MSI 845 Ultra-AR - Page 5

..:: Layout: Southbridge & Memory Area ::..

The lower left corner is jam packed with items. First off, we have the Promise PDC20276 RAID controller which is situated next to PCI Slot #5. The Promise Controller allows for support of ATA/133 hard drives in normal, or in 0,1 RAID arrays. To the right on the Promise Controller, we come across IDE3 and IDE4. These two bright yellow connectors are the primary and secondary IDE connectors for the Promise Controller. They are aligned horizontally with good space in-between. The user shouldnít have nay problems using these two IDE connectors due to their excellent positioning.

Directly below the Promise Controller is the onboard USB connector for the two extra USB ports provided on MSIís D-Bracket. Yet another onboard USB connection is conveniently placed right next to this one. Both of these connectors are for USB 1.1 specs, however the white connector goes by Intelís specifications, while the black connector goes by MSIís specifications. All of the onboard USB connectors are optimally placed running along the bottom of the board. There is also a third three-pin fan connector located just to the right of these two ports.

In the extreme bottom right corner of the 845 Ultra-AR are the Infrared Module Header, Wake on Ring Connector, Wake on LAN Connector, and a single Front Panel Connector. The general user will more than likely never adopt the use of any of the previously mentioned items. The only one that will be getting a larger amount of usage would be the Front Panel Connector. This allows connections to the Front Panel LEDís Switches, etc. Some of you might use Infrared mice or keyboards, but those are more popular with modern laptops than anything desktop PC from my experience.

Next we have the AMI BIOS, Clear CMOS jumper, and of course, the Intel ICH2 Southbridge. The BIOS is placed along the right hand side of the board, directly above IDE4. The Clear CMOS jumper is optimally placed right next to the BIOS chip. The ICH2 Southbridge is slightly higher up on the board, just about equidistant between its own IDE Controllers, and the Promise RAID Controllers.

Last up on our trip around the motherboard is the area around the DIMMís. The 845 Ultra-AR comes along with the standard three DIMM slots providing support for up to 3GBs of PC1600 / PC2100 DDR SDRAM. Located along the right hand side of the DIMM slots are the Floppy Controller, along with the two IDE Controllers provided by the ICH2 Southbridge. The ATX Power connector is also located next to the Floppy Controller. This is good positioning, but I would prefer to see it run farther up on the board to help prevent blockage of airflow. Also along the top of the board, there are solder points for yet another three-pin power connector, this time for the power supply fan.

Overall, board design is looking pretty good. There are a few things Iíd like to see changed but itís understandable with how many components must be squeezed on such small boards. Now that you know the ups and downs of the design like the back of your hand, letís take a venture into the abyssÖI mean BIOS.