abit AG8 - Page 3

..:: AG8 Layout: Socket Area ::..

Now it’s time to begin working our way around the AG8’s PCB. Just to re-cap our new stance of design, here’s a copy of our previous statement…With these new chipsets from Intel, I have noticed that the motherboard surface itself has become far more cluttered, mainly due to voltage generation devices necessary for the DDR-II modules and PCI-Express. As we progress around this motherboard, as well as many in the future, we will undoubtedly see the days of extremely clean and clear PCB surfaces head the way of the dodo. Because of this, we’ve developed a new modus operandi when evaluating the layout of the motherboard. Instead of going merely for cleanliness, we’ll be putting more of an impact on components locations and orientations for the end user. Clean PCB’s are nice, but locations and ease of access are going to be far more important with these motherboards. Now that we have that point out of the way, let’s start our trek around the ABIT AG8.

The Socket T is oriented lengthwise from East to West across the motherboard. Due to the much improved mounting mechanics for the new LGA 775 processors, Intel has done away with the large retention bracket that was needed on the older Socket 478 implementations. The new mounting method simply requires pushing some pins through the four mounting holes, and you’re done. Our Gigabyte 3D-Cooler uses these holes to mount a 478-like retention mechanism, which goes to show that not all manufacturers will go with the simple four-pin mounting technique. Around the Socket T, you can see the various silk screened lines for the keep out and low profile component zones. With these motherboards, manufacturers can place low profile capacitors near the Socket T, such as the two that can be found near the upper left corner of the Socket.

One thing you might notice is the large silver strips that are laid out horizontally throughout the processor core voltage supply portion of the motherboard. These are the well known ABIT Overclocking Strips. Much as we saw with the AA8-DuraMAX, ABIT has brought back their Overclocking Strips in order to help with the power delivery and overclocking capabilities of their motherboards. These strips will be needed to helps deliver the power needed to the processor for overclocking, though with recent revelations it seems these strips are needed for the Northbridge instead. These strips run on both the top surface of the motherboard, as well as the back plane.

Another aspect that we’ll begin to see much more often on high end motherboards based off of the i925X and i915P chipsets is that motherboard manufactures have begun the move to four phase power delivery solutions. We can tell this simply by a visual inspection. Each of the four yellow core inductors is utilized by a single phase of the power delivery scheme utilized by the AG8, identical to that of the AA8-DuraMAX. With the power draw that is needed to keep these processors running full bore, motherboard manufacturers have developed four phase power delivery solutions to provide smooth, adequate power to the processor no matter the load condition. The main control chips are manufactured by Intersil, along with the MOSFET drivers.

The last components of note that are located in this vicinity are a few jumpers, and the secondary 12V power supply connection. The four-pin power connector has been placed in the upper left hand corner of the motherboard. This is an ideal position as it prevents cabling from being run around the heatsink, and possibly affecting airflow even with the small diameter of the wiring. Along the rear I/O panel, there are two yellow jumpers. If you’ve working with ABIT motherboards in the past, you’ll be familiar with these two jumpers and their responsibility. Each of these is your typical Wake-On jumpers, one for USB and one for PS/2. This portion of the motherboard has a layout that is nearly identical to that of the AA8-DuraMAX minus a few capacitor changes, etc.