Articles: Mainboards

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PCB Design

The ASUS P5N-E SLI didn’t impress us with its accessories or specification. Everything is just what you can expect from a midrange product. But when it comes to PCB design, the mainboard turns to have very remarkable and unusual traits.

First of all, there is a gigantic aluminum heatsink on the chipset’s North Bridge:

This heatsink is indicative of the developer’s desire to minimize the product cost, although an active copper cooler would have been more appropriate here because the C55 chip is very hot at work. The aluminum heatsink becomes as hot as to raise our apprehensions about the health of the North Bridge. So, we recommend replacing this cheap heatsink with something more efficient, especially if you are going to overclock your system or if there is no strong airflow around the North Bridge in your system case.

There is no heatsink at all on the South Bridge, but this chip is not so threateningly hot. However, there are mounting holes in the mainboard around the chip so that you could take care about its cooling, too.

The questionable economy on heatsinks is not limited to the chipset pieces. The CPU voltage regulator (it has a classic three-channel design on the ASUS P5N-E SLI) lacks any cooling, either. This circuit doesn’t include digital feedback or SMT capacitors, which is expectable considering the mainboard’s price. The regulator is based on ordinary electrolytic capacitors manufactured by United Chemi-Con which are reliable, though.

The elements of the CPU voltage regulator, including capacitors, are located on the PCB right around the CPU socket, which is not good. They may prevent you from installing a cooler with a massive base (the North Bridge heatsink may be an obstacle, too).

You can also find it difficult to connect the additional 12V power cable. The mainboard has a 4-pin connector, and the modern 8-pin connector doesn’t plug into it easily due to the jumper indiscreetly placed nearby.

There are a few other flaws in the PCB design of the ASUS P5N-E SLI many of which can be seen in the picture.

The FDD slot is placed very inconveniently behind the last PCI. The placement of the SATA ports is not good, either. You may find it difficult to use them if you’ve got two graphics cards in your system. The inappropriate choice of places for the various slots may be explained by the reduced area of the PCB (to make it cheaper), but what we can’t explain and justify is that the mainboard offers only three fan connectors. That’s not enough for a mainboard of that class that carries a lot of hot elements on board.

The mainboard’s rear panel seems somewhat empty. It offers PS/2 ports for the mouse and keyboard, four USB ports, one IEEE1394 port, a LAN port (RJ-45) with diagnostic LEDs, an eSATA port, three analog audio connectors, a coaxial SPDIF output, and a parallel port.

There are headers on the PCB to connect four more USB ports, an IEEE1394 port, and a COM port.

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