..:: Layout: Northbridge Area ::..
The Intel 82845PE Northbridge is covered by a relatively large, gold plated heatsink which we have begun to see more of lately on Gigabyte motherboards. The heatsink itself is also equipped with a small fan for active cooling. This cooling unit does a nice job of keeping the 82845PE 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 as we saw in previous reviews. I’d much rather see a thermal paste used here, although given the nature of the product, there really isn’t much of a need for it. If you did feel like throwing some better thermal paste on there, you’d have to pull out the old hair dryer and credit card / screwdriver. One item of note about the placement of the Northbridge is that it is located very close to the bottom of the retention mechanism. The remaining area in the immediate vicinity of the Northbridge is clean and clear of any larger components. To the lower left of the Northbridge we also can see the small LED that will light when a 2X graphics card is placed in the AGP slot.
If we take a look to the left of the 82845PE Northbridge, we come across the first items dealing with the onboard audio. Here, we have the front panel audio connection header, along with the black CD audio plug in. I don’t particularly care for this location for the front panel audio header, and as I have always said, I would prefer it to be located farther down the board to avoid any cable routing mess. This area of the board is also home to the Intel RC82540EM Gigabit Ethernet LAN controller.
..:: Layout: Expansion Slot Area ::..
As usual, the next stop on our trek around the GA-8PE800 Ultra’s PCB is the expansion slot area. This is where things will begin to get much busier as far as components and chips go. The expansion slot setup will do a good job of pleasing enthusiasts and OEM’s with one AGP 4x/2x slot, and five PCI slots. The first thing you may notice is that, once again, there is another color connector only this time it’s the AGP slot. This purple color for the AGP slot signifies that this is an AGP 4x capable motherboard. If the slot were an apple green color, it would signify that the board was actually AGP 8x capable.
The bulk of the chips and headers that have been placed along the rear of the board mainly deal with the onboard audio for the GA-8PE800. The first header we come across is located next to PCI slots one and two. This red header is the onboard connector for the S/PDIF connections that are provided by the included rear expansion bracket. If you plan on utilizing the S/PDIF in or out functions of the bracket, you’ll need to plug the connector into this header.
The next item that we come across is another of the four-pin audio connections. This white connector is the auxiliary input, unlike the black connector which was placed farther up the board that provided support for CD audio. Normally these connectors are placed close to each other, although with the PCB design of the GA-8PE800, they are split up as are most of the audio components. The next item below this connector is the ALC650 audio codec itself, along with the necessary clock crystal. Lastly, we come across a second small, black header. This is yet another header for the rear audio bracket. This header is for the subwoofer and center channel speakers if you happen to need them.
The last remaining item along the rear of the PCB is the ITE IT8712F chip. This chip has twelve logical devices integrated into it. This chip is responsible for monitoring all of the system critical temperatures, voltages, fan readings, etc. It features the “Smart Guardian” technology that allows the system to adjust fan speed on the fly in order to keep the system as quiet as possible. This chip also features a built in Smart Card Reader. This device also allows for support of the parallel port, floppy connection, keyboard and mouse PS/2 connections and of course the midi port.
Finally, we come across all of the IEEE1394 hardware, located under the bottom of the last PCI slot along the edge of the PCB. Here, we can see that Gigabyte has opted to go with VIA’s VT6306 chip for all of the FireWire support. We can see two gray headers in this area, both behind for the rear expansion bracket that comes along with the motherboard. The included bracket is rather unique in the fact that it has one regular IEEE1394 connector, while it has a second smaller connector which is more commonly found on other devices such as MP3 players and digital cameras. This area also houses the clock crystal for the VT6303 chip.