I must admit that the whole time I was doing the review on this motherboard, I had a feeling of déjà vu. When I first opened the box and pulled out the board, I was immediately struck by the similarities to the last one I reviewed. At first glance, it seems they still have the two oddities which kind of irked me about the last board. First, the number of jumpers that need to be switched to configure your PCIe settings can be a bit daunting. It's nice, though, that these should not need to be changed arbitrarily.
The second thing this board shares with its 989 brother is the location of the 24pin power socket. When mounted in most cases, the direct line between the ATX power cable coming from the PSU and the power socket on the board is blocked by the CPU itself. This means that in most cases, you need to route the power cables around the CPU and whatever CPU fan or cooler you have. This can be inconvenient, to say the least.
Let's take a quick tour around the board, shall we?
The motherboard would be nothing without the socket 754 connector. It's positioned in its regular spot on the board, and is bordered by a three phase power circuit. The mounting frame is quite sturdy, and even has a brace on the back of the motherboard to give extra support for large CPU fans and coolers. As with the 9U1697, note the odd position of the ATX and 12V power sockets. These put the CPU directly in the way of the power cables.
On this board, the two (yes, only two) SDRAM slots run along the edge of the board, above the CPU instead of to the right of it as in most configurations. These two slots can contain a maximum of 2GB of RAM, and sadly do not support dual channel operation.
Along the back of the board, the two IDE connectors are positioned together and close to the top of the board. This is a decent position, as it makes it easier to connect to the IDE components which are traditionally located at this end of the motherboard. Past the two yellow IDE connectors are the four orange SATA connectors. These SATA ports support up to 300MB/s bandwidth, and a variety of RAID configurations.
Continuing in the same direction, we have the pushbuttons for RESET and POWER. These buttons are extremely useful if you have the computer on a workbench, and need to test power on/off and reset conditions without having to reach around to the front of the case to do so. Next to these buttons is the CP80P LED, which is a trouble shooting device designed to help diagnose problems while booting up.
Right next to the SATA connectors is the silver heatsink that covers the ULi chipset. The 9U1697 sported a heatsink and a fan on its 1697, but it seems the 8U1697 opted for the heatsink only. I just hope it keeps the chipset cool enough for stable operation.
Here’s the back panel itself. Here you see keyboard, mouse, parallel, serial, USB, Lan, sound, spdif; basically the same stuff you see on most motherboards nowadays.
Inside the box, we have the normal array of goodies:
The Motherboard (of course)
Drivers and Software CD
Floppy and IDE Cables
SATA power and data cables (one each)
The best thing about the contents of this box in comparison to the contents of the 9U1697 when we got it, is that it includes an actual manual for the board. This takes the guesswork out of a few of the pin-outs for the leads.
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