Features of the EPoX EP-5PEA+
- Package and Contents
EPoX, as one of the biggest overclockers out there has paid more attention to the overclocking side of the system rather than a fancy package and contents - after all you can have all the extra features in the world, but if its all show and no go, you are simply just throwing money away. Though this may sound bleak don't dispar as there are enough features to get you going, including the new bonus pack EPoX is now including. Included are two user manuals, one for the motherboard and one for the IDE RAID controller. Along with this you get two Rounded IDE cables and one rounded FDD cable, a definite bonus for the tidy case freak. One Driver CD and one FDD make up the software package. In the Bonus pack is where your manuals, CD and Floppy lay along with a special little double ended screwdriver to put your system together as well as 8 small heatsinks, these are designed to go on to the mosfets in order to provide better cooling when using Prescott processors.
- The Motherboard in all its glory
EPoX, usually a designer of great boards has somehow lapsed on the 5PEA+. First off the placement of the power connector is in one of the worst spots available. Normally we complain about the 4 pin power connector being placed between the Northbridge heatsink and the I/O ports. This time EPoX has placed the 24pin ATX power connector here. This results in a huge amount of wires being routed around the CPU heatsink which reduces airflow. The Southbridge driven IDE and FDD connector are reasonably placed coloured in yellow and black, they sit below the DIMM sockets in parallel with them, keeping the cables and space to a minimum of clutter. The additional IDE controller ports are located below them in a horizontal position.
For the rest EPoX has done a great job. Expansion slot wise the board has all that you need for the latest in technology. On the PCI Express side you have an x16 slot for your graphics card and two of the x1 slots for add-on PCI-E Ethernet controllers, PCI-E soundcards due soon as well as PCI-E based SATA and SCSI controllers, depending on what you want. For the legacy side four PCI slots give you compatibility with currently available PCI devices like sound, SATA and SCSI controllers, though soon these will become a thing of the past, as PCI-E gains in popularity.
To drive the all powerful 5PEA+ motherboard, EPoX has chosen the Intel I915P Express Chipset, this consists of the I915P Northbridge and one of the four available ICH6 variety of Southbridge's. The Northbridge is where the twin memory controllers and the PCI-E primary links are located. The I915 series supports two memory controllers, the first is the currently popular DDR memory controller supporting up to DDR-400 in a 128-bit memory array or the latest DDR-2 memory. For the 5PEA+, EPoX has gone with DDR SDRAM support over the more expensive DDR-2. Four 186-pin DDR SDRAM sockets populate the board giving support for up to 6.4GB/s of bandwidth. Along with that, the I915P Northbridge supports 16 PCI Express lanes to give you the graphics interface, preventing any bottlenecks with the graphics cards 8GB/s link to the Northbridge.
The Southbridge used is the ICH6R. The ICH6 picks up where the ICH5 series left off, however there are four different varieties. EPoX has chosen to use the ICH6R to give 4 port Serial ATA with RAID 0, 1, 0+1, JBOD and Matrix RAID. Unfortunately Intel has elected to only supply one IDE port, so if you are thinking of upgrading your system with quite a few IDE units in it, you will need a board that has additional IDE controllers. A simple two HDD and a DVD-RW setup is impossible on the IDE bus, as only two IDE devices are supported, since Serial ATA CD drives are still few and far between, the IDE channel will be taken up by the CD drives. The ICH6 series Southbridge is where you find the PCI Express x1 slots linked to, they aren't linked to the Northbridge like VIA has done with its K8T890 or the upcoming PT890 series chipsets, however, to remove the bottleneck Intel has upgraded the 266MB/s Hub link to a new 2GB/s DMI link, capable if transmitting more than the required data to and from the Northbridge.
For cooling EPoX has gone silent. The I9xx series chipsets generate quite a bit of heat, so an extremely large heatsink is placed on the Northbridge held down with the clip design Intel uses for all its FC-BGA designs. The new Southbridge also generates more heat than its previous models due to the new high speed link, so a passive cooler is added to keep things cool. When under load the Northbridge heatsink does get very warm to the touch, the Southbridge gets warm but not overly hot - personally I would prefer an active solution on the I915P.
Ethernet has been around for ages. It has evolved from a 10mbps to the 100mpbs standards we use in our homes today. While this may have been enough in the past it is getting to the stages now that it really isn't fast enough as streaming media files at LAN's, playing multiplayer games and file sharing simply isn't feasible on 100mbps network now, in comes Gigabit. Once only the thing of fibre optic servers has now made its way to CAT classed networks, and will soon be the standard for all hubs and switches. To add compatibility with this, EPoX has added the Marvell Yukon 8001 Gigabit Ethernet controller. We are somewhat disappointed with the fact that this controller was used due to the fact it runs on the PCI bus. When at full speed, Gigabit Ethernet can saturate the PCI bus completely, causing a bottleneck if you have other PCI based devices on the bus. PCI-E gives 500MB/s to the x1 slots with a dedicated path, allowing a much faster link.
As stated, the ICH6 series Southbridge only supports one IDE channel, a maximum of two IDE devices. Now I have two DVD-RW units myself, on the ICH6 system that would take up the onboard IDE controller, leaving no room for any IDE drives, which I must say I have more of then SATA at the moment. What would happen here? Normally I would have to leave a DVD-RW out to add in only one drive, and I have two IDE HDD's. EPoX has come along to the rescue by adding the ITE8212F IDE controller chip. Connected to the PCI bus, this give you two additional IDE channels, for up to 4 IDE HDD's, note that ATAPI devices won't work on this. The VIA 6414 controller would have been a better choice with its support for ATAPI devices on its chip, but it's still nice to have the additional chip. RAID levels 0, 1, 0+1 and JBOD are supported, so if you want to RAID your IDE drives, you can.
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