Articles: Mainboards

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PCB Design and Features

We’ve mentioned above a very odd Intel DX58SO mainboard which looks as if its top part has been turned around by 90 degrees counterclockwise. There are other Intel mainboards that can also be considered solutions with questionable design, but the remarkable thing about DX58SO2 is that it is in fact absolutely normal. It has a classic component layout and there is nothing uncomfortably unusual about its PCB design.

A few peculiarities must be noted, though. Other mainboard makers have used heat pipes to cool their products for a long time already and now Intel also uses heatpipes like that. Every heatsink of the cooling system is secured with screws except for the one on the Intel ICH10R South Bridge which is fastened with a steel bracket. The mainboard has a POST code indicator. Besides Power and Reset buttons, there are also buttons to change the base clock rate “on the fly”. Another new feature on Intel mainboards is a double line of Diagnostic/Status LEDs in the bottom left corner of the PCB. The LEDs of the bottom row sequentially indicate the initialization process when you turn the mainboard on. The top row of LEDs indicates the operation of disks and can also signal that the CPU or its voltage regulator components are running too hot. By the way, the text on the product box mentions a technology that can dynamically adjust the number of active CPU power phases depending on the load.

The mainboard supports CrossFireX and SLI technologies. The first two graphics slots work in PCI Express 2.0 x16 mode while the third one is limited to x8. The chipset’s functionality is enhanced with extra controllers. Particularly, two SATA 6 Gbps ports provided by a Marvell 88SE9128 controller are added to the six SATA 3 Gbps ports provided by the South Bridge. The mainboard also features IEEE1394 (FireWire), two back-panel USB 3.0 ports, two eSATA connectors, and a couple of LAN ports.

Here is a complete list of the mainboard’s back-panel connectors (from left to right):

  • Two eSATA 3 Gbps ports implemented via Marvell 88SE6121 controller;
  • “Back to BIOS” button;
  • Eight USB ports, including a pair of USB 3.0 ports (blue connectors) implemented via NEC D720200F1 controller; six more USBs are available as three onboard pin-connectors;
  • Two local network ports (network adapters are built on Gigabit Intel WG82567LF and Intel WG82574L controllers);
  • IEEE1394 (FireWire) port implemented via LSI L-FW3227-100 controller, the second port is available as an onboard pin-connector;
  • Optical S/PDIF and five analogue audio-jacks provided by eight-channel Realtek ALC892 controller.

The Intel DX58SO2 is quite up to today’s requirements in terms of PCB design, component layout, exterior design and functionality. You can learn its basic features from the table below:

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