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DFI AD77 Infinity Motherboard

DFI AD77 Infinity Motherboard

Supplied by dfi


The DFI AD77 Infinity
motherboard came with everything the competition offered; serial ATA and IDE
Raid, onboard LAN, 6 channel audio, FIREWIRE and more. The AD77 Infinity may
be for you but that depends on which side of the fence you’re standing.

DFI has been producing motherboards since 1981 and the AD77 Infinity is the
more recent of one the 25 Socket A motherboards produced since the company began.
The dilemma surrounding which motherboard to choose for a new system depends
on your needs, financial limits and your expectations. For some the AD77 Infinity
may be fit the bill and for others it may fall short.

Specifications

Chipset
VIA KT400 and VT8235CD
CPU Socket
Socket A
CPU Supported
AMD Athlon(TM) XP 266/333MHz FSB

AMD Athlon(TM) 200/266MHz FSB

AMD Duron(TM) 200MHz FSB
Memory
Supports up to 4GB memory (unbuffered DIMM)

Uses PC1600 (DDR200), PC2100 (DDR266), PC2700 (DDR333) or href="http://sj.dfi.com.tw/product/memory/AD77_DDR4001.pdf">PC3200
(DDR400)
DDR SDRAM DIMM, 2.5V type
PCI IDE
Supports ATA/33, ATA/66, ATA/100 and ATA/133 hard
drives

UDMA Modes 3, 4, 5 and 6 Enhanced IDE (data transfer rate up to 133MB/sec.)
SATA IDE Interface
Uses Marvell 88i8030 chip

Supports one SATA (Serial ATA) interface which is compliant with SATA
1.0 specification (1.5Gbps interface)
Rear Panel I/O Ports
1 connector for 2 additional external USB 2.0/1.1
ports

3 connectors for 3 external IEEE 1394a ports

1 connector for 1 external game/MIDI port

1 connector for external line-out and mic-in jacks

2 internal audio connectors (AUX-in and CD-in)

1 4-channel audio output connector

1 S/PDIF-in/out connector

1 connector for IrDA connector

1 RAID IDE connector

1 connector for serial ATA interface

2 IDE connectors

1 floppy connector

1 ATX power supply connector

1 Wake-On-LAN connector

1 Wake-On-Ring connector

3 fan connectors for CPU, chassis and second chassis fans
Power Management
ACPI and OS Directed Power Management

Wake-On-Events include:

Wake-On-Ring

Wake-On-LAN
Hardware Monitor
Monitors CPU/system temperature

Monitors +12V/-12V/+5V/-5V/3.3V/CPU/VBAT(V)/5VSB(V) voltages

Monitors CPU/chassis fan speed

Automatic chassis fan on/off control
Expansion Slots
1 AGP slot that supports 8x/4x AGP

5 PCI slots (1 shared with CNR slot)

1 CNR slot
Audio Onboard
AC97 S/PDIF extension compliant codec

Supports Microsoft DirectSound/DirectSound 3D

AC97 supported with full duplex, independent sample rate converter for
audio recording and playback

6-channel audio output
LAN Onboard
Uses VIA VT6103 Phy chip
ATA RAID Onboard
RAID 0 (striping) or RAID 1 (mirroring)
IEEE 1394a Interface
Uses VIA VT6306 chip

Supports three 100/200/400 Mb/sec ports
BIOS
Award BIOS

2Mbit flash memory
Form Factors
4 layers, ATX form factor

30.5cm (12″) x 24.5cm (9.64″)

What’s in the box

wsbox

The AD77 Infinity does have an impressive amount of features on paper. There
is no doubt that DFI is targeting gamers. The manual has been divided into two
separate editions; the motherboard manual and the raid manual.

wsmanuals

The manuals contain English, French, German and Spanish and while the motherboard
manual may be over 120 pages thick only 60 odd pages are for each language.
The manual is brief in content with BIOS explanations kept to images only that
“are for reference only” and “may not be identical to this one”.
(The image shown.) Don’t expect in-depth explanations (or any).

