..:: Layout: Northbridge Area ::..
The Intel i82875P Northbridge is covered by a fairly large, Aluminum heatsink which is held down by two lever-like locks. These lock down mechanisms were often seen used on the older i845PE motherboards. Although it features no form of active cooling, this cooling unit does a pretty decent job of keeping the i82875P 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. If you’re like me and prefer thermal paste, you can always use the included packet that is provided in the product package. Both the i82875P and the heatsink are oriented on a 45 degree angle to the bottom of the processor socket in order to shorten the signaling traces.
If we take a look to the left of the i82875P Northbridge, we come across several of the main and most important components dealing with the core voltage power supply, and thermal monitoring. This area is home to the main voltage regulator for the core voltage power supply, along with the Attansic chip which is responsible for thermal monitoring. If the system goes above a given value, this chip will immediately cut power to the processor, and shutdown the system for safety. Here we also come across a second voltage regulator, a pair of small MOSFET’s, and finally the four-pin 12v core voltage power connection accompanied by a small inductor and several capacitors.
..:: Layout: Expansion Slot Area ::..
As usual, the next stop on our trek around the P4I875P DRAGON 2 PE’s PCB is the expansion slot area. This is, as usual, 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 Pro 8x/4x slot, and five PCI slots. The AGP slot features a locking mechanism that we have not seen in quite some time. Instead of the usual lock the closes when you install the card, this is a sliding lock. You simply install the card, and slide the lock over into place. The red LED that is placed to the left of the AGP slot will light when a 3.3v card has been installed, and thus signals to the user that the system will not work.
The bulk of the chips and connectors that we will come across in this area of the board are generally limited to the onboard audio and ethernet devices. The first chip that we come across is located under the rear I/O panel, and it is the Intel 82547EI Gigabit Ethernet LAN controller chip, since the P4875P DRAGON 2 PE utilizes the new CSA bus. There is a fairly small header located above it. This header is for the microphone and LAN LED status indicator connections. It allows for these connections to be extended outward to the front panel of the computer case.
Located between PCI slots one and two, we come across the CMedia CMI 8738 PCI hardware audio chip. The CMedia chips features 2/4/6 channel audio, along with HRTF 3D positional audio technology. It also feature support for S/PDIF In and Out, among other features that we have already seen. The three main audio header / connectors are all located between PCI slots three and four. Here we find the white auxiliary audio input, the black CD audio in header, and finally the black case speaker connector. The final audio component in this area is located below the CMedia chip and houses two white jumpers. This header is where you would connect the rear expansion bracket cable for center channel & LFE channel audio.
Finally, we come across the VIA VT6306 IEEE1394 controller chip, located to the left of PCI slot number four. The two, bright red headers that are located along the bottom edge of the motherboard’s PCB are supported by this VIA chip, and are where you would plug-in the expansion cables for IEEE1394 support. Last up, we come across the Game Port onboard connector. Since the rear I/O panel does not feature a Midi Game Port, this is where you would be able to gain support for one if you purchased a rear bracket.