Articles: Mainboards

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Foxconn BlackOps mainboard uses eight-phase processor voltage regulator circuitry with improved functionality compared with traditional voltage regulators. There is an 8-pin ATX12V power connector nearby, which is quite logical. Overall, if you look at the upper pat of the PCB, you will be pleased to find that the components placement is practically classical:

Thanks to years of experience in mainboard design and manufacturing, Foxconn managed to keep the 24-pin power connector, FDD and IDE connectors in their traditional spots. The only issue we see here is that a long graphics card installed into the first PCI Express x16 slot will hinder installation or replacement of the memory modules.

The lower part of the PCB looks as good as the upper part. Although there are three PCI Express x16 slots, the developers still managed to fit in three PCI slots. By the way, only the two upper PCI Express x16 slots are of 2.0 standard and work at full speed. The very last slot works as PCI Express x4 at best.

Intel ICH9R South Bridge provides 6 Serial ATA ports with RAID support. There are USB 2.0 connectors, COM port and IEEE1394 connector along the lower side of the PCB. The latter is implemented via Texas Instruments TSB43AB22A controller.

Let’s take a closer look at the lower right corner of Foxconn BlackOps PCB. We see two BIOS chips and a jumper that allows switching between them. First position forced boot-up from the first chip, while second position – from the second. By default the jumper is set in third position: the system boots from the first chip, but you can switch to the second on from the BIOS. The last position stands for boot-up from the second chip with a possibility to switch to the first one in the BIOS.

POST-indicator helps monitor the booting process. There is a Clear CMOS jumper next to it, however, you may as well use the button. The only inconvenience is that Clear CMOS and Reset buttons are very close to one another. Also, there was not enough room on that part of the PCB, so “Clear CMOS” is written right beneath the Reset button, which may cause additional confusion. You can easily mistake one for the other. The Power On button, however, is a little farther away, so there is no way you mix it up with anything else.

The mainboard rear panel carries PS/2 connectors for keyboard and mouse and two eSATA ports (they are implemented via JMicron JMB363 controller that is also responsible for IDE connectors). There I one more IEEE1394 port, two Gigabit network RJ45 ports implemented via Broadcom PCI and PCI-E controllers, 6 USB 2.0 ports, an optical and a coaxial S/PDIF.

Do not be surprised that there are no audio-jacks and other sound connectors: they are all very conveniently moved to a separate daughter SONAR audio-card based on an eight-channel Realtek ALC885 codec.

The photo from the user’s manual will help get a better idea of the major components location, although it may be not as easy to read as a layout scheme. Namely, you can see that we haven’t yet mentioned that the board allows connecting 6 fans and has an additional jumper set a little above the first PCI Express x16 slot. It allows setting the FSB frequency at a fixed value of 266, 333, 400 or 450MHz. However, the jumper is set to Auto by default and you can set the desired FSB frequency in the BIOS Setup.

We would like to wind up this part of our Foxconn BlackOps design discussion with a complete list of its technical specifications. As you can see once again, the mainboard is designed brilliantly and hardly has any drawbacks at all:

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