Retroview #1 – DFI NF4X Infinity (AMD Socket 754)
I decided to start off the series with something special.
It’s a piece that’s often overlooked, having to stand in the shadow of it’s more famous sibling the LanParty NF3-250. While that board model indeed deserves the reputation it has, the NF4X is a true beast in it’s own right.
Considering when it was sold new it was to be a more budget oriented piece, It really surprised folks once it’s potential became known and since then it has become a legend within the realm of AMD’s Socket 754.
From everyday use to outright overclocking insanity the NF4X can do it all and does it well.
Let’s take a look at the board itself to see what it’s made of.
The board has 2 IDE drive headers to use any drives or CD/DVD disk drives that use IDE as their interface. It also has a total of 4 SATA headers to use any SATA drives or CD/DVD disk drives that use SATA to connect to the board, plus a RAID function you can use with these. It has the standard floppy drive header for running a 3.5 floppy drive which was standard during the time of the board’s manufacture. It has the typical PS2 connectors for mouse and keyboard use, you can use a USB variant of each if you want or have to.
It has the usual printer and serial ports needed for home or office use. It also has a pair of RCA jacks for use with periphials that would use these to work with it. It has the standard connectors for audio, nothing elaborate and again if needing more then an expansion card is required. Onboard sound itself is provided via a Realtek based setup.
Has a single R45 LAN connector for web/network use.
It has a total of 4 USB ports to use with USB periphials.
Only having 4 USB ports may seem prohibitive but remember the board was made before USB periphials such as a USB mouse and keyboard became standard for use, You still have two more ports to use however you’d want but for those that are wanting even more then adding an USB hub/card would be required.
It has a single PCI-E slot to run a PCI-E graphics card.
It has a pair of PCI-1 slots and three standard PCI slots, these mainly being used for add-on cards such as an audio or USB hub card, any of these slots can be used with a PCI or PCI-1 slot graphics card if need be.
For power it has the standard 24 pin PSU cable header and a 4 pin CPU power header.
It has 3 RAM slots and will support a total of 3GB’s worth of RAM, however know that Socket 754 itself does not have dual channel operation of it’s RAM, this is for any and all 754 based boards period.
The factory chipset cooler is a low profile unit made of Aluminum alloy and sits directly behind the first PCI slot.
Comments in general:
I discovered with mine the board is a reliable piece that is perfect for either home or office use and does so without complaint. Installation and initial setup was easy too and didn’t have any problems getting it up and running, everything worked right from the start.
Always did as I asked of it and it was only because I upgraded to a more powerful setup that the board was taken out of service and repurposed for OC’ing….. And the board did a fantastic job of that when the time came to do so.
In fact my board once held the Ref clock (FSB speed) world record and as of the time this article is published, still holds the second fastest Ref clock speed record (488.18MHz) in the world for Socket 754.
The record is currently held by another NF4X and it’s less than 1MHz above my result (488.91MHz).
General info about the board itself:
First off know that the NF4X is not an easy board to find, it’s actually rare to even see one listed for sale in any kind of shape. You’ll have to be vigilant just to catch one up for grabs but if you do, jump on it as long as the price is reasonable. This board model in spite of it’s rarity isn’t that expensive, good examples normally go for about $65 or so shipping included if found on Ebay or seen in private listings.
However any of these within a reasonable price range are worth it but I’d give no more than $85, shipping included for one of these.
In spite of the short span of time for Socket 754 to be in production DFI did make two revisions of the board, namely an “A” and “B” revision. These revisions did have small changes in the layout of the board but nothing radical, in fact you’d have to look carefully to spot them. With these changes there is an indication the “B” revision is better but the “A” variant isn’t bad in itself – Both being capable OC’ers .
(Note that the board on the right has some parts missing, the board on the left is complete and functional with it’s not-so-stock chipset cooler).
The board to the left is an “A” and the board on the right is a “B”.
For sheer overclocking within Socket 754 the NF4X has almost no equal, the LanParty NF3-250 being the only model that can consistently go head to head with it. Of course there is the occasional exception but on a basis of just picking up any individual example of a given make or model the LanParty is the only one that can actually do it within these terms.
For 2D benchies within Socket 754 the NF4X is an excellent choice.
If you want to run a PCI-E card and basing your build on a Socket 754, the NF4X is the one you want to find and run if you can.
With a Newark it can and does well with 3D benchies within socket 754 and normally will beat out any other board running a PCI-E card, even the LanParty itself has a hard time going up against it because the LanParty is an AGP slotted board.
*Know that the Northbridge chip’s low profile cooler or similar type cooler is needed due to the proximity of the physical body (Namely the fan shroud assembly) of a PCI-E slot card to the chipset itself. This can be a con with the board but it’s not exclusive to the NF4X – In fact any DFI board with the chipset in or around this area has this problem as many DFI users can attest to. Any cooler that’s not of this type low profile design will have interference problems with many PCI-E graphics cards used with the board because of this. *
So…. Just what exactly is this wolf in sheep’s clothing?
Let’s dig in and see what’s under the hood of the NF4X.
I won’t go too far into it but will indicate what it has for the basics of overclocking which is the big point of interest for most anyway.
The BIOS of the NF4X is a standard non-UEFI BIOS like all others from the era of it’s manufacture. Pressing the Delete key during POST will take you to the BIOS main menu page.