The installation CD contains PDF manuals that have a more extensive explanation.
The paper manual should be thought of more as a quick setup guide.

The AD77 Infinity comes with 3 drive cables and a floppy cable.

eidecables

eidecables2

DFI also includes a single SATA cable.

satacable

DFI includes a JUMPER diagram sticker to perhaps affix to the
inside of the PC case.

jumpersticker

A PCI slot based pair of USB 2.0 ports and MIDI game port are included as well
as PCI based FIREWIRE ports.

usbcable

dunno

firewirecable

Lastly is the installation CD and the Highpoint 371 Raid Driver
diskette.

installcd

floppydisk

The installation CD comes with all the necessary drivers, Winbond Hardware
Monitor software and McAfee Viruscan Online (English only). It isn’t a truly
impressive software package.

And of course the ever-present backplane guard.

backplaneguard

Touring the board

wsboard

The AD77 Infinity is Socket A based with the Socket mounted horizontally. This
is a preferable choice and should be adopted by all motherboard manufacturers
as it facilitates easier mounting of the heatsink.

socket

There is sufficient room around the socket to accommodate most heatsinks and
there are the four holes for bolting on waterblocks. Unfortunately there is
only one fan header by the CPU socket which is a concern for those with PSU’s
such as the Enermax line. Enermax PSU’s have a second fan driven by and monitored
by the motherboard. It is handy to have that second fan header up near the top
of the motherboard instead of having to thread the cable down to the bottom.
The AD77 Infinity only sports 3 fan headers while many other motherboards have
a standard 4.

cpufanheader

The AD77 Infinity supports up to 4GB of memory in 4 DIMM slots.

topmoboarea

There are two concerns with the AD77 Infinity that are visible in the previous
image. The first is the placement of the main power connector. It is off to
the lower left of the socket which means the power cable has to cross over top
of the heatsink area or be looped above then down. It isn’t truly a problem
but merely one of poor placement.

The second is the passive heatsink on the Northbridge chip.

northbridge

If this board is overclocked then lack of cooling on the Northbridge could
present a performance impediment.

IDE 1 and 2 are located with the floppy header.

floppyide12

The AGP slot/Ram lifter area will not present a problem for the video card
or ram installation/removal.

agpslotarea

Note the twin pins near the lower right just below DIMM 2 of the previous image
and again in the following image.

fsbjumper

That’s the Front Side Bus CPU jumper and there are two that work in concert.
If left as is (open or off) then the CPU will be at 100 or 133 MHz depending
on how the other jumper (yet to be seen) is set up.

This is where I got a little confused for a moment. My first reaction was “where’s
the spare jumper?” I thought DFI had forgotten to include a spare jumper
but it was only when I looked at the jumper diagram for the second set of jumper
posts that I determined for a processor with a 166 FSB that one jumper was moved
off one set of posts near the lower part of the board to the posts in the previous
image.

Right near the single ATA133 Raid Header are two red jumpers.

raidheaders

To get a processor with a 166 (333 DDR) FSB both jumpers are removed from those
posts therefore one can be used to close off the previously shown jumper. And
yes…that means the AD77 Infinity is not a totally jumper-less board. Thankfully
the multiplier settings are in BIOS.

Also important to note is that there is only a single ATA133 and SATA header.
Most motherboards with SATA and EIDE Raid come with two headers for two channels.
Therefore the DFI AD77 Infinity can only support two drives in either SATA or
EIDE mode and both drives are on the same cable. This may give the increase
in available drive space that RAID brings but sadly not the performance gain
of RAID where drives are on separate channels. RAID 0 works best with drives
on separate channels.

