Today's Hard|Forum Post
Today's Hard|Forum Post

BFG BFGRNF4U

The sexily named "BFGRNF4U" is BFG Tech’s introduction to the wonderful world of motherboards. See just how well their non-SLI nForce4 Ultra solution stacks up to the competition.

Grammatical & Spelling Editor: Timothy Daniel

Introduction

BFG is a relative newcomer on the computer enthusiast scene, making a name for themselves with high quality and performance-centric NVIDIA based video cards. Their commitment to the enthusiast remains unrivaled with their products being some of the fastest in their class. Recently, BFG decided to pursue new product areas, with motherboard products among them.

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The BFGRNF4U is BFGآ’s initial motherboard offering. BFG chose to design their initial motherboard on the popular NVIDIA nForce4 Ultra chipset, which boasts support for the Athlon64 socket 939 line of processors, DDR type SDRAM modules operating in Dual Channel mode up to speeds of 400MHz officially, as well as PCI Express x16-based video cards operating in single card configuration. Out of the box, the BFGRNF4U was designed as a feature complete solution, requiring the addition of an Athlon64 socket 939-based CPU, DDR memory, PCI Express video card, drives, and PSU for a working system. BFG integrated the following components into the boardآ’s design: 2 IDE ATA-133 ports and 4 SATA II ports (RAID 0, 1, and 0+1 capable) on the NVIDIA RAID controller; 10 USB 2.0 capable ports (4 in rear panel, and 3 onboard headers supporting 2 ports each); 1 NVIDIA Gigabit Ethernet port in the rear panel with integrated hardware Firewall support; Realtek 8-channel audio codec featuring S/PDIF optical input / output ports; and serial, parallel, and PS/2 port support.

Main Specifications Overview:

CPU

AMD Athlon64 socket 939 based processors

Chipset

NVIDIA nForce4 Ultra MCP

FSB

200MHz

BIOS

Phoenix AwardBIOS

Memory

4 184-pin DDR DIMMS, up to 4GB

Expansion slots

1 x PCI-Express x16 slot, 2 x PCI-Express x1 slot, 3 x PCI slots

Onboard IDE

2 x ATA 133 ports; 4 x SATA II ports

USB 2.0

4 rear panel / 3 headers supporting 2 ports each (10 ports total)

Audio

8-Channel Realtek codec

NIC

NVIDIA Gigabit Ethernet controller

Detailed Mainboard Specification List:

Form Factor

ATX (305mm x 220mm)

CPU

آ• Supports AMD Socket-939 Athlon 64 FX / Athlon 64 processor

آ• Processor interface via 2000MT/s HyperTransport bus

Chipset

NVIDIA nForce4 Ultra

Main Memory

آ• Four 184-pin DDR DIMMs up to 4GB

آ• Supports Dual Channel DDR266/333/400 memory

Expansion Slots

آ• PCI Express x16 port for PCI Express graphics card

آ• Two PCI Express x1 ports

آ• Three 32-bit PCI slots (v2.3 compliant)

Audio Subsystem

آ• Supports enhanced NVIDIA 7.1-channel audio

آ• Complies with AC'97 Rev 2.3 specifications

آ• Supports 48KHz coaxial S/PDIF output

آ• EAX/Direct Sound 3D/I3DL2/A3D compatible

SATA

آ• Supports four native SATA2 3.0Gb/s devices

آ• Hot-swap capability, allowing disks to be changed without powering down the system

آ• Optimized for the high-performance NVIDIA RAID technology

آ• Supports SATA ATAPI devices

Ultra DMA IDE Ports

Supports 2 UltraDMA-66/100/133 IDE ports

FDD

One FDD connector supports up to 2.88MB

USB2.0

Supports total 10 USB2.0 ports with High-Speed Device @ 480Mb/s Transfer Rates

Embedded system monitoring

آ• Temperature sensing for CPU and system

آ• Fan speed monitoring and control for CPU and system

Boot-Block Flash ROM

Award system BIOS supports PnP, APM, DMI, ACPI, & Multi-device booting features

Other Features

Rear panel I/O ports

آ• PS/2 Mouse and Keyboard port

آ• 25-pin D-Sub female Parallel port

آ• Two 9-pin D-Sub male Serial ports

آ• Four USB ports and one RJ45 connector

آ• 6-port Audio Jack for 7.1-Channel and S/PDIF output

Internal I/O connectors

آ• Four 3x1 pin fan connectors

آ• Three 5x2 pin USB connectors for additional 6 USB ports

آ• 3x1 pin wake on LAN connector with housing

آ• 3x1 pin wake on Modem connector with housing

آ• Two 4x1 pin CD-in connectors with 2.54mm pitch housing

آ• 5x2 pin Front Audio connector

آ• 9x2 pin Front Panel connector

آ• 24 pin ATX Power connector

آ• 4 pin ATX 12V Power connector

Warranty

3 years

Packaging

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The BFGRNF4U comes in a standard sized motherboard box, adorned with the BFG logo and their unique color scheme. The supported CPU and chipset features are prominently displayed on the box front as well. The inside packaging of the box was a pleasant surprise, with the board manual affixed to the top of the inner cardboard enclosure, with the motherboard underneath. The actual board accessories are located in a compartment underneath the motherboard itself. BFG definitely gets kudos for their top-notch packaging. Included with the board are the following: ATA 133 and floppy ribbon cables, SATA 150 cables, dual ended SATA power cables, the rear shield, the normal complement of driver CDs and manuals, and a rear bracket for additional USB 2.0 ports.

