Articles: Mainboards

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PCB Design

It would be truly naiv to assume that a company that used to deal only with server products would finally roll out a mainboard solution boasting some remarkable exterior looks. And this is absolutely true in our case. PDSGE, just as PDSG4, doesn’t have anything outstanding in its appearance to boast. Supermicro engineers who have already got used to putting reliability and functionality of their products ahead of the exterior design stuck to their principles this time, too. However, the absence of some original decorative elements doesn’t make the product any worse. Let’s take a closer look at this mainboard and find out if it features smart PCB layout and offers good ergonomics.

Despite the great number of various onboard connectors and microchips, the mainboard PCB doesn’t look overloaded with components. All the chips aren’t placed too closely to one another, and the connectors are grouped together very smartly and are mostly sitting in the right-hand side and bottom side of the PCB (if we look at it the way it is usually installed into the system case). As a result, all the connectors can be accessed easily. The DIMM slots are located into pairs, each pair corresponding to one channel of the memory controller. This way the memory modules can work in better thermal conditions, because the memory modules working in dual-channel mode will be sitting far enough from each other and hence will receive better cooling. The benefits of this solution are especially visible when there are only two memory modules installed.

The memory slots are slightly away from the processor socket, while the other two heat sources, namely, the chipset North Bridge and the processor voltage regulator elements are at a much closer distance to the CPU. It might have been made this way to ensure their additional cooling from the fan of the CPU cooler. All the voltage regulator components that heat up quite a lot, as well as the chipset North Bridge, are equipped with the aluminum heatsink, which is a good thing, of course.

The only thing we were not very happy about was the use of a passive (fanless) cooling solution for the chipset North Bridge. The heatsink itself looks quite stylish, I should say. There are two more heatsinks on the chipset South Bridge (it is fastened with two spring rods) and on the PCI-X hub (it is pressed with a metal wire bracket against the PCB).

Another positive solution used on the PDSGE PCB is the location of the PCIE x16 slot for the graphics card, which is quite far away from the memory DIMM slots. You can install a graphics card of any size into this mainboard, and it will never catch to the DIMM slots clips. To make the graphics card installation so convenient, they had however to sacrifice the distance between the graphics card slot and the nearest PCI slot. In other words, if the graphics card you intend to use in this platform features a massive cooling system onboard, you may lose one of the PCI slots, because the space above it will be taken by the graphics card cooling system.

All connectors, including fan connectors are located very close to the PCB edges, so the cables leading to them will not end up hanging over the platform, and all disk connectors will remain easily accessible even when the mainboard is installed into the system case.

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