Articles: Mainboards

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PCB Design

So, the ASUS N4L-VM DH mainboard combines rather rich functionality with the Micro-ATX form-factor. Of course, the developer had to solve a difficult problem of placing all the necessary chips and connectors in the limited area, so we can hardly expect that all the components are placed on the PCB in a manner convenient for the user.

And still, there are very few things about the PCB design of the ASUS N4L-VM DH we can complain about. The main components are all properly located. It is also good that almost all the connectors, including both the power connectors, are placed at the front and left sides of the PCB.

What we don’t like is how the additional Serial ATA controller from JMicron and its ports are placed. One of the controller’s Serial ATA ports is located at the mainboard’s back panel and the other one is near it. As a result, you may find it difficult to use these ports: you need a power source for the external hard drive to use the former and you just don’t have free access to the second port to use it.

The memory slots are located in a somewhat odd way, in between the CPU socket and the mainboard’s back panel. This placement isn’t likely to cause any problems, though.

The CPU socket, memory slots and chipset’s North Bridge are all densely packed in one area of the PCB and so most of the heat generated by the platform (if you use the integrated graphics core) will be accumulated in this area. Since the ASUS N4L-VM DH is meant for use in Viiv systems that are to be small, this looks reasonable. It’s not very difficult to provide for efficient cooling here.

The chipset’s North Bridge is equipped with a massive aluminum heatsink without a fan. The CPU fan included with the mainboard is made of aluminum, too. Considering the low heat dissipation of Core Duo and Core Solo processors (especially in comparison with that of the Pentium D family), it would be unreasonable to use advanced cooling solutions here.

The heatsink of the CPU cooler has a 60x60mm base and 21 ribs, 22 millimeters in height. A 60mm medium-speed fan is installed on top; its maximum speed is 3500rpm. The heatsink’s base is equipped with a frame to protect the die from chipping (the die of modern processors of Core Duo and Core Solo series is not covered by a heat-spreader).

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