Articles: Mainboards

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PCB Design

The reviewed mainboard is a high-end product and is supposed to look appropriately. Foxconn was up to my expectations in this respect. No, this mainboard is not for hardcore modders who like to put the stuffing of their system case on display. It doesn’t shine or blink or shimmer with all the colors of the rainbow. But the appealing color scheme and the beautiful heatsinks on both chipset’s bridges add a certain charm to this mainboard. Well, high-end products just can’t look ugly, but it is the abundance of chips and connectors on the PCB that appeals to me most. At first sight the 925XE7AA seems to have a high functionality. Of course, I’ll check if it is really so, but the first impression is favorable.

Now let’s see how the mainboard’s PCB is designed. Like with other LGA 775 mainboards, the CPU socket of the reviewed mainboard is initially covered with a protecting cap. After you’ve removed it and installed the CPU, you can take a look around: the elements near the CPU socket largely determine which CPU cooler can be used here. Sometimes tall capacitors from the CPU power circuit prevent you from mounting massive coolers on the processor. Fortunately, this is not a problem with the 925XE7AA – the capacitors are really near the socket, but are not very tall so they don't stay in the way when you are mounting the cooler.

It is the fan on the chipset’s North Bridge that can become a problem, rather. It is not too far off the LGA775 socket, so you may have some troubles with certain CPU cooler models. But frankly speaking I don’t think this is a serious problem because most air coolers are easily mounted on the 925XE7AA. And even in the worst case you can just remove the fan from the North Bridge.

The memory slots are split into two groups (by two slots belonging to one memory channel). This improves their ventilation and simplifies their installation.

The onboard controllers are almost all soldered near the expansion slots, save for the system monitoring controller and the BIOS chip (quite unusually the BIOS flash chip is not near the battery but rather at the opposite side of the PCB).

The mainboard offers seven expansion slots: three PCI, one PCI Express x16, and three PCI Express x1. So, you can add in your older expansion cards as well as purchase new ones. The PCI Express slots are placed in a rather unusual way, with x16 and x1 slots alternating.

This is done for the graphics card in the PCI Express x16 slot not to block the DIMM slots as would happen otherwise.

As for the placement of the onboard connectors, I think it is quite logical. When the mainboard is installed in the system case, almost all the connectors are at the bottom. The exception is one PATA connector, one FDD and one IrDA connector which are at the top right corner of the case, but this is a small inconvenience considering the component density of this mainboard. The power connectors are placed properly, too. The attached power cables won’t break airflows inside the case.

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