Soltek SL-915GPro-FGR - Page 4

..:: SL-915GPro-FGR Layout: Northbridge Area ::..

The SL-915GPro-FGR comes outfitted with a rather small cooling solution. We’ve never seen Soltek take to the high performance Northbridge cooling market, and this is the same trend with the SL-915GPro-FGR. The Northbridge cooler is nothing more than an Aluminum passive cooling solution. I would’ve preferred to see a more substantial heatsink being sported by the SL-915GPro-FGR, especially when you take into consideration the built-in graphics chip that only adds more heat to the already hot i915G Northbridge chip. Throughout testing, this Northbridge did become quite warm. Although some of the heat was due to the processor, there can be no doubt about that fact. The heatsink is held down by two spring-loaded retention clips, the most common form of implementation.

The area to the left of the i915G Northbridge chip is quite cluttered with a large array of capacitors and other electrical systems related devices. This area houses one of the three-pin fan power connectors. This fan connection could be put into use for either a Northbridge fan, or perhaps a rear system exhaust fan. Unlike the Intel motherboards we have dealt with so far, we have only seen a few four pin fan connections implemented into boards coming out of Taiwan. These fans aren’t yet in common use, so it is understandable why these connections wouldn’t be put into full service as of yet, but this is one aspect we’ll begin to look more into as time progresses forward. The remaining item in this portion of the board is the common Realtek 8110S Gigabit LANB Controller. This is a PCI based controller, which is always a bit disappointing on boards with PCI-E lanes that could be used instead.

..:: SL-915GPro-FGR Layout: Expansion Area ::..

The expansion slot portion of the SL-915GPro-FGR features a single x16 PCI-Express slot, along with three x1 PCI-Express slots. At the bottom of the board, we also find two regular PCI slots. This is a typical setup found on most of these i925X/XE and i915P/G motherboards. As there are no real 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. As more of these PCI-Express solutions hit the market based on the different connections, we’ll see more of the x2 or x4 connections make their way onto motherboards. By then, the number of lanes will be expanded to accompany these new devices in larger quantities.

The majority of the core components for this portion of the board are, as always, located along the rear edge of the PCB. At the top of this section, right under the rear I/O panel we find that the SL-915GPro-FGR ships with a Realtek ALC850 AC97’ audio CODEC. Most of the i925X/XE motherboards will ship with the 880 CODEC, known for the higher quality audio capabilities of HD Audio versus the outdated AC 97’ standards. The audio provided by this CODEC, however, it still quite nice in comparison to older models, and also boasts more features than previous implementations. The front panel header is also located in the vicinity of the rear I/O panel, and falls in a typical place, one that I feel is a little too high to allow for optimal cable routing.

Next up, we find that Soltek has chosen the VIA VT6307 for their IEE1394 support. This is a common IEE1394 chip found on both VIA chipset based motherboards, and other chipset based boards throughout the industry. The red header that is located just above this chip provides support for a rear expansion bracket connection. I have always found it rather peculiar that manufacturers such as Soltek have chosen to include support for IEEE1394 devices, yet fail to provide a useful expansion bracket with the product package. Why should someone who utilizes these devices choose this board over another competing board that does include these items? Nevertheless, it just goes to show a trend we’ve seen lately with less and less items being included with product packages.

The last items that we come across in the expansion slot portion of the SL-915GPro-FGR are the ITE Super I/O chip, along with some other headers that also deal with the legacy support options of the ITE Super I/O controller. This ITE chip is responsible for the PS/2, Serial, and Parallel ports, as well as support the various other legacy connections provided. It also provides for the system monitoring hardware for temperatures, fan RPM readings, etc. Along the bottom edge of the board, we find a large header for use with an expansion bracket based parallel port, as well as the floppy connector. I still hate to see the floppy connectors located in such a manner, especially for cable routing / reach purposes, but given the fact floppies USB flash devices are used more commonly amongst enthusiasts it’s an acceptable placement.