It’s from the main menu you can access the various options and do some tweaking of the system. For setting up your options for startup, enabling or disabling unneeded devices and such, these can be found inside the pages listed on the main menu page. The page that has all the standard overclocking options for the board is within the one named “Genie BIOS”.
Once in the Genie BIOS page you can see you have all the basic tabs for configuring your system for overclocking, namely such tabs as CPU Frequency (FSB speed), Hammer FID Control (CPU multiplier ratio), HT Frequency (HT Multiplier), HT Width, PCIE Clock and DRAM config, all of these under the Clock and Ratio settings part of the page.
Below that is another part of the page that deals with voltage settings for your CPU, RAM and chipset along with settings for the AMD cool and quiet function.
Lets now take a look and see what values are available for overclocking use within.
The board can give a max of 1.85v’s to the CPU for overclocking. This is enough voltage for most CPUs to run OC’ed with and is enough that you’d need at least excellent aircooling to use it, however with the voltage at that level watercooling is the preferred method of cooling the CPU short of extreme cooling itself.
For DDR voltage it can give your RAM sticks a max of 3.2v’s for this purpose making it a board thats well-suited for TCCD sticks of RAM, with others that want more voltage such as BH5 based sticks it can run them but not to their full potential.
With any DDR voltage exceeding 2.9v’s it’s suggested to have active cooling to the sticks to be sure they don’t get too hot (A Fan blowing air onto or across the sticks). For RAM OC’ing itself the board does a good job, typically one can push a good set of sticks properly tweaked to at least 270MHz but know the CPU itself is a big factor so you may or may not see this kind of RAM speed. Personally speaking I’ve had RAM in mine go above the 300MHz mark.
The board on it’s own is capable of doing it if all else is up to task and setup correctly.
*Know that like all other DFI’s it can be picky with the set of RAM sticks used – Some it runs fine with, some it will run but that’s about all and with some it simply doesn’t work as in no boot. If you happen to get one be prepared for the possibility of this happening with what you may have to use, it’s more or less a DFI trait and DFI’s are known to be picky this way. *
The board’s Northbridge has a max voltage option of 1.7v’s and it does rather well with it, many examples of the board being able to top 350 FSB with ease.
It’s rare to find one that’s a poor OC’er but they do exist like with any other model you could name. The stock cooler although good enough for everyday use isn’t up to task for real OC’ing use, finding an all copper low profile cooler is one you’d want to run with it or perhaps to use a chipset cooling block if running it on water. These normally don’t have the problem of interference any standard coolers would have otherwise.
One pro it has would be it’s ability to run a Mobile CPU, namely the Newark core mobile for Socket 754.
Not all 754 boards support it but the NF4X does and excels with it – In fact it’s the preferred chip to run in it or any other 754 board if it’s capable of using it at all and there aren’t too many that can without at least a BIOS mod that has support added to it for the Newark chip.
The only quirk it has with the Newark is much of the time when tweaking the system it won’t reboot after saving changes (F10) in the BIOS, you have to hold the power button to shut down the system then restart it and the changes will be applied once it begins booting up again.
So….. What can you expect from it?
It’s not uncommon to see 754 chips topping out around the 2.7 to 2.8GHz range largely because a board simply doesn’t have the guts to push a chip beyond that but the NF4X can if the chip itself is capable. If running a Newark chip you can expect to see speeds of at least 3.0GHz from it, many examples can go beyond that and the Newark is really the only 754 chip that can do it consistently based on a chip by individual chip comparison within the same chip model.
What I’m saying is if you combine this board with a Newark, it’s as good as it gets with Socket 754 period as shown here with a PCI-E card and 3700+ Newark mobile on water that I ran before doing this article.
Note this board is another one I have, not of the two previously shown…. And for reference sakes it’s also an “A” revision board.
I’ve noted with my examples it tends to display some crazy readings from it’s sensors such as chipset temps. I’ve seen one of mine register a reading of over 120c+ even though it was clearly not that hot and sometimes the CPU temp sensor will have readings all over the place. It’s a DFI so do expect quirkyness from it.
I have included some results recently ran by me, some being previously ran and GPU PI ran during the time this article was being created.
To sum up it’s about the best board for Socket 754 bar none, it’s withstood the test of time and easy to work with.
Excellent overclocking capabilities all around with an exception of having a limited voltage range for DDR RAM – In spite of this it still has enough to run a good set of TCCD based sticks to their full potential.
Can run a Newark mobile chip as is – No BIOS mod required.
Has PCI-E for use with a PCI-E graphics card instead of the usual AGP graphics card slot more commonly seen with Socket 754.
Easy to setup and work with.
Has proven itself over time to be a reliable board for about any use you could imagine for a Socket 754 based system.
Chipset placement can be a problem with many graphics cards ran in the PCI-E slot because unless you run either it’s stock or a low profile cooler you may have problems with interference between the cooler and the card.
Can be picky with what RAM sticks are ran in it.
Sometimes the various onboard thermal sensors can be whacky / Give crazy readings – At least with the examples I have.
Hard to find one because of it’s rarity.
Next month I’ll cover another piece and I do hope you enjoyed this article, please feel free to post your questions and comments.
Thank you for reading!