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PHYSICAL DETAILS & LAYOUT
A board's layout is important in several regards. The positioning of components
can dictate compatibility with other products (third party heatsinks mainly)
and also ease of installation. Poorly placed power connectors can also disrupt
airflow and make the system more thermally challenging.
The board is littered with yellow connectors, all UV reactive like the
included cables. Some of the board's connectors are difficult to access:
the floppy port at the bottom of the board, the USB headers between the
two PCI-E 16x slots and two fan headers above and below the PCI-E 1x slot.
There are four more fan headers (a total of six): one PWM header at the
top of the board and three more close to the bottom right-hand corner.
The VRMs are covered with an impressive looking heatsink connected
to the Northbridge cooler via a single heatpipe. The Northbridge heatsink is very
small compared to those on other motherboards it is jammed in an unusual position.
The Northbridge and VRM heatsinks are 36 and 35 mm tall respectively (measured
from the PCB surface). Just above the top PCI Express slot is an auxiliary
power connector to provide extra system stability when two video cards
Next to the Southbridge heatsink are a few features that make DFI stand
out. Power and reset buttons are built directly onto the board for those
who test and/or use their system without a case. There is also a diagnostic
LED so if something goes wrong you can look up the code displayed rather
than blindly swapping out parts and re-checking connections. To accomodate
extra long graphics cards, the SATA ports are placed neatly on their sides,
eliminating a potential point of interference.
The back panel includes HDMI and DVI ports as well as both optical and
coaxial S/PDIF outputs. The board lacks FireWire and eSATA. The latter, however, is not a serious lack, as eSATA is simply SATA with a different connector; a simple adapter SATA cable w/ captive PCI cover port is all that's needed for eSATA. Still, not having it integrated on the back panel is a bit of a surprise for an enthusiast board.
The Northbridge's proximity to the CPU socket and the height of its heatsink
may get in the way of some third party coolers like the Arctic Cooling
Alpine 64 pictured above.
Most tower heatsinks like the Xigmatek HDT-SD964 are tall enough to clear
the Northbridge, though 120mm models that can only be mounted in the north-south
orientation won't fit if DDR3 modules with tall heatspreaders are installed
in the first two memory slots.
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