..:: 915A03-P-8EKRS Layout: Northbridge Area ::..
As far as Northbridge cooling goes, Foxconn has implemented a large, aluminum heatsink that has been anodized green. In our review of Albatron’s i915G motherboard, we found that passive cooling solutions weren’t the best option for cooling out there, especially when the systems were placed under heavy load. We found temperatures exceeding 60C on the Northbridge when it was under full load. The heatsink on the 915A03-P-8EKRS fared a little better, but in the core area of the heatsink, we still found temperatures above 50C. An active cooling solution would’ve been a much better option on these Northbridge chips. This heating problem will certainly affect overclocking capabilities no doubt; we saw this same problem with the Albatron board at default voltages, and we’ll likely see this happen again with the 915A03-P-8EKRS.
The area to the left of the i915P Northbridge chip is quite clean featuring no more than a few capacitors, an IDT clock generator chip, and the secondary, 12V core voltage power connector. Normally, this are houses items ranging from audio controllers to LAN controllers, but this is not the case with the 915A03-P-8EKRS. I was quite surprised to find this are as clean and clear of any major components as I did. Clearly, the main items of importance with the Northbridge area is the heatsink itself, and whether or not it will end up being up to the challenge when it comes to keeping things running stably when we kick this board into gar and do some overclocking.
..:: 915A03-P-8EKRS Layout: Expansion Area ::..
The expansion slot portion of the 915A03-P-8EKRS features a single x16 PCI-Express slot, along with three x1 PCI-Express slots. At the bottom of the board, we also find three regular PCI slots. This is generally the typical setup found on most of these i925X and i915P motherboards, although some manufacturers only allow for two x1 connections as one lane is used for a Gigabit Ethernet controller. 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 915A03-P-8EKRS‘s onboard LAN support, the Realtek RTL8110S Gigabit Ethernet controller. Much like what we have seen with other manufacturers, this is a regular PCI implementation. I would like to see Foxconn add a Gigabit controller that uses the PCI-E lane, rather than older, and slower PCI. Some manufacturers have been able to get around this issue by providing one connection for each.
Below the Gigabit Ethernet controller, we find the High Definition Audio CODEC that Foxconn has chosen to power the 915A03-P-8EKRS, the Realtek ALC880. 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. If we take a quick look above the CODEC chip, we see that Foxconn has added in a single four-pin audio connection, while there is only silk screening and solder points that would allow for a second auxiliary connection as well.
The next set of important items can be found along the bottom edge of the motherboard, underneath the last PCI slot. Here, we find the bright read front panel audio header, which is located in an excellent position to allow for proper and clean cable routing throughout the case should the user want to utilize any of their front panel ports. This area also houses the system buzzer, along with the Wake-On-LAN connector, as well as the S/PDIF connection for the included expansion bracket.
Lastly, we’re going to take a look at the components located in the open area to the right of the x1 PCI-Express connections as this area is what we would still classify as the expansion slot portion of the motherboard. This are houses the required components for the 915A03-P-8EKRS’s IEEE1394 support, those being the VIA controller chip, as well as the bright orange header to allow for connection to a rear expansion bracket. This is an interesting add-on, but considering there was no expansion bracket for support of this feature in the product package, it is a bit useless unless the user goes out and purchases their own expansion bracket.