Board Layout

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For their first retail board, BFG did a knockout job with component placement. I found no issues with tight areas on the board, even around the CPU socket area. I could not find the boardآ’s revision number or a serial number marked anywhere on the boardآ’s surface. BFG chose to use capacitors from the following manufacturers: Sanyo (USA) and G-Luxon (Taiwan).

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The CPU socket area on the BFGRNF4U is clear of obstructions, allowing for use of the large HSF or water block units. The CPU cooler is held to the board using the standard 2 hole Athlon64 mounting design. The 24-pin ATX power connector is located to the upper left of the CPU socket, with the ATX12V power connector to its right just above the 4 DIMM slots. The JP6 and JP6A jumpers, responsible for system wakeup based on rear panel USB 2.0 port activity, are located between the ATX and ATX12V connectors. The JP5 jumper, which controls system wakeup based on the PS/2 ports, is located to the right of the ATX12V connector. The board itself comes standard with 4 DDR DIMM slots, arranged in a 4 by 1 configuration. The DIMM slots themselves are oriented vertically along the right edge of the board and to the right of the CPU socket. To use memory in Dual Channel mode, 2 modules must be placed in identically colored adjacent DIMM slots. The FAN1, FAN3, and FAN4 fan headers are located below the CPU socket, along with the 2 onboard ATA-133 IDE ports.

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The nForce4 Ultra chipset is located just below and to the right of the PCI-Express x16 video card slot. The chipset is actively cooled, with the HSF unit held to the chipset by pushpins on opposite sides of the cooler. The boardآ’s 4 SATA2 ports are below the chipset, along the edge of the board. The CMOS battery and CMOS reset jumper, as well as the BIOS chip, onboard floppy port, front panel header and onboard speaker, are located to the left of the SATA2 ports. The 3 onboard USB2.0 headers are located just below PCI slot1, while the FAN2 fan header is located to the left of PCI slot 3.

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The BFGRNF4U comes standard with 1 PCI-Express x16 slots, 2 PCI-Express x1 slots, and 3 PCI slots. The wake on LAN and wake on modem headers are located to the left of the middle of PCI slot 3, with the front panel audio header, the 2 CD_IN headers, and the AUX_IN header just above them. Note that the rear panel audio ports will not function unless pins 5/6 and 9/10 on the front panel audio header are jumpered.

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BFG chose to include the following ports in the BFGRNF4Uآ’s rear panel: PS/2 keyboard and mouse ports; 2 com ports and a parallel port; 4 USB 2.0 ports; 1 NVIDIA Gigabit LAN Ethernet port; and 6 analogue audio ports.

NVIDIA nTune

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BFG includes the NVIDIA nTune performance-tuning suite for Windowآ’s-based overclocking. nTune version 2.05.09.08 is shown in the screenshots. For performance tuning, the nTune software has 2 modes of operation: automated profiling and manual manipulation. The profiling selection menu appears after clicking on the Tune my system button in the main nTune window. The automated profiling can be tweaked through the settings within the nVPerformance window, accessible through the expert mode selection in the previous menu. The Clock Control window allows for manual manipulation of synchronous CPU and memory bus speeds, PCI bus speed, HyperTransport link multiplier, memory timings, and GPU speeds. The Clock Control window is accessed via the Clock Control button in the bottom button bar in the main nTune screen.

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In addition to the performance related options, the nTune application has a built-in system information applet that displays CPU, bus speed, memory, and nForce driver version related information. This applet is accessed through the I button in the lower button bar in the Main nTune screen. The Monitor my system button in the nTune window runs the nVMonitor applet, which allows for real-time monitoring of all system level voltages, bus speeds, and system temperatures. The Manage my system performance button from the nTune window runs the nVProfileManage applet, with 2 modes of operation available. When the Expert operational mode is selected, manual profile configuration is possible. These profiles control triggers for system responses to configured events. Responses can include warning sounds, program launching, and automatic system tuning on a percentage basis. The Troubleshoot performance or create a support log button in the main nTune window launches a system troubleshooter window. Various system components are listed in the upper box, with specific performance tips for the highlighted component listed in the lower portion of the screen.