Articles: Mainboards

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PCB Design and Functionality

When we discussed the cooling system of abit IP35 Pro we forgot to mention that it all starts with a small heatsink on the ICH9R chipset South Bridge. The heatpipe then takes the heat off to the chipset North Bridge heatsink.

Here you can also see the IDE and Serial ATA connectors positioned sideways. The FDD connector is not in the best place, but still not as far away as on most contemporary mainboards, where it is pushed beneath the expansion slots. Above this connector you can see Power On and Reset buttons as well as the POST-code indicator. The front panel connectors are all color-coded. The only additional controllers in this area are the input-output Winbond W83627DHG chip and the abit uGuru chip also made by Winbond.

The area around the expansion slots looks very unusual, because the engineers have obviously preferred the good old PCI slots to the new but still not very widely spread PCI Express. It looks like all the additional onboard controllers have moved here, too:

We can see two Gigabit Realtek RTL8110SC network controllers, an IEEE1394 controller from Texas Instruments and an 8-channel Realtek ALC888 sound controller. There is a special three-pin connector for sound cards with HDMI output right next to the connector set for the front panel sound output.

It took me a while before I found the Parallel ATA controller on the board. It turned out that JMicron JMB363 controller was hidden beneath the heatpipe next to the mainboard rear panel connectors, where it also delivers support for two eSATA ports.

Besides all familiar connectors, the mainboard rear panel also has a special Clear CMOS lever, although if you still prefer to clear CMOS in an old-fashioned way, there is a good old jumper for that, too. I believe it is a very convenient feature, although I didn’t have to use it even once, as you will see later on in this review.

If we take a real critical look at the abit IP35 Pro mainboard design layout, we will be able to find a few drawbacks. For example, the installed full-size graphics card blocks the memory slot clips, the location of the FDD connector and the four-pin additional power supply connector for dual-graphics card configurations could have been better, there are no LPT or COM ports… however, in my humble opinion, all these drawbacks of abit IP35 Pro design are not very dramatic, while the above described advantages are obvious.

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