Gigabyte GA-7VAXP Ultra - Page 4

..:: Layout: Northbridge Area ::..

The VIA KT400 Northbridge is covered by a relatively large, gold plated heatsink. The heatsink itself is also equipped with a small fan for active cooling. This cooling unit does a nice job of keeping the KT400 Northbridge running cool and keeping things running nice and stable. When I attempted to remove the heatsink from the Northbridge, I found that it is attached via a thermal pad. Iíd much rather see a thermal paste used here, although given the nature of the product, there really isnít much of a need for it. If you did feel like throwing some better thermal paste on there, youíd have to pull out the old hair dryer and credit card / screwdriver. Oh how I donít miss those days, heh. One item of note about the placement of the Northbridge is that it is located very close to the bottom of the processor socket. I had a bit of trouble mounting my Thermalright SLK-800 here simply due to my finger being a bit too large to comfortably fit when lodged between the Northbridge heatsink and the SLK-800. This isnít a big problem but it is something to take note of. There is also a large amount of space between the AGP slot and the Northbridge.

If we take a look to the left of the KT400 Northbridge, we come across the mass of electrical components that can be normally seen along the left hand edge of the processor socket. Here we can see that the GA-7VAXP utilizes a three-phase power design. This area also houses the Northbridge fan power connector. This area is also home to several different capacitors as you can see from the image above.

..:: Layout: Expansion Slot Area ::..

The next stop on our trek around the GA-7VAXP Ultraís PCB is of course, the expansion slot area. This is where things begin to get much busier as far as components and chips go. The expansion slot setup will do a decent good job of pleasing enthusiasts and OEMís with one AGP 8x/4x/2x slot, and five PCI slots. Some users may be a bit disappointed at the lack of a sixth PCI slot, although if you ask me, five PCI slots should be enough to suit most anyoneís needs. The first thing you may notice is that, once again, there is that apple green color, only this time itís the AGP slot. This color for the AGP slot signifies that this is an AGP 8x capable motherboard.

To the immediate left of the AGP slot, we come across the ITE IT8705F system monitoring chip. This is the chip that is responsible for monitoring critical system temperatures, voltages, and is also responsible for several other processes such as these. This area also houses the large majority of the audio components. The smaller header that is oriented north to south is the connector for the rear audio expansion bracket, while the header oriented east to west equipped with the jumpers is the front panel audio header. I have said it before, and Iíll say it again, Iíd much prefer to see this header placed farther down the board as we saw with our last review of Intelís D845PEBT2. Below these headers, we come across the white Aux_In audio connector, and the black CD_In audio connectors, along with the Realtek ALC650 audio codec. We have experienced some very nice sound from this codec, and the Gigabyte GA-7VAXP Ultraís audio did not disappoint.

The next items that we come cross are the IR and SCR headers. The IR header itself is located just below PCI slot #2, while the SCR header is located between PCI slots #1 and #2. A little farther down the board, next to PCI slot #4, we come across the Realtek RTL8100BL 10/100 Ethernet LAN Controller chip. There are also two three-pin headers located below the last PCI slot. The black header is for S/PDIF support, while the red connector is for S/PDIF In support. The last items of note that are located below the last PCI slot are the Wake On Ring, and Wake On LAN connectors. There are also solder points for a BIOS Write Protection jumper to be included on the GA-7VAXP Ultra.