Articles: Mainboards

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PCB Design and Functionality

We continue talking about the features and functionality of Gigabyte GA-EP45T-Extreme mainboard. There is nothing we could seriously pick on in the upper part of the PCB. 12-phase processor voltage regulator circuitry uses very high-quality components: low RDS MOSFET transistors, ferrite core chokes and solid-state capacitors. Power-saving system will only enabler all 12 phases under heavy workload. Under lower loads, some of the phases will be disabled to increase the circuitry efficiency. By the way, DDR3 SDRAM and the chipset North Bridge use two-phase voltage regulators.

There is enough room around the processor socket to accommodate large CPU coolers. The power connectors are in traditional convenient locations.

The lower part of the mainboard PCB may upset you with not the best location of the PATA connectors. However, you will be pleased to find a POST code indicator, Power On and Reset buttons and notice convenient connector marking that uses not only color-coding but also large easy-to-read words. The buttons are located at a distance from one another and are lit when the mainboard is powered on, so you won’t mix them up.

A few more words about lighting. Gigabyte GA-EP45T-Extreme is equipped with a lot of LEDs, over three dozens of them! However, the board doesn’t look like a Christmas tree and they are not that annoying, because they don’t light up all at once and do not blink, but light up as the need arises. Although, at the same time they are not very useful.

Besides slightly lit buttons and processor voltage regulator phase indicators, there are four groups of LEDs that signal if the voltage increases on the CPU, memory, chipset North and South Bridges:

Besides, there are five LEDs showing how much the FSB bus frequency has been increased. These are the most annoying ones: blue and bright.

Finally, another two pairs of LEDs report CPU and chipset North Bridge temperature increase.

Of course, the LEDs referring to the chipset North Bridge are completely blocked by the additional heatsink, and hence are pretty useless altogether. Take the CPU-related LED indicators. The LED groups are very close to one another, the clarifying inscriptions are made in very fine print so they are hard to read, and the colors are similar. I see that the LED is lit, but what does it mean? Does it indicate that the CPU receives very high voltage or that its temperature is too high? A quick look is not enough, you have to spend some time figuring it out, so the mere idea of quick status update for various system components vanishes right there.

The mainboard connector panel has the following ports and connectors:

  • PS/2 connectors for keyboard and mouse;
  • 8 USB connectors;
  • Two network RJ45 connectors (Realtek 8111C);
  • Six audio-jacks (Realtek ALC889A);
  • Optical and coaxial S/PDIF;
  • Clear CMOS button.

I would like to remind you that using the enclosed kit you can turn two Serial ATA ports out of six available into eSATA and another enclosed bracket will provide you with two IEEE1394 ports on the rear panel out of three implemented via Texas Instruments TSB43AB23 controller.

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