The chassis fan header and motherboard front panel connectors are standard
placement but the manual does not show positive/ground orientation for the front
panel connectors which is a necessity in even a quick set-up guide. If orientation
is not a concern then DFI should have stated that fact.

moboconnectorpins

The CLEAR CMOS sits next to an onboard beeper/speaker and the CMOS battery.

clearcmos

The AD77 Infinity supports two additional USB ports from the 4 on the backplane
as well as Wake On Ring which is standard for most motherboards.

worusb45

Just above the Highpoint chip are troubleshooting LEDs. These will show basic
diagnostics depending on their lit combination. The paper manual does not even
elude to what these are. That’s just another reason to throw away the paper
manual and print off a copy from the installation CD which is more in-depth.

pcileds

The LEDs are quite visible and will look something similar to PCI Standby Power
LED (in operation) shown in the following image.

pciledstandby

Below the PCI slots is the GAME/MIDI header for the supplied PCI bracket.

gamemidiheader

While we are hovering around the PCI slots…there are five of them and something
I wouldn’t think that I’d see again..a CNR slot. Also note the 3 FIREWIRE headers.
The AD77 Infinity package comes with a PCI bracket that supports two. The third
could be used for a front media port FIREWIRE header providing it has a direct
to board connection.

pcislots

Why have a CNR slot? That’s an interesting question. A CNR slot stands for
Communication and Networking Riser. These are typically found for networking
cards such as modems. INTEL has a brief
presentation PDF
that expands on the wonders of CNR from the year 2000.

Heading north on the board the Aux connections and audio connections come into
play.

auxinpower

The second chassis fan header can be seen right next to the main power connection.

audiospdifirda

The blue jumper enables/disables the onboard audio codec.

More blue jumpers and this one enables/disables the power to the PS/2 ports.

ps2power

Finally the backplane features 2 PS/2 ports, parallel and serial ports, 4 x
USB, 1 x LAN and front audio, mic and line-in.

backplane

Have you noticed yet? There isn’t a bracket for rear, center and sub audio.
6 Channel sound is supported through software and I’m assuming that DFI would
like a user to run SPDIF or four channel via a third party adapter. Most of
us don’t have this. I certainly don’t have optical to pin connector conversion
cables and my home theatre amplifier is fairly high end. It’s either an OPTICAL
in for the amp or a DAC cable.

There won’t be an easy hookup for this board. The hardware connection pins
specify 4 channel yet the pins designate support for surround left and right,
center and sub. The 6 channel sound is software driven.

The board installation was routine and with all the PCI brackets installed
only 3 PCI slots are lost. (GAME/MIDI bracket not installed in following image.)

installedpci

The green arrow designates what I thought as a problem for the FIREWIRE connections.
They are placed on the PCI slot side of the motherboard which means that it
is a fairly tight loop for the PCI bracket cable to reach. It also can be a
long, crowded reach for a front media port. The FIREWIRE ports placed down on
the middle-bottom edge of the motherboard would have been better.

With everything in place there are a few other concerns. The problem of the
motherboard PSU main power connector crossing over the heatsink becomes apparent.
Secondly, and this depends on your own specific case, the drive, IDE 1 and 2,
and RAID header placement may be a bit crowded. The hard drive may extend over
top of this area making connections tight to get at. A better location for IDE
1 and 2 and the floppy would have been further “north” on the board
while the IDE RAID and SATA connections should be further “south”.

wsinstalled

Inside the BIOS

BIOS screens may look alike and for the most part they are. The AD77 Infinity
is not any different and the highlights will be pointed out as the BIOS is investigate
one column at a time.

bios01

APIC mode appears in this BIOS and is becoming more prevalent as an option
in motherboard BIOS.

bios02

bios03

DRAM timings are available.

bios04

bios05

bios06

bios07

Note that BIOS allows for IDE channels to actually be disabled.
(IDE 1 and 2 only)

bios08

bios09

bios10

bios11

An interesting BIOS addition was the PS/2 wake up event settings; something
I haven’t seen before in this configuration.

