Soltek SL-915GPro-FGR - Page 5

..:: SL-915GPro-FGR Layout: Southbridge / DIMM Area ::..

The Southbridge portion of the motherboard is quite cluttered with electrical items, and system connectors / chips. Even with this being so, Soltek has still been able to provide a solid layout of items that will be utilized most often. To start things off, we see both of the USB headers arranged neatly along the bottom of the PCB, followed closely by the front case fan three-pin power supply. Just above these items, we find the system BIOS, and one feature that was more typically found on competing high performance boards, an LED POST code block. This is one of my favorite inclusions on a motherboard as it makes my life substantially easier when attempting to solve hardware conflicts and other issues that can come up when testing or when operating under normal conditions. Iíd love to see these included on every high performance board on the market.

In the extreme lower right hand corner of the board, we find only three small items for the SL-915GPro-FGR. Along the bottom edge of the PCB, we see the front panel header for connecting all of the various system LEDís, along with the power and reset switches. There is also a red LED in this area named ďLED3Ē which has no documented specific function. Above, we find a rectangular chip that sports one of the Soltek holographic stickers. This sticker is commonly found on the RAID controllers, and this is indeed the case here. Soltek has provided an ITE IDE RAID controller chip for the SL-915GPro-FGR. This adds an additional two IDE connectors, as well as IDE RAID support for those who havenít moved over to Serial ATA drives just yet.

The ICH6-R Southbridge chip is passively cooled by a silver heatsink, emblazon with the Soltek namesake. This cooler is held down by two spring loaded pins, the most common implementation for these new Southbridge heatsinks. On various other boards, weíve seen manufacturers neglect to put on Southbridge heatsinks, though Soltek has chosen to include one. These ICH6-R chips can indeed become quite warm, so Iíd suggest picking up some added cooling for your Southbridge should it not come with any form of passive cooling.

The area to the right side of the ICH6-R chip houses all four of the Serial ATA connectors, as well as the one IDE connector supported by the ICH-6, and the remaining two that are supported by the ITE IDE RAID controller. Soltek has chosen to assign two colors to the different Serial ATA connectors to help the end user determine which is Serial ATA 0 versus Serial ATA 2, for example. The same has been done for the IDE connectors; the ICH6-R supported one being purple, while the ITE supported connectors are yellow. Above these connectors, we see several core components for one of the voltage supplies, likely that of the DDR or PCI-E.

Finally, we come across the DIMM slots. Here, we see that Soltek has not opted to go with different colors for the two DDR channels; rather all four of the DIMM slots are purple. This is common on Soltek motherboards, if you havenít noticed by this point in time. There is one LED located underneath the DIMM slots, which is simply used to show that the DRAM has power. The main items of interest are the power supply connections in the top right corner of the board. Soltek has opted to go with the older, 20-pin ATX connector for the SL-915GPro-FGR. There are marking on the board that allow for the 24-pin ATX connector, and this type of PSU can still be used with the board. The four-pin core voltage connector is located above the DIMM slots, my favorite positioning for cable routing, but one that is far from common.

Overall, I feel Soltek has done an excellent job with the design of the SL-915GPro-FGR, though there are a few minor issues that pop up. The location of the front panel audio header is, as always, one of my main issues with the board. This is a common gripe that I have with several boards, so this isnít uncommon at all. Another is the location of the floppy connector. As flash devices become more common, cheaper, and more useful, the floppy connector location wonít be nearly as important as it was a few years ago. Iíd still prefer to see this located high up on the PCB for cable routing and reach purposes. The main proís of the board are the Debug LED, as well as the excellent layout of the various Serial ATA and IDE connectors. The power supply headers have also been placed in optimal positions for cable routing, and should allow for a very clean interior.