abit AA8-DuraMAX - Page 3

..:: AA8-DuraMAX Layout: Socket Area ::..

Now it’s time to begin working our way around the AA8-DuraMAX’s PCB. With these new chipsets from Intel, I have noticed that the motherboard surface itself has become far more cluttered, mainly due to voltage generation devices necessary for the DDR-II modules and PCI-Express. As we progress around this motherboard, as well as many in the future, we will undoubtedly see the days of extremely clean and clear PCB surfaces head the way of the dodo. Because of this, we’ve developed a new modus operandi when evaluating the layout of the motherboard. Instead of going merely for cleanliness, we’ll be putting more of an impact on components locations and orientations for the end user. Clean PCB’s are nice, but locations and ease of access are going to be far more important with these motherboards. Now that we have that point out of the way, let’s start our trek around the ABIT AA8-DuraMAX.

The Socket T is oriented lengthwise from East to West across the motherboard. Due to the much improved mounting mechanics for the new LGA 775 processors, Intel has done away with the large retention bracket that was needed on the older Socket 478 implementations. The new mounting method simply requires pushing some pins through the four mounting holes, and you’re done. Now, whether or not the big time heatsink manufacturers go along with this is a whole other story, but the stock Intel heatsink is by far the easiest heatsink to install I have ever worked with. Around the Socket T, you can see the various silk screened lines for the keep out and low profile component zones. With these motherboards, manufacturers can place low profile capacitors near the Socket T without worry as the heatsink will end up over top of it. With Socket 478, this couldn’t be done due to the retention bracket and the space that it required.

One thing you might notice are the large solder strips that are laid out horizontally throughout the processor core voltage supply portion of the motherboard. These are the well known ABIT Overclocking Strips. With these new Intel chipsets, ABIT has brought back their Overclocking Strips in order to help with the power delivery and overclocking capabilities of their motherboards. These strips run on both the top surface of the motherboard, as well as the back plane as you can see from the image above.

Another aspect that we’ll begin to see much more often on high end motherboards based off of the i925X and i915P chipsets is that motherboard manufactures have begun the move to four phase power delivery solutions. We can tell this simply by a visual inspection. Each of the four yellow core inductors is utilized by a single phase of the power delivery scheme for the AA8-DuraMAX. With the current and power draw that is needed to keep these processors running full bore, motherboard manufacturers have developed four phase power delivery solutions to provide smooth, adequate power to the processor no matter the load condition. The main control chips are manufactured by Intersil, along with the MOSFET drivers.

The last components of note that are located in this vicinity are a few jumpers, and the secondary 12V power supply connection. The four-pin power connector has been placed in the upper left hand corner of the motherboard. This is an ideal position as it prevents cabling from being run around the heatsink, and possibly affecting airflow even with the small diameter of the wiring. Along the rear I/O panel, there are two yellow jumpers. If you’ve working with ABIT motherboards in the past, you’ll be familiar with these two jumpers and their responsibility. Each of these is your typical Wake-On jumpers, one for USB and one for PS/2. If you wish to utilize the Wake-On function of the AA8-DuraMAX, you’ll need to make sure your power supply is capable of handling the load, and then merely enabling which connection you’d like to use. Simple as that.