Most of us will be more concerned with the board's layout, but it doesn't disappoint there, either. DFI gets off to a good start at the top of the board, where we find both sets of power connectors. Each connector is located on or near an edge where cabling won't interfere with airflow around the CPU socket or rear chassis exhaust. The auxiliary 12V power connector has eight pins, although the board is still compatible with four-pin power supplies.
Taking a closer look at the CPU socket reveals few capacitors—a testament to the board's digital power delivery circuitry. Digital PWMs can deliver cleaner, more consistent power to the CPU, and they used to only be found on high-end server and workstation products. Lately, though, we've seen digital PWMs pop up on a number of high-end enthusiast boards, including DFI's own LANParty designs for Socket AM2.
The ICFX3200's low-profile power delivery circuitry leaves loads of room for gargantuan aftermarket coolers, but unfortunately, the board's chunky north bridge heatsink does not. The north bridge cooler is happily a passive design, yet it may interfere with wider heatsinks that fan out from the processor socket.
Moving down the board, we also see a passive cooler attached to the SB600 south bridge. This one's short enough to avoid clearance problems, leaving plenty of room for longer double-wide graphics cards. Even the board's IDE and south bridge SATA ports are neatly arranged along the edge of the board to prevent them from being obscured by massive cards like the GeForce 8800 GTX or whatever land mass next-gen Radeons will arrive on.
Over to the left, you'll notice that the LANParty also comes with a set of handy onboard power and reset buttons. This is a great feature to have when troubleshooting or testing the board on an open test bench, but that's about where the utility ends.
Another little extra that helps with troubleshooting is the ICFX3200's two-digit POST code display, which will save you from having to decipher cryptic beep codes if the system refuses to boot. The POST code display is tucked away in a corner of the board right below the third PCI Express x16 slot.
Yes, it's no longer enough for high-end motherboards to feature two PCI Express x16 slots; three is the new standard, ostensibly to support future physics products. The ICFX3200's third PCIe x16 slot only gets two lanes of electrical connectivity, though, so don't get your hopes up for a CrossFire three-way.
DFI has done a good job with the ICFX3200's slot configuration, leaving room below the top x16 slot for double-wide coolers while filling out the rest of the stack with standard PCI slots. PCI Express may be the future, but the persistent scarcity of PCIe peripherals has many of us unwilling to give up older PCI cards.
The ICFX3200's port cluster is about what you'd expect from DFI. You won't find serial or parallel ports here, but you do get six USB ports, one Firewire port, and coaxial S/PDIF input and output ports. An additional Firewire and four USB ports can also be accessed via onboard headers, should you be so inclined.
That rather large gap in the LANParty's port cluster is filled by DFI's Karajan audio riser, which houses all of the board's analog audio ports in addition to its ALC885 codec chip. This riser is designed to help isolate the codec chip from board-level noise, improving analog output quality in the process, but we've had mixed results with it in the past.
We don't normally cover manuals and driver CDs, in part because there's little to talk about. However, the ICFX3200's manual and driver CD come in a delightfully Hello Kitty shade of pastel pink that just doesn't fit with the rest of the board. Let's hope this palette doesn't represent a new artistic direction for DFI; if you're going to pair pink with a high-end enthusiast board, it might as well be a hot, eye-searing magenta—not a pastel better suited to My Little Pony.
|Here's the not-so-live video version of The TR Podcast 164||13|
|Here's what's cooking in Damage Labs||16|
|Deal of the week: An IPS ultra-wide for $420, plus cheap SSDs and more||20|
|Microsoft's quarterly revenue up 25% on strong Surface, Xbox sales||20|
|Assassin's Creed Unity PC requires 6GB of RAM, GTX 680||212|
|Join us as we attempt to live stream The TR Podcast tonight||13|
|Civ: Beyond Earth with Mantle aims to end multi-GPU microstuttering||68|
|CPU startup claims to achieve 3x IPC gains with VISC architecture||59|
|I just found this AMAZING trick! Call of Duty takes up 0GB if you just don't buy it!||+116|