Articles: Mainboards

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PCB Design and Functionality

As we have expected, Gigabyte GA-EP45-DS3 looks just like an ordinary mainboard, without any remarkable advantages and eye-catching drawbacks.

However, if you take a closer look at the mainboard, you will see a few interesting and out-of-the-ordinary things. This is where the components layout scheme from the user’s manual comes in handy:

 Gigabyte GA-EP45-DS3 mainboard belongs to Ultra Durable 2 series, which means that its six-phase processor voltage regulator uses high-quality efficient components and there are only solid-state capacitors on the board itself. The 24-pin ATX and 8-pin TX12V power supply connectors just like the FDD connector are located very conveniently. There is enough room to install a large processor cooler. This is pretty much all we can say about the upper part of the PCB. Just note that there is a string of multi-color LEDs in the upper right corner that indicate the number of active processor voltage regulator phases.

Contemporary mainboards often boast sophisticated chipset cooling systems, however, Gigabyte GA-EP45-DS3 has two simple aluminum heatsinks.

Even the chipset South Bridge heatsink has larger heat dissipating surface due to additional ribbing. As for the heatsink on the chipset North Bridge, its larger heat dissipating surface is not the only improvement: it also has very complex cross-cut profile. However, it still heats up noticeably, even when the CPUs work in the nominal mode, so we topped it with a small 50mm fan for additional cooling purposes right away.

We see three PCI Express x1, two PCI and two PCI Express x16 slots in the lower part of the mainboard PCB. If there is only one graphics card in the system, that latter slot works at its full speed. With two graphics cards, the x16 slots switch to PCI Express x8 mode.

There is a JMicron JMB368 controller not far from the chipset South Bridge. It adds Parallel ATA support to the chipset functionality. The connector is positioned parallel to the board. This way it will not be in the way of a long-bed graphics card installed into the second PCI Express x16 slot. There is also an additional IEEE1394 controller from Texas Instruments (TSB43AB23) and two BIOS chips. All Gigabyte mainboards, not only the ones on Intel P45 Express, support Dual BIOS technology.

All six Serial ATA ports provided by the chipset are in the lower right corner of the PCB, so all connectors had to be shifted to the left, beneath the expansion card slots. However, look how neatly they did it! Of course, color coding of the connectors is a great thing, but you still always had to double-check what each color stands for. Now it has become even easier to assemble systems on Gigabyte mainboards: the connectors are not only color coded and signed right on the PCB. Now you can see large noticeable lettering even inside the connectors:

As you see, Gigabyte GA-EP45-DS3 mainboard supports COM and LPT devices, even though these connectors are not laid out on the rear panel. The connectors panel carries PS/2 for keyboard and mouse, coaxial and optical S/PDIF Outs, six audio-jacks (for 8-channel sound provided by Realtek ALC889A codec), two IEEE1394 ports, eight USB 2.0 ports and two RJ45 network connectors provided by Realtek RTL8111C controller.

In conclusion I would like to add that Gigabyte GA-EP45-DS3 has four fan connectors, two of which are four-pin ones. As for the evident but not always crucial drawbacks, we have to point out that the graphics card installed into the first PCI Express x16 slot will block the memory slot locks.

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