abit AG8 - Page 5

..:: AG8 Layout: Southbridge & Memory Area ::..

The Southbridge portion of the motherboard is quite cluttered with both core electrical items, and core system connections and chips. Even though this area has scattered capacitors, inductors, and other items throughout, ABIT has still managed to provide a nice layout of the most important bits and pieces that you’ll be utilizing most often. Some item placements, however, aren’t so user friendly. As the floppy drive has continued its downward spiral into nothingness, we’ve seen motherboard manufacturers begin to place this connector lower and lower on the PCB. ABIT has done this before, and have done so again with the AG8 design. The floppy connection is on the bottom edge of the PCB, although unlike the AA8-DuraMAX, the TI IEEE1394 controller and headers are located near the PCI-E x1 slots, and not towards the bottom edge of the board. This is due to the restricted horizontal size of the AG8 versus the AA8-DuraMAX.

In the extreme lower right hand corner of the board, we find the three core components that make up the AG8’s system BIOS, tweaking selections, and error monitoring. This portion of the board also houses the main front panel header, as well as the five-pin, black header for connecting ABIT’s own “Guru Clock”, a recently announced device that I can’t wait to get my hands on. Above these headers, we have the system BIOS chip, as well as the digital LED POST code display, system battery, and the Clear CMOS jumper. The uGuru chip which completes the BIOS portion of the motherboard is located to the left of this bulk of chips, located a little above the end of the floppy connector. The POST code display is one of my favorite items to see included on a motherboard. I don’t know about you, but trying to remember beep codes for the different BIOS manufacturers can be a little of a hassle. Cheers to ABIT for bringing this feature to the AG8, as well as the AA8-DuraMAX.

The ICH6 Southbridge chip is covered by a rather unique heatsink. First off, these new ICH6 chips are the first Southbridge chips I have known that require some form of passive cooling. The heatsinks that have been mounted on these chips all become a little warm to the touch after the system has been running for some time, something that I have never really noticed in the past. This just goes to show the advancements within the core that have been made with PCI-Express, Intel’s DMI which operates much faster than the older bus, etc. The heatsink that covers the ICH6 comes with a little ABIT branding in that the word “ABIT” is cut out from the heatsink. This adds a little flare to the functionality of the unit.

The area to the right of the ICH6 chip houses an array of small capacitors, as well as the single, side-mounted connection along the right edge of the PCB, something ABIT has done before. Here, we also find all four of the Serial ATA connections that are supported natively by the ICH6 Southbridge chip. The ICH5 Southbridge only offered native support of two Serial ATA drives, and now with the advancements made to the ICH6 Southbridge, such as ATAPI support, we now have the capability to support four Serial ATA devices.

On the other side of the ICH6 Southbridge, we find only a few items of real importance to us. This area houses both of the blue USB 2.0 headers for use with the included expansion bracket. Both of these headers are surrounded by capacitors, as well as a Winbond PWM controller, and other elements that make up the voltage supply hardware located here. Located a little closer to the x1 PCI-E slots, there is also a 14.3MHz clock crystal, as well as the IDT CV115 clock control chip.

Finally, we come across the DIMM slots. Here, we can see that, as is typical for DDR motherboards, each channel has been represented with a different DIMM color. Along the right side of the DIMM slots, we find the new 24-pin ATX connection. These PSU’s are almost impossible, or incredibly expensive, to come by at this point but the AG8 is backwards compatible with the PSU you’re using today, so you’ll have no problems with the switch. All that need to be done is mount the 12V ATX connector so the bottom four pins are left unconnected.

Much like what we initially saw with both the Intel and ABIT i925X motherboard, the AG8 is covered in electrical devices that are required to generate all of the various voltages required by the processor, PCI-Express, DDR and more. Given this, we were once again more than happy with the layout of the components. ABIT has done quite a nice job with the layout of the most important connections and headers, especially considering the lessened PCB available to the designers. The floppy connector, as well as the rear left fan connector could’ve been placed better, but think we can get by with these locations. The only problem with the floppy connector is airflow could be disrupted on its way up to the graphics card and processor. The main power connections are in ideal positions as well. Overall the AG8, as with the AA8-DuraMAX, ships with a solid design that should suit the needs of all who use it.