PCB Design and Functionality
From the aesthetics perspective, Intel DX79SI mainboard looks a little flashy, there is no unifying style and there are a lot of different colors that don’t go very well together. However, the appearance is secondary, and after all it is the functionality that matters the most. And the layout of this mainboard is perfectly fine, without any extraordinary details that used to be a distinguishing feature of many other mainboards from the same makes.
I would like to make a few comments to the marketing people once again. We get the impression that all the information about the competitive advantages of the new products is being carefully hidden, instead of being placed proudly up front and center. Only when I flipped the decorative front cover, on the back of it I learned a number of very interesting details. Namely, that the board is manufactured using 3-layer PCB with 3D Copper Layers inside (I still do not know what exactly it is: is it similar to the 2 oz copper technology from Gigabyte?). That the processor voltage regulator circuitry is built with Driver-MOSFET, where two where two MOSFETs and a control unit are combined into a single chip. You can see even without hints that the board uses solid-state capacitors, but there was absolutely no mention of tantalum capacitors anywhere and I noticed them myself while taking a close look at the PCB. The flip cover also tells us that there are also contact spots for manual voltage measurements, which took me a while to locate: they were right next to the POST-code indicator. Among the bonus features we could also mention the glowing Power On and Reset buttons and a row of “Board Status LED’s” right next to them. They will light up successively once the mainboard is powered on indicating successful passing of the startup procedures, just like the Q-Led diodes on Asus mainboards do. Moreover, there is storage drives activity indicator and a pair of LEDs that will indicate overheating of the CPU itself or processor voltage regulator circuitry.
The mainboard has rich functionality – the courtesy of Intel X79 Express chipset. It supports LGA 2011 processors, has eight DIMM slots that can accommodate up to 64 GB of DDR SDRAM with quad-channel access protocol. For expansion cards there are three PCI Express 3.0/2.0 x16 slots with the third slot electrically designed to support PCI Express 3.0/2.0 x8 speed, two PCI Express 2.0 x1 slots and one regular PCI slot. Besides two SATA 6 Gbps and four SATA 3 Gbps ports provided by the chipset there are no other drive controllers onboard. The following ports and connectors can be found on the mainboard back panel:
- “Back to BIOS” button, similar to “Clear CMOS”;
- Two USB 3.0 ports (blue connectors) implemented via Renesas (NEC) D720200AF1 controller, second controller like that provides an additional internal pin-connector for two more USB 3.0 ports;
- Six USB 2.0 ports, eight more are laid out as four onboard pin-connectors;
- IEEE1394 (FireWire) port implemented with VIA VT6315N controller, a second port is available as onboard pin-connector;
- Two local network ports (network adapters are built around Gigabit Intel 82579LM and Intel 82574L network controllers);
- Optical S/PDIF and five analogue audio-jacks provided by eight-channel Realtek ALC892 audio codec.
If we sum up all the major technical specifications in a single table, it will look as follows:
There is nothing very unusual about Intel DX79SI mainboard. The only thing we could probably point out in this respect is the connector for the additional thermal diode included with the bundled accessories. As for the differences between Intel DX79SI and the previously reviewed Asus P9X79 Deluxe and Gigabyte GA-X79-UD7, the Intel board has a PCI slot and an additional IEEE1394 (FireWire) controller, and lacks eSATA ports and any additional drive controllers. Among the indisputable advantages we should point out its standard dimensions, while Asus mainboard exceeds the ATX specification in width, and the Gigabyte board – in two dimensions (width and length). There are only four four-pin fan connectors onboard and all of them (except for the processor one) are capable of adjusting the rotation speed of the three-pin fans.