VIA P4PB Ultra Review - On-board Audio and Motherboard Layout
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The on-board audio on the P4PB Ultra is provided by a CMI8738 6-channel sound chip. As far as on-board audio goes this is one of the better audio solutions out there. The CMI8738 chip is comparable to the SoundBlaster Live or SoundBlaster Audigy (1) for sound quality.
The sound was very accurate and clean without any snaps or crackles associated with cheaper sound cards. The P4PB Ultra's on-board sound will probably satisfy the majority of PC users and as mentioned before even supports 5.1 sound.
About the only downside to the CMI8738 is higher CPU usage. I ran Novalogic's Commanche4 demo with audio on and audio off on the P4PB Ultra, an ABIT IT7, and a Hercules GameTheater XP. I found the frame rate dropped by 7.80% with audio on with the P4PB Ultra, 9.60% on the IT7, and 4.94% with the Hercules sound card. So while the P4PB Ultra's audio performance isn't as good as a decent sound card, it is still better than the typical on-board solutions you will find.
Above you can see the location of the ATX and 12 volt P4 connectors. Both are well located away from the processor so the cables will not block any air flow around the processor's heatsink. In the third picture you can see the motherboard connections for the Secure digital, Memory Stick, and Smart Card reader. All three are near each other, out of the way, and conveniently located to reach the 3.5" drive bays. The red connectors in the fourth picture are the IDE connections for the PROMISE IDE RAID controller. The last picture shows the standard IDE connectors and floppy connector. Everything looks to be well laid out.
Just a shot here showing nothing obstructing the PCI slots. Although the battery for CMOS is in a strange place. If you had to change it, more than likely a PCI card in Slot 3 and maybe Slots 2 and 4 would have to be removed first. Luckily you probably will never have to change it.
As you can see, nothing is too close to the CPU socket that would prevent you from installing large heatsinks. The capacitors are on the top of the motherboard (right side of the picture) are kind of close but did not stop me from installing a Swiftech MCX4000.
Here are the four USB 2.0 headers. Two of them are located by the IDE connectors for the PROMISE RAID controller and the other two are located below the sixth PCI slot next to a CNR slot.
And finally, some generic motherboard layout shots to discuss amongst yourselves.
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