Soltek PT880PRO-FGR - Page 4

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

The area around the PT880 Northbridge is very clean with virtually null and void items located within the general vicinity of it. The Northbridge itself is placed in quite close proximity with the bottom edge of the heatsink retention bracket though. The heatsink that Soltek has chosen to use with the PT880 Northbridge is nothing special, just your typical Aluminum extruded heatsink with no form of active cooling. The heatsink is held on to the Northbridge via two spring loaded pins, which we couldn’t manage to break loose. Throughout our testing period, this heatsink never became very warm, even with a “Prescott” core Pentium 4 running right beside it, so I’d say it’s a good enough implementation for the PT880.

The area of the PCB to the left of the PT880 Northbridge is a far cry from the open terrain we just saw. This area houses several core components for the motherboard’s power supply, and some remaining items such as two clock crystals and some jumper sets. The first two items we notice here are the main ATX power connection, along with the four-pin core voltage power connector. The main ATX connector has been colored purple to match the scheme of the board, but the 12V connection has not. Both of these connectors are surrounded by capacitors, or in the case of the secondary connector, capacitors and an inductor. The remaining capacitors that we’ll come across in this portion of the board, and generally the remainder of the board, are all manufactured by Taiwan Ostor Corporation, or OST. All of these remaining capacitors also feature a leakage of 0.01CV, or 3uA as did the United Chemi-Con capacitors that were used for the processor’s power supply.

If you take a look below the main ATX power connector, you’ll notice a small, six-pin jumper block. This jumper block can be used to manually determine the FSB setting for the processor on the motherboard. The default setting is for “Auto” of course, so if you were to purchase this board today, it’d ship to you ready to roll for whatever processor you might chose to place in it. Along the left hand side of the 12V power connector, we also see a white, three-pin fan power connection. This connection is to be used with a rear case fan, and is placed high enough on the board so that even fans with shorter cable lengths should be able to work just fine. There are several small OST capacitors around it, but it shouldn’t interfere with connection at any time. The last jumper block is along the rear I/O panel, behind the audio ports. This is the front panel audio header, and as usual, I’d much rather see this header located in a position that would be more easily accessible to front panel ports without having to deal with cable routing problems.

..:: Layout: Expansion Slots ::..

The PT880PRO-FGR features the typical expansion slot setup that is commonly seen on just about every ATX motherboard on the market with a single AGP4X/8X slot, and five PCI 2.3 compliant slots. When you pull the motherboard out of the box, you’ll notice a warning label attached the length of the AGP slot warning you about compatibility problems. If you’re running on an older AGP 2X graphics adapter, you won’t be able to run it in this motherboard, as has become more common, since it will only allow for 4X/8X. Generally, this portion of the board is home to several of the core chipsets that make up the features, and the PT880PRO-FGR follows right in line with this setup.

The first chip that we come across is located along the left hand side of the AGP 4X/8X slot, and that is VIA’s VT6122 Cicada PHY which allows for the PT880PRO-FGR’s Gigabit Ethernet capabilities. This area also houses a single, two-pin jumper block that allows the user to disable the VT6122 if they wish to utilize their own PCI based solution. This jumper does not ship with a parked jumper of any sort, so if you’re planning to disable the VT6122, you’d better have a spare jumper ready to go.

Next up, we find the VIA VT6307 IEEE1394 chip. This is a popular chip that is commonly used on VIA based motherboards to complete the “VIA Package” as I generally refer to it. There is silk screening positioned just below the VT6307 labeled “DCOM2” although there is no header in this position. Whether it is for an audio related header, or something else we are still not quite sure. The onboard IEEE1294 header is actually located along the bottom edge of the PCB, and is bright red in color. I like the positioning of this header as it will allow for cabling to be run along the bottom portion of the casing to avoid any airflow disruptions. The last chip that we find in the expansion slot portion of the PT880PRO-FGR is the VIA VT1616 AC97’ CODEC. This CODEC is at the heart of VIA’s Vinyl Audio solutions, although it doesn’t feature the sound reproduction capabilities of its Envy24 brethren. Nonetheless, the audio reproduction is quite good, although I was hoping for better low frequency sound.