The layout is slightly unconventional, but it's not a particularly new layout design, as the company has used it with the nF4 SLI-DR Expert
and also the problematic RD480-based RDX200 CF-DR. Shifting the memory slots next to the back I/O panel means that the installed memory should receive better airflow, allowing for higher memory voltages. On the downside, the CPU may not get as much airflow as it normally would, being further away from any rear-mounted case fan.
Interestingly, DFI has opted to actively cool ATI's RD580 north bridge. This is slightly different to the small passively cooled heatsink on the ASUS A8R32-MVP
. The fan on the CFX3200-DR is a familiar one, as the company has used it since its DFI LANParty nF4-series
motherboards. It's temperature controlled and the speed thresholds can be adjusted in the BIOS.
The area around the CPU socket looks to be reasonably problem free. In a rather typical fashion, DFI has heatsinked the PWM controllers that supply voltage to the CPU, and there is also a heatsink on the PWM next to the memory slots. Rather than being stuck on with adhesive or thermal tape, DFI has chosen to attach the heatsinks on with small clamps that are soldered through the motherboard - this stops them falling off during transit while also giving a firm and consistent contact between the PWM and the heatsink covering it, and assuming there is regular TIM under there, this should produce superior performance to either adhesive or tape.
There may be some problems with larger heatsinks, as the closest memory slot could interfere if you've chosen to use something like Corsair's PRO memory with the enlarged heatsinks. There could also be installation problems in certain cases, as the two ATX power connectors are located right next to the socket along the edge of the board. There won't be any such problems with installing this motherboard into a larger case, as it'll be possible to route the cables out of the way, but its something worth taking into consideration. Most cases will not have a problem, though.
Rather than the standard four-pin ATX 12V connector, DFI has opted for the eight-pin variety that provides cleaner power to the CPU. It is still possible to run this motherboard with a four-pin connector though, as the new eight-pin standard is backwards compatible with the older four-pin version. Some motherboards with an eight-pin ATX 12V connector refused to work with a four-pin plug connected, but this board fired up fine with the older four-pin plug connected. The manual also makes reference to it working, too.
There is one other power connector on the board too - it's located next to the top of the primary PCI-Express x16 connector. The connector is a floppy type four-pin socket that DFI recommend using when running two video cards in CrossFire. It's not in an ideal position, but we believe that its position is required to ensure that the power supplied to the video cards is as clean as possible. There would also be issues with trace lengths and the heat emitted by those traces if the socket was moved to a more convenient location.
There are a total of five three-pin fan headers spread across the motherboard, with two located next to the CPU socket on the top edge of the motherboard. Two more are located next to the bottom PCI slot and the final header has the north bridge fan plugged into it - it's located next to the two IDE ports.
Interestingly, the two IDE ports are mounted in a traditional fashion, while the floppy port is rotated 90 degrees to allow for improved cable management. It seems a bit strange for DFI to rotate the floppy connector, when very few people use them these days. In our opinion, it would have made more sense to rotate at least one of the IDE connectors instead.