Despite being based on the red team's chipset, the RDX200 doesn't deviate from the color palette used by DFI's LANParty nForce4 products. The black board is peppered with bright yellow hardware, and a couple of orange DIMM slots are thrown in for good measure. DFI even includes in a set of matching yellow Serial ATA and rounded IDE cables. It's a bold look, and the brightly-colored ports, slots, and cables glow under UV light, leading at least one TR editor to throw a couple of cold cathodes into his new LANParty-based system.
Looking at the board from above, it's easy to see that the RDX200's layout doesn't play follow the leader. That's a generally good thing, and we particularly like the fact that the board's power connectors are clustered together in the top right-hand corner of the board. This location should better accommodate cases that mount the power supply below the motherboard, and with a couple of zip ties and careful routing, it should be easy to keep power cables from crowding the CPU socket in traditional ATX cases.
We should note that unlike most Socket 939 motherboards, the RDX200's auxiliary 12V power connector is of the eight-pin variety. According to the board's manual, a PSU with an eight-pin 12V connector is preferred, but not necessary.
Normally we'd find a set of DIMM slots next to the power connectors on the right side of the board, but the RDX200 bucks this tradition and mounts the DIMM slots over to the left, with the CPU socket on the right. This arrangement should give the DIMM slots access to better cooling via most enclosures' rear exhaust fans, but moving the CPU socket away from the exhaust fan could result in higher CPU temperatures. The relocated socket won't necessarily line up with the CPU ducting available in some cases, either.
Given the layout of DFI's LANParty nForce4 boards, we shouldn't be surprised to see a non-standard DIMM slot and socket configuration on the RDX200. The LANParty NF4 series had its DIMM sockets mounted parallel to the top edge of the board, with the socket below.
By now, you've no doubt noticed the silver heat sinks that surround the RDX200's CPU socket. The heat sinks are mounted on the board's voltage regulator modules, and their low-profile design shouldn't interfere with larger CPU coolers.
Speaking of clearance, we applaud DFI for leaving extra room between the board's first PCI Express x16 and x1 slots. This allows double-wide graphics cards to be used without compromising the x1 slot, although using a second double-wide card in a CrossFire configuration will cost you one of the board's PCI slots.
To ensure clearance for longer PCI and PCI Express cards, the RDX200 employs a pair of low-profile chipset coolers for keeping Radeon Xpress 200 and SB450 temperatures in check. We're not all that keen on active chipset cooling, but the swanky mag-lev fan DFI uses to cool the north bridge has proven to be quieter and more reliable than most chipset fans. A completely passive design would be preferred, though.
It's a little surprising to see north and south bridge chipset components mounted so close together on a motherboard. The two are only about an inch apart, and the area looks even more crowded thanks to the board's eight Serial ATA ports. However, the bottom right-hand corner of the board really is the best location for these ports, as it puts them close to the hard drive bays in most enclosures.
From this angle, we can also see the RDX200's onboard power and reset buttons. These are handy little extras to have, especially for those of us who run open test systems. It's hard to imagine the average user finding them useful, though.
With the exception of PS/2 mouse and keyboard ports, the RDX200's port cluster is legacy-free. The lack of parallel and serial ports leaves plenty of room for other goodies, including six USB ports, two GigE jacks, a Firewire port, and coaxial S/PDIF input and output ports.
The board's remaining audio ports are found on the included Karajan audio riser, which plugs directly into the board and neatly fills the gaping hole in the port cluster. The Karajan riser moves the audio codec chip and all its analog input and output ports off of the motherboard in order to isolate them from board-level noise. This arrangement should improve audio quality. We've seen mixed results from similar implementations in the past, including several iterations of the Karajan riser, so it will be interesting to see how this version pans out on the RDX200.
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