Gigabyte GA-8IEXP - Page 5

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

By far the most packed area of the board would easily be the lower right corner near the Southbridge area. Weíll start off by taking a look along the bottom of the board. Here we can see the Wake-On-LAN connector, along with three grey headers for the three IEEE1394 ports provided by the external bracket. Next to those are two more yellow headers for the USB 2.0 ports that are once again provided by an external bracket. Located directly above these two yellow USB 2.0 headers is the Promise PDC20276 RAID chip. As I have mentioned previously about this chip, it lacks support for RAID 0+1 mode as it only will support RAID 0 or RAID 1. The two green IDE connectors above the chip are the connectors for the RAID controller.

To the left of the two green IDE connectors are two more chips of interest. One would be the ITE IT8712F-A chip. This ITE chip is responsible for keeping track of the system voltages, temperatures, fan RPMís and all of the other highly important system monitoring tasks. Located directly below this chip, oriented upside down is the VIA VT6306 IEEE 1394 controller. This chip, if this already wasnít too obvious, supports the three IEEE 1394 ports that are provided by the external bracket. Located to the side of the VT3606 is a 24.576MHz clock crystal in case you didnít notice.

The area around the ICH4 Southbridge is very clean and free of any real large capacitors or other components. The main item of interest near the Southbridge is that of the common feature that Gigabyte boards are well known for, Dual BIOS. As you can see there are two separate BIOS chips here. This will come in handy for those of you who will want to try to push this board to its utmost limit with custom BIOSí while still having a stable BIOS to switch to when needed, and for those who happen to accidentally flash an improper BIOS. When you enter the BIOS youíll have the option on which BIOS chip to use, which to flash, etc. This is surely an important feature for the true enthusiasts out there. Near the BIOS chips there is also a single three-pin power connector for any system fans, along with a few headers for things such as BIOS Write Protection along with the KTS system battery. There is also another three-pin power connector for a system fan located directly above the system battery.

Next up we come across the floppy connector, along with the red and white IDE connectors. These connectors are powered by the ICH4 Southbridge and offer up support for drives up to ATA/100 specifications. We can also see the SmartIO W83L518D chip which gives support for the smart card reader (black), secure digital reader (orange), and memory stick reader (white). These features are well known for being on higher end boards such as Soyoís line of DRAGON motherboards and they are becoming more and more popular. Also you can see who was in charge of testing the motherboard as their names are screen printed on the motherboard. It seems Daniel was our hardware inspector, Roger handled the firmware, and Michael handled the testing. Itís always interesting to see little things like these on a motherboard. The last main components in this area are of course the three black DIMMís, the main 12V ATX power connector, and the IR header. On a side note, this is great positioning for the ATX power connector. Itís out of the way of any major items and isnít on the other half of the board where it can be detrimental to the airflow over the processor.

Overall the design of the GA-8IEXP is very well done with the exception of one or two small issues. Considering the amount of features packed onto the PCB of this board however, we wonít complain at all about those pesky little issues that exist with all boards. When we looked at the VIA P4PB 400 we thought that it packed a lot onto the PCB, but the Gigabyte GA-8IEXP one ups it this time. My only real complaint about the board is that the memory slots are too close to the processor socket / mounting brace. Other than that there really isnít too much that catches my eye that needs mentioning.