Articles: Mainboards

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PCB Design and Functionality

Intel mainboards on Intel P55 Express chipset use the same general layout that is based on a microATX form-factor. If you know this fact in advance, then you won’t be surprised with the way Intel DP55WG looks. However, it is somewhat sad to see a lot of unused space at the bottom of the PCB and numerous empty spots reserved for the missing connectors and chips.

Unlike its elder sister, Intel DP55WG has a significantly simpler processor voltage regulator circuitry with only four phases, has no heatsinks over its components. There are no additional Serial ATA and Bluetooth controllers, although the POST indicator and IEEE1394 (FireWire) controller are still there. Interestingly, the mainboard supports multiple graphics cards not only in ATI CrossFire, but also in Nvidia SLI configurations. There is the same number of expansion slots working according to the same principles. The first PCI Express 2.0 x16 slot works at full speed, but if we use two graphics cards, then the speed gets cut down in half, while the third slot can only work as PCI Express x4. You can connect fewer fans to the board – only three. However, the number of USB ports got back to the nominal for Intel P55 Express chipset. There are eight ports on the back panel and six more are available as onboard pin-connectors, which makes a total of fourteen USB ports.

The back panel of Intel DP55WG mainboard also looks a little empty without the PS/2 and eSATA connectors. There is a “Back to BIOS” button, besides the corresponding onboard jumper. There is an optical and coaxial S/PDIF and six analogue audio-jacks supported by the eight-channel Realtek ALC889 codec. As I have already pointed out above, there are eight USB ports. The IEEE1394 (FireWire) port is implemented via Texas Instruments TSB43AB22A controller and one more is available as onboard pin-connector. There is also a local network port (the network adapter is built around Intel 82578DC controller).

There is a layout scheme in the manual that comes with Intel DP55WG mainboard, which shows the location of all electronic components in a very illustrative way and also provides necessary explanations in a table below:

The following chart sums up all the technical specifications of the Intel DP55WG mainboard:

Overall, the only positive change in the layout of Intel DP55WG mainboard is the return to the nominal number of USB 2.0 ports. Other than that, it inherited all the drawbacks its elder sister had, which originate mostly from the fact that the layout is based on a microATX design concept. For example, the front panel connectors, additional USB and IEEE1394 (FireWire) connectors are definitely not in their best places. You will need to remove the graphics card in order to add or remove the memory modules. The absence of all “obsolete” interfaces is barely an advantage since Intel includes here PS/2, COM, LPT, FDD and even IDE. The missing additional controllers and connectors made Intel DP55WG mainboard even more primitive and simple, although it did affect its price significantly, as it became much lower than that of the top solution – Intel DP55KG.

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