bios12

bios13

The BIOS supports CPU temperature warning and shutdown BUT the warning may
be a plus allowing for a warning of excessive heat but the shutdown temperature
has a minimum setting of 85 degrees Celsius which is the maximum DIE temperature
of most Athlon chips. Therefore the motherboard will shutdown just as the chip
goes “pop”. We all know that temperature readings of motherboards
can be somewhat erratic as to what is true and it would be better to have a
greater minimum and maximum range. This is not specific to DFI as many motherboard
makers have this flaw in the BIOS.

bios14

Overclocking is allowed through BIOS with the maximum settings shown for the
1009 release version.

bios15

DFI has released a new bios (AD77INF1219) which allows for a higher multiplier
adjustment but the ATI 9700 PRO failed with this bios. The 1009 version did
have an entry in the release notes “Fix ATI 8x & nVidia 8x AGP card
function fail” but this does not seem to be the case with the 1219 release.
Icrontic made our contact at DFI aware of this and we’ll report back with their
findings.

Benchmarking…Infinity isn’t that big of a number.

The DFI AD77 Infinity test system.

  • AMD 2600+ Thoroughbred
    Core Processor
  • DFI
    AD77 Infinity motherboard
  • ATI 9700 PRO Video Card
    Catalyst 2.3 drivers
  • 2 x 256 MB Corsair PC3200 DDR RAM
  • Sony 52x CD
  • 16 x DVD
  • 60 GB Maxtor ATA133 Hard Drive
  • 2 x Samsung 950p 19″ Monitors
  • USB Keyboard and Logitech USB wireless Optical Mouse
  • Globalwin heatsink
  • AMK SX1000 modded
    PC case (window, fans, cables, loom)
  • Enermax 465 Watt FC PSU
  • Windows XP Professional Service Pack 1

The GIGABYTE GA-7VAXP ULTRA test system.

  • AMD 2600+ 333 FSB
    Processor
  • GA-7VAXP
    ULTRA
    REV 1.2 motherboard
  • ATI 9700 PRO Video Card
  • 2 x 256 MB Corsair PC3200 DDR RAM
  • Sony 52x CD
  • 60 GB Maxtor ATA133 Hard Drive
  • 1 x Samsung 950p 19″ Monitors
  • USB Keyboard and Logitech USB wireless Optical Mouse
  • Globalwin CAK4-76T HSF
  • AMK SX1000 modded
    PC case (window, fans, cables, loom)
  • Enermax 465 Watt FC PSU
  • Windows XP Professional Service Pack 1

The ASUS A7N8X test system.

  • AMD 2600+ 333 FSB
    Processor
  • ASUS A7N8X motherboard
  • ATI 9700 PRO Video Card
  • 2 x 256 MB Corsair PC3200 DDR RAM
  • Sony 52x CD
  • 60 GB Maxtor ATA133 Hard Drive
  • 2 x Samsung 950p 19″ Monitors
  • USB Keyboard and Logitech USB wireless Optical Mouse
  • Globalwin CAK4-76T HSF
  • AMK SX1000 modded
    PC case (window, fans, cables, loom)
  • Enermax 465 Watt FC PSU
  • Windows XP Professional Service Pack 1

Programs used

All tests were run at default video card settings with VSYNC disabled. Bios
was optimized for system but not tweaked for any performance settings requiring
specialized knowledge of overclocking. In other words the BIOS settings were
standard as far as anyone can set the time and date, ensure the ram is 2 or
4 way interleave and at CAS 2.5 and AGP is chosen as the first boot video card.
The BIOS settings were kept as close to conservative or default value. The ASUS
A7N8X memory settings were set to OPTIMAL and AGGRESSIVE as disclosed. Memory
was kept at DDR333 settings for proper timing with the 2600+ 333FSB processor.
Individual performance will vary with any particular or specific timings or
tweaks enabled by you.

