DFI LAN Party PRO875B - Page 5

..:: Layout: Southbridge / Memory Area ::..

The bottom right hand corner of the PRO875B is home to the remainder of the core components featured by the motherboard. This portion of the PCB is generally home to the bulk of the headers and other core logic devices that offer support for the motherboard’s RAID, USB 2.0, and SATA features. The first items that we come across are actually located right under the last PCI slot. These two items consist of the white, Wake-On-LAN connector, along with a single three-pin fan power connector. I would’ve preferred to see this fan header located in a more accessible position, although as we will soon see, there is yet another fan header towards the front of the PCB that will be much easier to utilize.

The next set of items that we come across deal with the RAID and USB 2.0 capabilities for the PRO875B. Along the bottom edge of the PCB, and slightly to the right of the last PCI slot, we find the Highpoint HPT372N IDE RAID controller chip, covered by a slightly translucent “RAID 15” sticker. The PRO875B supports what DFI calls “RAID 15.” As many of you may or may not know, if you ever wanted to enjoy the capabilities of RAID 0+1, you’d need four separate drives to do so. With RAID 15, the amount of drives needed falls down to only two, which makes the RAID 0+1 benefits much more accessible to the common enthusiast. Located just above the Highpoint chip, we see two bright yellow headers, both of which are utilized by the FrontX unit that came along with the package. If you wished to utilize the extra USB 2.0 ports provided by the FrontX unit, this is where they would need to be connected.

The next major sets of components are all neatly arranged throughout the bottom right corner of the PRO875B’s PCB. This area houses both of the IDE connectors that are controlled via the Highpoint HPT372N chip, along with the system BIOS, floppy drive connector, system battery, Clear CMOS jumper, and of course, both of the SATA connections. If we look a little further to the left of the SATA connectors, we will come across the ICH6 Southbridge which is responsible for controlling several of the items we have just listed. If we look just below both of the SATA connectors, we find the header that is meant for the diagnostics LED’s included in the FrontX package. Diagnostic LED’s can quickly become an important aspect to any system if and when something goes wrong during the initial boot process, and the user needs to troubleshoot the system with little or no knowledge of what may be causing the error. This is quite a nicely inclusion into the PRO875B’s feature set.

Last up for the Southbridge portion of the PRO875B’s PCB, we see several interesting items hugging the front edge of the PCB. The first item of this group belongs to that of the front panel connection header. This is where you would plug in the leads from the power and reset switches, along with any LED’s that you may so wish to utilize with the PRO876B, such as the HDD LED, or Power LED. The next items are ones which I have been longing for since I originally came across them a few months ago, that being onboard power and reset switches. These may not gain too much use from end users once the board is in a mounted situation, but for those who spend a great deal of time testing these motherboards, features such as these two switches are invaluable. If we take a look just above the two power and reset switches, we come across another chassis fan power connection. Unlike the one we came across under the last PCI slot, this connector will be far easier to access by a front case fan, or perhaps a third party fan that has been installed on a users graphics adapter. Other than these items, all that remains are a large grouping of core electrical components such as various capacitors, and MOSFET’s.

The last area of the PCB that we’ll be covering today is the area around the DIMM’s. To the right of the DIMM’s, we can see two IDE connectors, along with the main ATX power connector. The green IDE connector is the secondary connector, while the orange one is the primary connector. As is the norm for this positioning, I love where DFI has placed the main ATX power connector as it is located nice and high on the PCB, and far enough away from the processor socket that the cable will not have a negative effect upon the overall airflow of the system. The DIMM slots themselves are both a greenish and orange color in order to go along with the theme of the motherboard, although they do serve another purpose, that being to signify the two memory channels. The DIMM’s are high enough on the motherboard so that they will not interfere with the mounting and dismounting of the graphics card at any time, certainly a design aspect that is becoming more important as graphics adapters grow in size.

Overall, the layout of the DFI LAN Party PRO875B is one of the cleanest and most well thought out designs that I have dealt with in recent times. There are very few problems with the design that I was able to find, although the area around the i875P Northbridge is quite cramped. The fact that DFI decided to place the core voltage supply components along the top edge of the PCB only aids in further cleaning up the overall design of the motherboard, while at the same time allowing for better positioning of the secondary four-pin core power connector. The only odd aspect I noticed about the PRO875B was the odd positioning for two of the fan headers. One is located right next to the processor socket, although it isn’t meant for the CPU fan, and another is located under the last PCI slot which makes it rather difficult to get to unless you’re utilizing a fan with a long power cable. Other than this minor issue, the design of the Pro875B is immaculate, and the designers at DFI have done a superb job.