Articles: Mainboards

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PCB Design

At first sight the WinFast NF4UK8AA-8EKRS seems to copy NVIDIA’s reference PCB design. You can still find some differences upon closer examination, but anyway the WinFast NF4UK8AA-8EKRS bears strong resemblance to those sample boards NVIDIA was sending out to its partners back in October, 2004.

That’s not an advantage, however, as the reference boards had a rather nasty layout, and the WinFast NF4UK8AA-8EKRS inherited all of their design flaws. Particularly, one of the Parallel ATA ports and all the Serial ATA ports are placed right before the PCI Express x16 slot. The 4-pin 12V additional ATX connector is situated behind the CPU socket. The onboard USB 2.0 headers are in between the PCI slots, and the FDD connector is near the left edge of the mainboard. As a result, when the cables are all attached to their respective slots and connectors, you are likely to get an entangled net of wires inside the system case – that’s not good for ventilation, and for the ease of maintenance, either.

On the other hand, there are some really strong positive things about the design of the WinFast NF4UK8AA-8EKRS. For example, the main ATX power connector (it belongs to the new 24-pin variety) was put in front of the DIMM slots.

The biggest plus of this mainboard is the availability of four PCI slots. Even if one of the slots is blocked by the graphics card cooler, the three remaining slots will be just enough in most cases.

The WinFast NF4UK8AA-8EKRS has a surprisingly high number of onboard jumpers – seven in total. Besides the ordinary Clear CMOS jumper and the jumper that protects the BIOS boot block from damage, there are jumpers for configuring the PCI Express bus. You won’t have to use them too often, though. As for the location of the Clear CMOS jumper, it is easily accessible provided there are no PCI expansion cards in the system. Otherwise, you may have troubles getting to it.

In the top left corner of the PCB there is a Molex connector. It has power when the mainboard is working, so you can use it to power up the case illumination and other things of the kind.

Foxconn put a small cooler with an aluminum base onto the chipset, like the ones you find on inexpensive graphics cards. Although this cooler does keep the chipset cool, its fan is rotating at 6,500rpm and is rather annoyingly noisy. The fan speed is constant, but is being monitored so that its failure wouldn’t harm the chipset.

The back panel of the mainboard carried PS/2 ports for the mouse and keyboard, one serial and one parallel port, four High-Speed USB ports, a network RJ-45 connector with diagnostics LEDs, one 6-pin IEEE1394a port, five audio jacks, and a coaxial SPDIF output.

The three-channel CPU voltage regulator of the WinFast NF4UK8AA-8EKRS might have been a four-channel one: there actually is an appropriate wiring on the PCB, which is not used, however. The MOSFETs are small and perceptibly hot at work. We measured their temperature during our tests and found it to be up to 65-70°C, but Foxconn hadn’t provided any cooling solution for them. As for the electrolytic capacitors, Foxconn employed high-quality passive components from Rubycon.

Finally we want to assure you that it is possible to mount massive coolers on the WinFast NF4UK8AA-8EKRS. Even the new gigantic coolers from Zalman fit easily as all the large components and slots have been moved away from the CPU socket.

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