..:: PX915G Pro Layout: Northbridge Area ::..
The PX915G Pro follows in line with previous Albatron Northbridge coolers, given that they have mostly been passive solutions. With these new Northbridge chips, we’ve seen far more manufacturers throwing in active cooling solutions, and they are needed. Throughout our testing, we found that this cooler alone, with no cooling fan was rather inadequate. As the analogy goes, a warm heatsink is a working heatsink, but a hot heatsink is an overworked heatsink. This cooler managed to get a little more than hot during normal system operation, even under open case, low ambient temperature situations. With no airflow to go over the Northbridge other than hot air being expelled from the CPU heatsink, this heatsink is overworked. This heating problem will certainly affect overclocking capabilities no doubt, especially with Albatron pressing the fact that upping the Northbridge voltage can help overclocking. Upping the Northbridge voltage might help, but when you’re dealing with an already hot chip, raising the voltage isn’t the brightest idea.
The area to the left of the i915G Northbridge chip is quite clean featuring two fan power headers, as well as the PC915G Pro’s secondary 12V core voltage power supply connection. I still prefer to see this located farther up the PCB for airflow purposes, though with the slim size of the cable this implementation works nicely as well. The four-pin fan power connection comes in next, followed by the three-pin power connection for a rear exhaust fan. This three-pin connection is located along the top edge of the x16 PCI-Express slot, whereas the four-pin connector is closer to the processor socket. Other than a few additional resistors, capacitors, inductors, and other electrical items, this portion of the board is once again quite clean, though something needs to be done about the Northbridge heatsink if you ask me.
..:: PX915G Pro Layout: Expansion Area ::..
The expansion slot portion of the PX915G Pro features a single x16 PCI-Express slot, along with two x1 PCI-Express slots. At the bottom of the board, we also find three regular PCI slots. This is generally going to be the typical setup found on most of these i925X and i915P motherboards for some time to come. We’ve seen boards with three x1 PCI-Express slot and two PCI slots as well. Due to the lack of PCI-Express products out there at this time that use the x1 connection, or any other besides x16, we’ll see mostly x1 and x16 connections for some time.
The majority of the components in this area of the PCB are, as always, located along the rear edge of the motherboard. At the top of this section, right under the rear I/O panel we first find the main component dealing with the PX915G Pro’s onboard audio, the Realtek ALC880 HD Audio CODEC. The ALC880 offers full 7.1 channel audio support, features two 24-bit DACs and three 20-bit stereo ADCs for high quality, high resolution audio, and also features 32-bit, 96kHz support for both input and output S/PDIF connections. Interestingly enough, we find no auxiliary four-pin audio connections, or a front panel audio header located near the CODEC.
Next up, we find a feature for the PX915G Pro that was built into the GA-8ANXP-D reviewed last week, two separate Ethernet controllers. First off, we find the same Marvell Gigabit Ethernet chip. Albatron has been able to implement this chip into the PCI-Express bus, rather than using the aging PCI bus. We’ve seen some manufacturers such as ABIT attempt to free up some PCI-Express lanes by implementing Gigabit solutions into the PCI bus, but this will hamper performance and throughput in the end, so it’s nice to see Albatron tackle their Gigabit support by throwing the device on the PCI-Express bus.
Located right below the Marvell chip, we next come across the second Ethernet controller chip, this time manufactured by VIA. This VIA Ethernet controller is only a 10/100 chip, so Albatron has chosen to implement this chip into the regular PCI bus. We’ve seen this done once before with the GA-8ANXP-D motherboard from Gigabyte, so I’m thinking this is going to become a more popular implementation in upcoming motherboards based off of these new Intel chipsets. The area around both of these chips is clean, each having its own 25MHz clock crystal.
Lastly, we find an array of headers and connections that have been placed beneath the last PCI slot along the bottom edge of the PX915G Pro’s PCB surface. The system BIOS chip is located in the bottom left hand corner of the board, and is soldered directly to the motherboard itself. As far as the headers and connections go, we now find several of the audio related headers that we expected to find by the ALC880 CODEC. Albatron has heard our cry and moved all of the primary and secondary audio headers to the bottom portion of the motherboard. This location for the CD audio, S/PDIF header, MIDI Game Port, and Front Panel Audio headers allows for easy cable routing, and prevent cables from being run throughout the case interior, thereby creating a possibility for dead air zones.