768MB page file moved to D: partition. Temporary Internet files moved to I:
partition at end of drive. OS installed to C: and programs installed to E:

These may result in lesser or greater scores. Void where prohibited by law.
Don’t run with scissors. Chew each bite 32 times and always floss between meals.
Batteries not included.

3D Mark 2001 SE

3dmark640

3dmark800

3dmark1024

3dmark1280

3dmark1600

Codecreatures

It’s a dead heat here across the boards.

codecreatures

Commanche 4

The ASUS NFORCE2 excels over the KT400 chipset.

commanche4

DroneZ

DroneZ starts to weed out the pack giving a 20-25 point spread
with the ASUS out in front. The AD77 Infinity does manage to squeeze by the
GA-7VAXP Ultra.

dronez

GL Excess

GLEXCESS took a shine to the AD77 Infinity.

glexcess

QuakeIII normal quality

Good ol’ Quake still has some life in it to show who’s who in
the gaming leagues.

quakenormal

Quake III high quality

quakehigh

Serious Sam

I think the word “whoops” can be used as the AD77
Infinity shows a slow start at 640×480 then gets progressively and dismally
worse.

serioussam

Sisoft Sandra CPU Arithmetic

It’s a close pack across the board tests and that tight range
is kept pretty much the same for FPU MIPS and the Sandra CPU Multimedia tests.

sandracpumath

Sisoft Sandra CPU Multimedia

sandracpumulti

Sisoft Sandra Memory Benchmark

It’s still the ASUS board in front due to HyperTransport with
the Gigabyte KT400 chipset taking the lead over the AD77 Infinity.

sisoftmemory

Specviewperf 7.0

SpecviewPerf still grounds itself in the manipulation of 3D graphics
more on a business application level rather than a gaming performance level.
Again the results are as expected. The GA-7VAXP Ultra is one point behind in
3DSMAX, 10 points trailing in DRV-08 (6 points Top Performance), approximately
12 points in DX-07, 1 point back in both LIGHT-05 and PROE-01 and a dead heat
for arguments sake in UGS-01. The HyperTransport equipped NFORCE2 board most
likely is given the edge due to a greater bandwidth between the memory and processor.
The AD77 Infinity trails way behind the ASUS A7N8X and only slightly behind
the GA-7VAXP Ultra.

specview

The following two tests are targeted mainly towards CPU performance and will
show if any “flaws” are in board design affecting the ability of the
CPU to crunch through the data. While in render mode the two test programs virtually
bypass ram and GPU.

Adobe After Effects 5.5

Adobe After Effects is a tool to produce motion
graphics and visual effects for film, video, multimedia and the web. It is primarily
a 2D application using imported graphics or digital footage or self generated
effects. A project was created that was a combination of many video footage
files, resizing and rasterizing effects, text animations and multiple layer
effects. This “average” combination was felt to best demonstrate advantages
and/or disadvantages that a real world user may experience rather than isolating
and benchmarking a particular effect.

There is no official benchmark for After Effects
but tasks can be timed to show specific results. Rendering, or the task of building
and compiling frames, is mainly CPU intensive and After Effects generally bypasses
the video card and relies solely on the processor for speed. The time taken
to render 900 frames basically shows how fast the processor is working on the
given task.

ae_fx

Softimage XSI can simply bring
any computer to its knees. It’s an incredibly powerful 3D animation program
that has the ability to become so complex that single processor systems have
been known to “think” for days when rendering an animation. Softimage works
on somewhat similar principle to After Effects. A faster and more powerful video
card will translate to a smoother interface where complex scenes can be manipulated
in real time. Note that Softimage does not have an interface to real-time preview
a finished frame as unlike After Effects. Users can manipulate objects in a
choice of views from wire frame mode to simulated real-time shading mode. In
order to look at a finished frame a user must render the frame to disk which
bypasses the GPU. A faster processor will result in the faster render. The amount
of RAM is not as great an issue as the user is working frame by frame and the
graphics card is doing the bulk of the work while working within the GUI.

