The Motherboard Continued
Now on to the expansion ports and the controlling force of the board. First off we have the slots - two PCI Express x16 slots are provided for Crossfire graphics. If you have only a single graphics card, place it into the blue slot. This will give the graphics card the entire 16 PCI Express lanes. When a second graphics card is inserted into the yellow slot, 8 of the PCI Express lanes from the blue slot are routed to the second PCI Express slot. Along with the x16 slots are three PCI Express x1 slots for additional add-in components. Lastly are the two PCI slots for adding in older TV tuners and sound cards, which still use PCI slots.
The chipset used is the new Intel P965 Northbridge combined with the ICH8R Southbridge. The Northbridge support Intel's new Core series CPU along with the older Pentium 4, Pentium D and Celeron D processors. Along with this is an upgraded DDR-2 memory controller supporting up to DDR2-800 and up to a total of 8GB of RAM.
The ICH8R Southbridge is the latest instalment for the Intel ICH series. It adds in two more SATA-II ports, two extra USB 2.0 ports which are routed through two EHCI controllers. One thing that has been removed entirely from the ICH8R series is the IDE controller, which we think was a bad move. Why? How many SATA based ATAPI DVD drivers are out there? Not many at all. 99% of ATAPI drives are still IDE based, so Intel has lucked out here.
Now it comes to the IDE dilemma. Since the ICH8R doesn't support any IDE channels, how can we install IDE CD or DVD drives? This is where the JMicron PCI Express chip comes in. This chip supports two SATA-II ports which are the purple coloured and a single Parallel ATA channel, which is the green IDE port. This chipset runs through the PCI Express x1 bus, so there is no bottleneck of the PCI bus here. The two SATA-II ports on this chipset support RAID 0, 1 and 0+1. Behind the SATA-II ports of the JMicron chip is a Texas Instruments PCI Firewire controller chip. This chipset supports three Firewire port - one is on the rear I/O, the last two are headers on the board for front panel Firewire.