We finally get to the main part which is what you're spending so much money on; the actual board itself. DFI has done a fantastic job on the layout of the board. Designed using an extremely dark brown ATX PCB measuring 30x24cm, it's a full sized monster. The 24-pin ATX power connector along with the IDE port are located behind the four memory slots. The 4/8 pin power combo port is located just behind the PS/2 ports.
The Serial ATA ports are located along the right hand edge of the board and are rotated 90 degrees; they are stacked two-up at a time in a total of four separate sections. There are six green coloured ports and two yellow ports; the green ports run off the ICH9R Southbridge while the two yellow ports run of the same JMicron PCI Express controller chip that runs the IDE port.
Moving along to the CPU area; DFI has gone the all-digital approach for the voltage regulation system. DFI uses an 8-phase regulator system with two CPU-4-50 controller chips designed to run even cooler than most normal voltage regulation systems. However, they do cost a bit more to implement.
Pressing onto the rear I/O ports, we see that the board doesn't have a huge arrangement of ports; most of the space is taken up by the external cooling system for the Mosfets. Unfortunately there are no eSATA ports or any digital audio ports on the back.
Going to our last section on the board, we have the expansion slots as well as the additional controllers that come with it. The board has all green slots so there aren't any different colour coding patterns for each type of slot. The board comes with a total of three PCI Express x16 slots for graphics; the top and middle slots run off the X48 Northbridge and both run at full x16 speed with PCI-E 2.0 spec support. The last PCI Express x16 slot runs off the Southbridge for adding in a third graphics card for Physics. A single PCI Express x1 slot makes up the last of the PCI-E expansions.
If you want to use the last PCI Express x16 slot at the full x4 speed, you can't use the PCI Express x1 slot without the last PCI-E x16 slot going back to x1 speeds. Lastly on the expansion slots there are three legacy PCI slots; hopefully soon we will see the end of PCI on motherboards and the addition of more PCI Express lanes to Southbridges that Intel release.
For the additional controllers, due to the ICH9 family not having any IDE support a JMicron JMB363 PCI Express to SATA/PATA controller chip gives the board its single IDE port as well as two SATA ports. For digital connection a VIA PCI based FireWire controller makes its way onboard. The LAN controllers are handled by two separate Marvell PCI-E network chips.
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