weeks so I thought I'd list a couple of the quirks I've uncovered during that time.

I've mentioned it in the bios section, but until you experience it, I cannot stress how strange the reaction of this board to bios changes and c-mos resets is until you are used to it. On the first power up, I thought I had a problem when it shut down almost immediately after selecting the power button. If I had been quicker at shutting it off, I would probably have missed it restarting on its own and spent quite some time trying to “fix” a fault that wasn't there.

Bios settings also exhibit a few quirks.

Some FSB selections seem to be reversed by 1 digit. My OC FSB of 445 is actually selected in bios as 444, yet reports in windows as 445 across the board for both CPU and DRAM speeds. Conversely, selecting 445 reports as 444 for both CPU & DRAM speeds. Not all close #s exhibit the same quirk, I wouldn't have noticed this one if it hadn't been right on the edge of my max OC.

This Bios also doesn't seem to like “parallel” moves between high FSB/DRAM/CPU Multis. I found that I needed to drop back down to stock speeds if I wanted to attempt a switch to different multipliers or memory dividers. Once those were set at stock settings by a reboot, I was then able to return directly to the level of FSB/Freq I was running in different combinations.

I was mildly disappointed with not being able to reach the 500 FSB mark, however I'm not willing to place all of the blame on the motherboard yet. The CPU and Memory used in this review are relatively new so I'm still working at getting to know their strengths and weaknesses. I haven't given up my quest for the 500 mark, and hope that further tweaking will get me there.

I'm also looking forward to trying out the “Intel Matrix Storage Technology” feature. If it works as advertised, it will allow me to drop another HD into the system and convert my current single HD to a raid array from within windows without the need of reloading the OS or having to use the dreaded “F6” raid driver install.

Lastly, there have been some complaints about a high pitched “squeal” during OC Load conditions. At first I didn't hear it at all, but was able to notice it with my case side off and fans turned to low. Using family members as guinea pigs (they have younger ears than I) they were able to hear it plainly under the “side off/fans down” condition but were unable to tell if I was under load when the side was on and fans were running at normal speeds.

This certainly isn't a deal breaker for me (this isn't the first motherboard I've owned that had an issue like this), but those with tender ears or wishing to build an ultra quiet HTPC should take this into consideration.

Conclusion


Overall this motherboard performed admirably as a mid priced board designed to fill all the needs of overclocking enthusiasts without draining their pocketbooks

Only requiring CPU voltage bumps to achieve a FSB of 425 right out of the box is something any motherboard manufacturer could be proud of, and a final stable OC with FSB of 445 is nothing to sneeze at either.

The feature rich bios has almost anything a person could ask for, however first time users shouldn't be concerned about too many settings as this board ran fine on auto settings. The purpose of the enhanced memory settings is to allow for tighter timings and thus higher bandwidth or higher stable mem clocks. The ultra-high voltage settings for CPU and Memory are something every enthusiast motherboard should come with, but care must be taken to use this tool wisely.

On the features side this board also shines.

At this price range a manufacturer might be tempted to nickel and dime us on “little things” like extra PCI slots, and motherboard headers. Thankfully for us, DFI resisted this urge and provided a motherboard with a list of features matching those of motherboards at almost double the price.

On the downside, there is the issue with noise from some boards, it didn't quite match the hype by providing 500+ FSB, and I'm sure every former Lanparty owner out there is wondering why they didn't include C-MOS Reloaded on a board that's touted as an enthusiast's board.




Pros
  • Stable FSB of 425 out of the box
  • Full OC bios selections
  • Chock full of features
  • Positioning of power connectors
  • Decent price point
Cons
  • High pitched squeal at load
  • Didn't quite hit 500 FSB
  • No C-MOS Reloaded
Please drop in with your questions or comments about this review. The link to the comment thread can be found here http://www.hardwarecanucks.com/intel...rk-review.html. I will be updating that thread from time to time when/if I manage to break the 450 FSB barrier.




Review by sswilson.