Gigabyte GA-7VAXP Ultra - Page 5

..:: Layout: Southbridge & Memory Areas ::..

The bottom right hand corner of the Gigabyte GA-7VAXP Ultra is easily the most “cluttered” area of the PCB. This area of the PCB is also one of the most organized. The first items that jump out at you are the three grey headers, two yellow headers, and the multi-colored front panel header. These three grey headers are where you plug in the cables that run from the included FireWire expansion bracket ports to allow for support of FireWire devices. The two yellow headers serve the same purpose as the three FireWire headers, although these two headers are for the USB 2.0 expansion bracket that is included in the package. Next we come across the multi-colored front panel header. It wasn’t too long ago that Gigabyte decided to color code this header to further aid those in setting up the systems much quicker. There are also little “+”’s where the positive lead should connect. This is indeed a very helpful feature when setting up the board.

The next three items we come across are themselves located just above the series of FireWire and USB 2.0 headers. Located above the FireWire headers, we come across the VIA VT6306 chip that provides support for the motherboard’s FireWire capabilities and for the expansion bracket ports. This chip is actually oriented “upside down” most likely in order to shorten the leads from the chip to the headers. The other two items are located above the USB 2.0 headers, those being the two system BIOS’. Gigabyte has been known for their Dual BIOS feature, and I must say it is a very nice one to include for added safety. It also is a nice added feature due to the fact that when a new BIOS comes out, you can test it for improved performance or stability on your system.

Along the right hand edge of the board, we come across the items that will be of most importance and interesting to many users. Here we come across the Silicon Image Sil3112A Serial ATA RAID Controller, along with the Promise PDC20276 ATA/133 RAID Controller. Located below the Silicon Image chip are the two black Serial ATA connectors. If you plan on utilizing any Serial ATA devices, this is where you would need to plug in the cables for support. To the right of these chips is the VIA VT8235 Southbridge, along with another single switch DIP switch. This DIP switch allows you to set the “CPU Clock” to either 100MHz or Auto.

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 four IDE connectors. The pair with a single white connector and a single apple green connector is supported by the VIA VT8235 Southbridge, while the pair of apple green connectors located to their right is supported by the Promise ATA/133 RAID Controller. If you want to set up a RAID array, be sure to connect your drives to these two connectors. If you’re just utilizing a single drive system with a burner or other devices such as that, you can just use those connectors provided by the VIA VT8235 Southbridge. Just above these IDE connectors, we come across the floppy connector, along with the main ATX power connector. I much like the positioning of the ATX power connector as it is located nice and high on the PCB and far enough away from the processor socket that the cable should not have a negative effect upon the overall airflow of the system. Here we also come across the third, and last, three-pin power connector. The DIMM slots themselves are a purplish color in order to signify the fact that they support DDR400. They are located so that they will not interfere with mounting the graphics card. If you ever were to need to swap memory in or out, you would not need to remove the graphics card to do so as we have seen with other motherboards in the past.

Overall, the layout of the Gigabyte GA-7VAXP Ultra is very well done. My only main complaints deal with the fact that the Northbridge is located very close to the bottom edge of the processor socket and can make it a bit of an annoyance when mounting a larger heatsink unit. Another complaint that stems from this area is the lack of the four mounting holes for larger heatsinks such as the Swiftech’s or the Alpha’s. This will make those users quickly shy away from the GA-7VAXP Ultra as a plausible investment. The only other problem I have with the board is the lack of a three-pin power connector along the bottom portion of the board. All of these power connectors are located at the top of the motherboard, and if you happen to be using a graphics cooler that needs a three-pin connection you better have a long power cable or you’re going to run into some reach problems. Other than these points, I did take a bit of a liking towards the overall design of the GA-7VAXP Ultra, especially with the location of the FireWire and USB 2.0 headers, and the main ATX power connector.