..:: Layout: Southbridge & Memory Area ::..
The bottom right corner of the P4PA-UL is very clean of capacitors and other large electronic items. The onboard Smartcard Reader is placed along the bottom edge of the board, along with the Wake-On-LAN and Infrared connectors. The front panel connectors run vertically along the right edge of the board and can easily be configured using the silk screening around them.
Just above the front panel connectors is the system BIOS, along with the built-in system speaker and the third onboard three-pin power connector. We have begun to see many manufacturers begin to implement these onboard buzzers into their motherboards. With the ever hotter PC’s these buzzers are becoming more and more important to keeping the user warned if anything goes wrong.
To the right of PCI slots four and five, we find the onboard ITE system monitoring chip. This is the chip responsible for all of the voltage readings, fan RPM readings, and temperature readings among other things. Located directly above this is the system battery, along with the >b>only jumper on the board, the green clear CMOS jumper. As we move further up the board, we also come across the VIA VT8233A South Bridge.
Last up we have the IDE / DIMM area. There are three DIMM slots onboard, which can support a maximum of 3GB PC1600 / PC2100 DDR, which are placed right next to each other. This could be a possible problem for those using heat spreaders such as those from Thermaltake. The closeness of the DIMM slots could cause interaction between the RAM, and put unwanted pressure upon the sticks. The DIMM’s are also positioned too closely to the AGP slot. I found that to add in a stick of RAM, you first had to remove the graphics board to be safe. Not a big deal, just annoying. The IDE connectors and floppy connector are ideally placed on the board. They run along the right edge of the board towards the top portion of the board.
Overall, I love this board design. It is indeed one of the best I have come across, although there are a few things that I’d like to see changed, but then again when isn’t there? Heh. The main issues are the lack of any thermal transfer compound between the North Bridge and Heatsink, and the DIMM slots are too close. Now, the board design is looking good, how is the BIOS?