It's surprising how DFI's classic board design of bright yellow plastic on black PCB continues to look good. The only colour differentiators across the whole board are the orange pair of DIMM slots and silver heatsink by the CPU. This is part of the DFI charm though - rarely could other companies get away without hand holding new users by showing which slots are which, but DFI eschews that in favour of design aesthetics. For colour coordinated case builds, DFI boards are often highly sought after.
The layout is very good, with the only fault we can muster is perhaps the northbridge heatsink is a little close to the CPU socket, but all the connectors are around the edge and facing outwards where possible, and there's clear space between each of the PCI-Express graphics slots and also with the bottom end of the DDR3 DIMM slots. Perhaps the 8-pin EPS CPU12V connector is somewhat nuzzled between heatsink and rear I/O, but it's not that difficult to get to.
CPU power regulation is catered for not by a million power phases; instead, it employs a simple 4+1 system. It doesn't even use a digital PWM to increase the power density - DFI has simply crammed normal MOSFETs in to do the same job but using less board real estate. Technically there's less potential for failure using less components, but since the board is almost identical to the 790FX B M2RSH
we previously reviewed, we expect it to be unable to effectively handle the demands of high power draw CPUs.
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The cooling is not only inadequate, but it's quite terrible at doing what DFI designed it for. Being held down with screws and bolts provides a better compression and connection for more effective cooling, but the screws used are fiddly and of such low quality the Philips heads simply shear off. So much for the potential of replacement. The southbridge doesn't need much cooling though, and the low profile heatsink provided is adequate for the task.
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Moving around, the only major update is the DDR3 support. The DIMM slots are physically in the same place as they were on the M2RSH - close to the very top of the board. While the top two PCI-Express 2.0 x16 slots support the full x16 bandwidth to both, the bottom one is only an x4. There are no additional x1 slots for peripherals so the only option is that x4 or one of the three legacy PCI slots included.
With an onboard power and reset button, as well as two digit POST codes, it's good for bench testers, although the board still stops short of providing a clear CMOS button, in favour of using a fiddly jumper on the rear I/O instead.
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DFI only includes six SATA, with another two spots only sporting solder joints and no connectors or SATA chip - an unfortunate cut back considering the desire for more SATA is very high in our community, and it's even more infuriating as the prime location on the board is being used for the floppy port instead.
The board is kitted with a single PCI-Express Gigabit Ethernet and also a premium quality Realtek HD sound codec. The ALC885 has always sported content protection support for HDCP flagged media, however it's down to the software that supports it to enable its use (and very few apps do support this). Regardless, while getting on a bit now, the ALC885 is still a higher quality audio codec than most so it's good to see it here. That, coupled with both types of S/PDIF connectors on the rear I/O, means DFI has this area well covered.