This is a most basic overview and there are specialty
hardware components that can enhance the speed and interactivity of complex
3D scenes and programs. The designers working on the test system use Softimage
on a less complex level to provide enhancements and elements to commercials,
promos and station ID elements. Though their work is quite complex to some it
a far cry from that of special effects in major film productions.

Softimage performs its best on a dual processor
system and by far the recommendation for heavy 3D rendering is a dual processor
AMD system.

softimage

Summary

 

wsbox

Final words

When working with other boards like the flagship ABIT and Gigabyte motherboards
it is important to keep a perspective. While the AD77 Infinity may come with
a lot of similar features it is lacking in a few but it is also 30-40% LOWER
priced than the aforementioned motherboards. There have to be some sacrifices.

The MSI KT4-Ultra only comes with 3 DIMM slots and one IDE RAID header (2 x
SATA) and the ASUS A7V8X features a passive Northbridge heatsink as well and
both boards are slightly higher priced.

The question is what are you willing to pay. If you want it all then you are
going to be paying a premium and there are a few changes that DFI could have
made to this motherboard to improve it.

  • The manual could have an “idiot” page that directs the reader
    to the PDF manuals on the installation CD for further information on the many
    features are not even mentioned in the paper manual. The CD manual is more
    extensive.
  • 2 SATA RAID headers would have given this board additional life when SATA
    drives become readily available. Performance enthusiasts will turn their nose
    at single RAID headers.
  • A six-channel PCI bracket is a must and the majority of consumers will feel
    cheated that 6 channel sound cannot be immediately used.

This board runs a decent performance curve lagging only slightly behind its
higher priced cousins. Four DIMM slots are a bonus for me and with a few BIOS
improvements DFI could squeeze a few more points here and there.

So the proper perspective must be taken when scoring the DFI AD77 Infinity.
Going down the checklist it has FIREWIRE, USB, SATA and EIDE RAID (single channel)
4 DIMMS, LAN and onboard 2-channel audio (4 channel/6 channel via add-on that
isn’t included). Basically everything that the “big boys” do except
the price.

The downfall is the missing second RAID headers and the hardware for surround
sound.

So as a full-blown main system with plenty of onboard and included options
and huge drive support the AD77 Infinity doesn’t fill the bill but where this
board would shine would be as a LAN gamer’s board as it has what it needs and
runs a few dollars cheaper.

I would recommend this board for someone who would use it as a feature rich
platform for basic computing work (Office & Internet) and who wanted to
manipulate digital still images. The FIREWIRE and USB facilitates this nicely
but for digital home video editing …definitely not. You want big drive space
and ultimately the files stored on separate drives on a separate channel. Due
to the lack of an optical audio out or an included analog 5.1 bracket I can’t
fully endorse this board as a home theatre choice either due to the fact that
other boards only a few dollars higher in price come with this option.

The AD77 Infinity is a solid platform that fits specific needs. The choice
is yours and the most important step you can make is to identify what your needs
are and then make a list of the expectations/features. Finally it will come
down to price whether you want to spend 10 dollars more, 20 dollars more or
50 dollars more than what the AD77 Infinity costs.

Our thanks to DFI
for the AD77 Infinity.

Highs

  • Above average BIOS for standard and overclocking settings.
  • Diagnostic LEDs.
  • 4 x USB on backplane.
  • CNR slot (Applicable to those who may want new options with old technology).
  • Price when compared to boards with similar options.
  • No fan on the Northbridge heatsink. (Less noise.)

Lows

  • Only one ATA133 & SATA header.
  • No SATA cable included.
  • No PCI based 5.1 connections included.
  • Poor placement of mainboard power, EIDE/SATA headers, FIREWIRE headers.
  • No second fan header by CPU fan header.
  • Paper manual could be more extensive or at least direct reader to PDF manual for further explanations.
  • Paper manual does not cover all features even briefly.
  • Not totally jumper-less.

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